Victor Seah Tribute
One of the biggest inspirations for me when developing the LifeHealth Group, and especially LifeHub, over the past year, was my Uncle, Dr Victor Seah. Uncle Victor was one of the earliest and most knowledgeable medical doctors in Asia who practiced Integrative, or Functional Medicine. More importantly, he was perhaps one of the kindest and most generous doctors in Singapore. This was attested to by the front page article the Singapore Chinese-language newspapers published the day after his death late last year, calling him the “The Poorest Good Doctor” – a title he was posthumously awarded for all the free services he provided to patients in his community in Singapore.
Uncle Victor believed in two things: the value of Integrative (or Functional) Medicine, as opposed to standard, plain vanilla Conventional Medicine on its own, and also, that good (Integrative) medical care should not only be the purview of the rich. This latter belief of Uncle Victor’s is still very much valid today, when many of the most wealthy people in Asia travel routinely to clinics and medical spas in Europe, as much of the treatments they go for are not easily available in Asia.
I was fortunate that Uncle Victor helped me during the earliest days of our genesis, to chart our course, to connect us to the many experts in region, and to keep our hearts true to our Purposes: “To Achieve Optimal Health for All”, both by “Providing premium and effective integrative medical services” (LifeClinic) and by “Enabling as many as possible to achieve optimal health affordably” (LifeHub).
The following is a tribute written by another of my uncles, Peter Seah Lim Huat, an older brother to Uncle Victor, as a testament to his life, which I am delighted to be able to share here.
Dr Jonathan Seah
Chairman, LifeHealth Group
Reflecting on My Brother, Dr Victor (“Ah Soon”) Seah
While I was in a friend’s resort home in Chiangmai recently, the rustic countryside with wooden houses reminiscent of our “attap roof” childhood home in Singapore, at 1 Boon Teck Road where all my five brothers were born, brought back many childhood memories. We all grew up in this “kampung”, and had a Huckleberry Finn lifestyle that would be alien to the children of today. Common activities included playing in mud pools and catching spiders; plucking fruits from nearby trees with no respect for their legal ownership; digging for earthworms to feed our chickens; waiting for floods so that we could float boats made out of old Japanese currency (issued during the Japanese occupation of World War II) in basins of rainwater. We did not understand (or frankly care) that we were living in poverty. We were certainly a rowdy and mischievous lot. I remember using my mother’s face powder to draw tribal marks on our arms and legs, and using wooden sticks as play swords, though I can’t remember what the rules of the game were. Some of these scenes were captured in photographs that we still have. We, especially with the addition of our sister, were definitely more than a handful for our parents and grandparents. But we know that they doted on us. We siblings bonded and learnt to share everything. These are the early memories of my childhood days with Ah Soon, the fifth boy (I was the third son). It was the beginning of almost 70 years of having him as a brother and dear friend.
My parents and other siblings moved to Prince Philip Avenue when I was about 6 years old, when my parents rented a small flat from the old SIT (Singapore Improvement Trust), the predecessor organization of the HDB (Housing Development Board). I stayed on at Boon Teck Rd with my grandmother and my uncles and lived separately from the rest of my immediate family until I was around 11 years old. Moving back to live with the family brought me back to growing up again, with my five brothers and only sister. We also shared the 3 bedroom flat also with my grandparents and my uncles. Given how crowded it was at home, it is no surprise that most of our free time was spent playing in the neighborhood. Ah Soon was always the naughty one, and often hung out with street gang members. Having spent time roaming the streets while living in the Kim Keat area, I was also familiar with some of the street gangs. Ah Soon and I therefore related well with each other, and we also spent a lot of time playing at the nearby government Community Centre where our father had also been a supervisor. As a young boy, Ah Soon was really quite misbehaved, and did a lot of things which could have gotten him into trouble with the law. He really was quite the maverick and did whatever he enjoyed doing without much thought for the consequences. Those who knew him well, know that this became his trademark trait for his whole life. He always lived life his way.
Despite all his playfulness, I always knew that he was very intelligent. Perhaps the brightest of all our siblings (his exceptionally bright children is another evidence of this). From his youth he always wanted to be a doctor, although I throughout his life, perhaps attests to the fact that there was something inherent in his DNA. Perhaps, God had never knew what motivated him. In hindsight, his passion to heal patients without any financial aspirations all placed him in the world to heal and care for the less fortunate. He pursued his passion by reseating his A levels to qualify for medical school. So, Dr Seah was born, and became an active member of the Medical Alumni.
When he started practicing, he teamed up with Dr Loo Choon Yong and Dr Alfred Loh, and formed the Raffles Medical Group together with them. Ah Soon ran the group’s clinic in the Telok Blangah residential district. Very quickly however, conflicting aspirations and values led to his buying out Telok Blangah clinic and leaving the group. My brother just wanted to practice good medicine and to be a real healer – regardless of whether his patients could pay or not. From early on he was also passionate about looking into food supplements and about other approaches to augment conventional medicine. He was truly not motivated by money and had no desire to build up a big practice. It was clear that his interests diverged from that of his partners. He was truly ahead of his time and was a pioneer of this form of (integrative) medicine, which even today is not fully embraced by most of the medical profession in Singapore. He spoke to me incessantly about this, but I could never fully comprehend his rationale while he was alive. I and our extended family oftentimes bemoaned the wealth he could have had, if only to provide better for his children. But clearly he had nobler values that most of us failed to appreciate until after his passing. In the months since his death, listening to his many patients talking about what he did for them has made us realize the purity of his values and the good human being that he was. He had a deep and sincere compassion for people that we can all learn from.
Ah Soon spent a lot of time educating me and all our family members on the value of proper nutrition, food supplements and also about anti-ageing methods. He taught us about antioxidants, fish oils, minerals, hormones, chelation, cell therapy and many other new ways of preventing and treating diseases – starting from more than 20 years ago, before much of this knowledge was easily available from the Internet! We all experimented together. He tried everything himself before he got us to take them. I trusted him and just took whatever he gave me and took most of treatments that he recommended. He read vociferously on everything that related to alternative and preventive medicines and took many courses overseas. He also obtained several post graduate qualifications.
All throughout his life, he continued to share his knowledge with all our family and many others, including giving them books to read. I can attest to the fact that many of the things he told us over 20 years ago, which at the time were not accepted by conventional medical practitioners, have now become endorsed after many years of additional research. He was a pioneer who persevered in his beliefs. It is sad that among his fellow doctors, not many have given him any recognition for his pioneering work and his accomplishments. But then again, for Ah Soon, that was never important to him, and he was always happy if he could just heal somebody by applying his knowledge.
I always knew my brother was a good and caring doctor but I did not realize the number of lives he touched until very recently. He often gave pro bono treatments to the poor, and often even to the very wealthy – some of whom were too miserly to pay for their own medicines. In the Telok Blangah area he was very well known. He also travelled extensively around many parts of Asia to treat patients because of his deep belief that his preventive approach to medicine could even cure illnesses that conventional medicine could not. So, the outpouring of condolences from patients from all over the region was overwhelming upon his passing. Even a group of monks from Bhutan whom he had interacted with flew in and prayed for him all throughout his wake.
Ah Soon always practiced philanthropy his own way – with the gift of his knowledge and of his service, rather than with money. I had always known that he had a good heart and deeply cared for the unfortunate, even as a young doctor, as he often went out of his way to care for disadvantaged children and even helped set up a home for them.
He was a doctor to all our extended Seah family and gave of his time generously. He would give advice over the phone and attend to members who were sick. He would go to our homes at odd hours and accompanied those who needed to be treated by specialists. I know that all our family members feel somewhat lost without Ah Soon being around as our reliable and always available medical advisor. We are only now coming to accept that Ah Soon, or “Gor Zhek” (fifth uncle), or just plain “Uncle Victor”, is not available anymore. We have lost a sibling, an uncle, a grand uncle, a grandfather and “our” family physician.
For me, Ah Soon was not just a brother that I loved dearly, but also a friend, a confidante, and my doctor. I will miss chatting with him, consulting him, eating char kway teow (Singaporean fried rice noodles) with him, and calling him even when overseas, about any medical issues I or my children were having.
While I mourn his loss, I have also decided we should celebrate his life. To celebrate his career as an outstanding doctor, a passionate healer, and a genuinely kind and caring human being. To celebrate his love for his children and the extended Seah family. I shall hold dearly to all the memories of the times we spent together over almost 70 years.
My wife Mylene and I shall always be proud to have had Victor Seah Lim Soon as a brother, as I am sure my siblings and their spouses are: Lim Choon, Eric Lim Song & Grace Lee Na, Ronald Lim Siang & Linda, Philip Lim Hung & Lai Hoe, and June Lee Kiang; Ah Soon’s wife Shing He and his children Vincent (and his wife Pin Pin), Adeline, Wan Zhen and Wan Ling; his grandchildren Lewis, Leroy and Lorraine; his nephews and nieces and their spouses: Jonathan & Yulia, Joshua, Karen, Ginny & Sheng, Wei Jen & Leia, Gerald, Charles & Lynn; his grand nieces and nephews Chloe, Christian, Lucas, Emily, Natalie, Nicole and Stas.
As Robert Frost said:
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less travelled by
And that has made all the difference.”
Peter Seah Lim Huat