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08 Sep 2012
SingHealth CEO is Her World Woman of the Year

Even as SingHealth CEO, Prof Ivy Ng remains a practising doctor. Her family has always been a priority even as she pursued her career. It was at medical school that she met her future husband, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen. ST Photo: Kevin Lim, Raj Nadarajan

Young Woman Achiever award goes to chef and owner of dessert place

By Janice Heng

For Professor Ivy Ng, group chief executive of Singapore Health Services (SingHealth) and a mother of four, it was never a question of choosing between career and family.

“I think the key decision was, I always wanted to do medicine,” said Prof Ng, 53, who is also former CEO of KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH).

But medical school here was where she met her future husband, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, and everything flowed from there.

“It was never like: Oh, do I want to have a family, and do I want to marry, and do I want to have children... It just unfolded,” she said yesterday.

For her achievements in health care, Prof Ng was named the Her World Woman of the Year 2011/2012. Her World, published by SPH Magazines, is the best-selling women’s title here.

The annual award, which began 21 years ago, is given to Singaporean women who have contributed to society, projected a good image of the nation, and are role models for other women.

The magazine also presents the annual Young Woman Achiever award to women aged 35 and younger who have achieved much and have the potential to go further.

This year’s winner is chef and owner of 2am:dessertbar Janice Wong, 29, who is known for her innovative approach to desserts.

Innovation, of a sort, was also why Prof Ng was chosen.

In her eight years as CEO at KKH from 2004 to 2012, Prof Ng – a paediatric geneticist by training – helped transform it from a hospital known for obstetrics and gynaecology to one that covers many aspects of women’s health care.

Even as SingHealth CEO, a role she assumed in January, she remains a practising doctor. She is also a professor at both the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine at the National University of Singapore (NUS), and the Duke-NUS Medical School, and sits on various boards, including that of charity organisation Mercy Relief.

Yet she also makes time for her family. She gives her 18-year-old younger daughter a lift to school in the mornings, and heads home for dinner at least four times a week.

“To me, family has always been a priority,” the tall, soft-spoken doctor said at a press conference. “I think there’s no other way about it, when it comes to having a satisfying family life.”

She has two sons and two daughters, aged between 18 and 28, and she and Dr Ng, 53, whom she described as “a wonderful and supportive spouse”, will celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary this year.

But Prof Ng said she could not have juggled work and family without her parents and mother-in-law helping with the kids.

When she had her third child during her graduate fellowship in New York, for example, her parents even flew out to care for the newborn boy, so she could be back at work just days after giving birth.
She received her award at a dinner at The Regent hotel last night. The event’s guest of honour was ambassador-at-large Chan Heng Chee, who won the first Woman of the Year award in 1991 and was Singapore’s first female ambassador to the United States.

For currently single Ms Wong, family life is a distant prospect.

“I’m 29, so no plans yet,” said the free-spirited Ms Wong. If she finds the right person, “so be it”. But for now, she is “dedicating her life to her work”. When not travelling the world in search of new flavours, she serves up deconstructed desserts in the sleek, elegant space that is 2am:dessertbar in Holland Village.

She graduated from NUS with a degree in economics, but went on to study her craft at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Her avant-garde creations nabbed her Pastry Chef of the Year at last year’s World Gourmet Summit Awards of Excellence, and she is taking experimentation further at 2am:lab, a “culinary think-tank” in Fusionopolis where chefs can try out ideas.

Her creativity and willingness to push the boundaries in her art were among the reasons she was chosen.

To her, the award is an encouragement to “continuously push on, thinking of new methods to cook, new methods to engage people with food – not just on a plate itself”. She did just that last night with an edible painting – made out of colourful swirls of marshmallow – which guests were invited to taste in the foyer before dinner.

While their careers and personal lives may differ, Ms Wong recognised a kindred spirit in Prof Ng. “I just love my work. Like what (Prof Ng) said: She wakes up each morning and she loves what she does.”


"(The award is an encouragement to) continuously push on, thinking of new methods to cook, new methods to engage people with food – not just on a plate itself."– Chef and owner of 2am:dessertbar Janice Wong, winner of the Young Woman Achiever award

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