Overview of Ophthalmology in Singapore

The medical specialty of Ophthalmology started in Singapore in 1935 under Dr A. D. Williamson. Throughout the seventies, the specialty developed rapidly mirroring a global trend. Microsurgery was introduced allowing greater precision and vast improvement of surgical outcomes.


In the eighties, Ophthalmology in Singapore saw further sub-specialisation into many disciplines, including vitreo-retina, glaucoma, cornea, paediatric ophthalmology, strabismology, oculoplastic surgery, and in the later refractive surgery, neuro-ophthalmology, ocular inflammatory diseases and medical retina. Subspecialisations has allowed ophthalmologists to concentrate and spearhead one particular area of development, so as to provide better and up-to-date management for patients with complex subspecialty eye conditions.


Meanwhile, several major milestones occurred in cataract surgery - introduction of intraocular lens implantation, development of visco-elastic agents, phaco-emulsification, together improved cataract surgery to what it is today - the commonest surgery performed in Singapore among all surgical disciplines. The efficacy and safety results in major institutions in Singapore have reached around 99% - one of the best outcomes of any known large-volume surgery.


In the nineties, one major event deserves special mention. Widespread photographic screening for diabetic retinopathy - the top cause of blindness in Singapore - was made available by the combine effort of ophthalmologists and primary care physician, led by Dr Yeo Kim Teck and Dr Shanta Emmanuel respectively. Placing of DRP (diabetic retinal photography) fundus camera progressively in all government polyclinics has provided early detection and treatment for literally thousands of patients who may otherwise go blind.


In the same decade, laser corneal refractive surgery took off, moving the frontier from restoration of vision to fulfill the life-style needs of patients who does not like to use glasses and contact lenses. It moved swiftly from photorefractive keratectomy using surface ablation, to LASIK, where a partial thickness corneal flap is created and laser is applied to the corneal stroma. Precision optics, mechanics and laser technology has responded to huge market demand to perfect the procedure, with wavefront LASIK, iris-tracker technology, femtosecond laser 'bladeless' LASIK, aspherical ablation and presbyopic LASIK to name a few.


In the coming decade, ophthalmology will expand rapidly to care for a rapidly aging population. Other than cataract and diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration are now the top blinding conditions in Singapore. Ophthalmologists are working hard introducing new services and spearheading new research to bring hope to the afflicted.


Formation of the College

The Chapter of Ophthalmologists had subsisted under the purview of the College of Surgeons, Singapore since the College was formed in 2004.  With a steady growth in the Chapter's membership and in the objective to enhance the development of the specialty, as well as, having a stronger presence to advocate the future of ophthalmology, A/Prof Lim Tock Han, Chairman of the Chapter of Ophthalmologists mooted the idea of converting the Chapter into a College to better serve the community, all ophthalmologists and trainees.  After a year of effort dedicated to the formation process, the College of Ophthalmologists was formed on 20 January 2009 under the Academy of Medicine, Singapore.


The elected President and the 1st Council were installed at the 1st Annual General Meeting of the College on 13 May 2010 and herewith presented as follows:


  • A/Prof Ong Sze Guan (President)
  • A/Prof Lim Tock Han (Immediate Past President)
  • A/Prof Aung Tin (Vice-President)
  • Dr Pauline Cheong (Honorary Treasurer)
  • Dr Yip Chee Chew (Honorary Secretary)
  • A/Prof Heng Wee Jin (Council Member)
  • Dr Adrian Koh (Council Member)
  • A/Prof Seah Lay Leng (Council Member)


College Crest and Motto

The crest of the College of Ophthalmologists consists of three main parts, the acme (crown), body and base:


Acme: The Eagle and the Sun

The Eagle is in full flight, conveying strength, vigour and dynamism. It soars high above the clouds, representing the lofty ideals of the College. The three-dimensional rendering of the Eagle breaks away from the typically rigid, symmetrical symbols seen in many crests, just as ophthalmologists dare to be different, pioneering and even unconventional in their approach to new challenges. The Eagle is a symbol of power, bravery and leadership, qualities that set the College apart from the rest. The Eagle is renowned for its keen sense of vision, allowing it to focus clearly on its goal, no matter how distant it might be.


The Sun, the source of light, represents the mission and goals of the College, as encapsulated by its motto, “For Light and Sight”. The Sun is the source of knowledge, understanding, wisdom and compassion, its warmth touching and enriching the lives of all who bask in its glorious splendour. There can be no life without the Sun.


Body: The Shield and Olive Branches

The shield is in blue, red and gold, the colours of the Academy of Medicine, Singapore. This is to recognise that the Academy of Medicine is the parent organisation under which the College exists, functions and thrives. It is also a reminder that members of the College are bound by the Hippocratic oath and code of ethics as Physicians, since Ophthalmology is a subspecialty within Medicine. The stylised golden arrow points upwards and forwards, guiding the College in the right direction. The crest is flanked on each side by stalks of olive branch leaves. These stalks represent the two pillars of our healthcare partners, namely the medical profession on the one hand, and the public on the other. The olive branch is a symbol of harmony and mutual respect, values that the College cherishes in its relationship with other stakeholders. The seven leaves on each stalk are symbols of perfection and professionalism, ideals of the College.


Base: The College Motto

The College motto in Latin, “Per Lucem Et Visum” which means “For Light and Sight” underpins the entire crest, since it forms the very foundation of the College’s existence and mission. Just as the motto is simple and unostentatious, yet profound in meaning and rich in symbolism, there is a quiet assuredness and confidence that the College will succeed in achieving its goals.