Advance Awards 2021: Introducing the Asia Impact Award Finalists

Dr Cheong Koon Hean

Dr Cheong Koon Hean is the imaginative architect-planner credited with shaping much of Singapore’s urban landscape. Bringing a strong background in sustainable living and smart public housing, Dr Cheong is currently Chair of the Centre for Liveable Cities and the incoming Chair of Singapore University of Technology and Design’s Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities. Dr Cheung introduced a new generation of well designed, community centric, sustainable and smart public housing during her tenure as CEO of the Housing and Development Board from 2010 to 2020,  implementing some 1 million public housing flats. Dr Cheong brings extensive experience in land use planning, urban design, conservation of built heritage and the real estate market to bear, playing a lead role in major urban transformations locally and internationally. Her successful efforts to improve the quality of affordable housing — not just increase the quantity — for Singapore’s residents, has guided the transformation of Singapore’s public housing into award-winning projects. 

Dr Cheong frequently shares her expertise as a participant on planning and urban design panels around the globe. She conceptualised the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize, a biennial international award that recognizes cities and the leaders responsible for urban initiatives that display foresight and thoughtful governance. She serves on numerous advisory panels including the World Economic Forum, is a board trustee of NUS and a fellow (life) and honorary fellow of the Singapore Institute of Architects and Institute of Planners respectively. Throughout her career Dr Cheong has received numerous awards, notably the Meritorious Service Medal for outstanding public service and is the first Asian to receive both the Urban Land Institute’s Prize for Urban Visionaries and the Lynn S Beedle Lifetime Achievement Award by the Council for Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. She received her Doctor of Architecture Honoris Causa from the University of Newcastle, a Master degree in Urban Development Planning at the University College London, and completed the Advanced Management Programme at Harvard University.

“Rapid urbanisation and climate change are posing many challenges to cities, leading to a degradation in the quality of life and the environment. It is an existential issue that motivates many of us as built professionals to find urban solutions that can help make this a better world to live in”

Dr Abu Bakar Suleiman

Dr Abu Bakar Suleiman is a health expert and passionate educator. Today Dr Abu Bakar is the current chair of Malaysia’s Covid-19 Expert Advisory Group as well as Chair of the International Medical University Group in Kuala Lumpur.  In his youth, Dr Abu Bakar attended Geelong Grammar School in Victoria, Australia and obtained his MBBS from Monash University. He went on to receive the Master of Medicine (Internal Medicine) from the University of Singapore and completed his postgraduate training in nephrology – the study of the structure and function of kidneys – to become a Fellow of the Royal Australian College of Physicians. Back in Malaysia, Dr. Abu Bakar joined the Ministry of Health, and by 1991, had attained the position of Director-General of Health. During his decade in this role, he was responsible for overseeing almost 100,000 employees during a time of rapid change, making major contributions to quality assurance, information technology, telehealth and medical school accreditations.

Recognised locally and internationally, Dr Abu Bakar represented Malaysia between 1991-2001 in the World Health Assembly, Geneva, WHO Western Pacific Regional Committee, WHO Committee on Strategic Plan for Health Research Implementation, Coordinating Committee Southeast Asian Medical Information Center, and Governing Board for SEMEO-TROPMED. From 2001 to 2015, Dr Abu Bakar was the President/CEO/Vice-Chancellor of the International Medical University where he led its development from a fledgling new entrant to a major regional education provider in medicine, pharmacy, nursing, dentistry, biotechnology and nutrition/dietetics, complemented by research-based higher degrees with its university partners, now Malaysia’s most established private medical and health sciences university. Under his stewardship, the IMU has become a pivotal partner for The University of Queensland’s Faculty of Health Sciences, for which he was bestowed an honorary doctorate. He has a substantial published output.

Jimmy Pham AM

Jimmy Pham AM is the unstoppable force and visionary founder behind Vietnam’s leading social enterprise KOTO (Know One, Teach One). Over the last 21 years, KOTO has impacted the lives of over 1000 street kids and disadvantaged youth in Vietnam. Mr Pham had a deep desire to build an enterprise that would give street kids back their dignity. KOTO teaches hospitality skills over a two-year period and often becomes the catalyst for the trainees continuing on to work in prestigious hotels and restaurants around the country or partake in further study at Australian universities. An independent evaluation of KOTO alumni found 100% employment rates continued one year, five years and 10 years after graduation. Other criteria KOTO uses to assess its social impact include career growth, salary increases, quality of life improvements, personal satisfaction and participants’ contribution to their family, the wider community and KOTO.

Born in Saigon and raised in Sydney, Jimmy has now successfully operated in Vietnam’s hospitality sector for over 20 years. Jimmy’s long history running KOTO has seen him develop extensive experience in the social justice space, and build vast business networks within Vietnam. His high visibility among both expats and local Vietnamese has long been an asset to the community and he can often be found mentoring socially inclusive businesses into thriving institutions in Hanoi through the Centre for Social Initiatives Promotion. KOTO was named finalist for the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award and was also awarded the inaugural UNICEF Vietnam Zero Award for Social Innovation for its work championing the rights of children and youth. Jimmy was recognised as a World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leader in 2011, and appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for his service to the community through KOTO in 2013. Jimmy received South Korea’s POSCO TJ Park Prize in 2017 and has now been featured on CNN, BBC, LA Times and The New York Times.

“In the world today, now more than ever before, we are faced with so many challenges. Instilled in the belief that if one life-breath a bit easier because I exist, then that is truly the meaning of success”

Paul Siu Fai Yip

Professor Paul Siu Fai Yip is a crusader for youth suicide prevention. He is the Director of the Centre Suicide Research and Prevention at the University of Hong Kong and also serves as the Chair Professor of Population Health for the Department of Social Work and Social Administration, and an Associate Dean of the Faculty of Social Science. As a public intellectual who represents underserved, marginalized and vulnerable populations, he is dedicated to improving the wellbeing of society through his research and work – with the aim of making a global difference. Thus far, his multi-disciplinary research team and preventative approach involving community engagement have contributed to reducing the number of suicides in Hong Kong by 30%. The Centre puts an emphasis on education for both primary and secondary students and their parents. Professor Yip also serves as a consultant of World Health Organization for suicide prevention and a chair of the IPPF, where his innovative methods impact outcomes on a global scale.

Professor Yip completed his schooling in Hong Kong, then graduated with a Bachelor of Science from University of Melbourne, and PhD from Latrobe University. His research and service to population health were recognized with a Distinguished Alumni Award from La Trobe University in 2008. He received a Medal of Honour from the Hong Kong Government in 2017 for his distinguished service to the community, and the Stengel Research award by the International Association of Suicide Prevention for his unique contribution to suicide prevention in 2011, the only recipient of this distinguished award in the Asian region. Professor Yip has published more than 500 research papers with more than 98,000 citations and has received the outstanding researcher, supervisor and knowledge exchange awards during his tenure at the University of Hong Kong. He has been nominated as one of the finalists for the Innovation Award of the Hong Kong Spirit Award in 2021 for using big data analytic and artificial intelligence in helping youth online.

“It is the passion to my profession and care to the community especially those vulnerable, marginalised and unserved.”