Two social workers awarded outstanding social worker award
One has contributed to cancer patients and their families, while the other to the protection of children and families affected by violence and divorce.
Two social work leaders were award the Outstanding Social Worker Award for their contributions in the community. The awards were given out at the 22nd Outstanding Social Worker Award (OSWA) ceremony by President Halimah Yacob and Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for Health. OSWA is the highest award conferred to social workers in Singapore for their exemplary achievements.
The OSWA was accorded to 62-year-old Dr Gilbert Fan, master medical social worker in the Department of Psychosocial Oncology at the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS), who has contributed to the betterment of cancer patients and their families.
Dr Fan spearheaded transformational changes in the sector, from setting up new departments and programmes, to building up capabilities and service standards for patients. In the 1990s, he coordinated the set-up of the Medical Social Work Department at Changi General Hospital and started rehabilitation and home visitation programmes at the National University Hospital. As the first head of the Department of Psychosocial Oncology at NCCS in 2009, he shaped the growth of the department and its work. He improved the quality of patient service through service quality measurements and performance evaluations in discharge planning and case management.
Passionate in growing oncology social work practice, a specialised field within medical social work in Singapore, Dr Fan started oncology social work training for his staff and initiated the Social Work Oncology Network in Singapore where social workers in cancer-related agencies come together to share knowledge and resolve common work problems. He has also spearheaded many patient education programmes, to empower patients with the right knowledge on preventive and psycho-rehabilitative cancer care and management. An avid researcher and author on cancer care and psychosocial intervention, he has contributed and published original works with local and overseas academic journals, books and professional bodies.
Beyond his work at NCCS, Dr Fan has been contributing his expertise and experience to several boards and committees in the social and healthcare sectors, including the Singapore Cancer Society, Singapore Association of Social Workers and Viriya Community Services. Always keen to nurture others, he has been lecturing at institutions such as the National University of Singapore and The Chinese University of Hong Kong. He also trains doctors, nurses, social workers and counsellors to deepen their knowledge and skills in their service to patients. In recognition of his contributions, he has received many awards such as the SingHealth Group CEO Excellence Award (Allied Health) and was appointed as a social service fellow by the National Council of Social Service, to contribute his expertise to the social service sector.
The other OSWA award went to 59-year-old Dr Katijah Dawood, senior divisional director, Family Services Division, Thye Hua Kwan Moral Charities, who has been advocating for the protection of children and families affected by violence and divorce.
Dr Dawood’s relentless advocacy over the past three decades for the safety and well-being of vulnerable individuals and children can be seen in her extensive work at policy level, and directly on the ground. A firm believer in tackling issues together with the community, she pioneered the Family Violence Networking System together with her team, at the Ministry of Community Development in 1996, now known as the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF). The network, which is still going strong today, brought together partners in family protection work to strengthen the system of support for victims and increase awareness of family violence.
At the Subordinate Courts, she and her team established the Family Protection Unit in 1998, which ensured the safety of individuals and their families before their protection orders were issued, by referring them to social service agencies for support. Her passion to protect children impacted by parental divorce led Dr Dawood to start supervised access at the Subordinate Courts. This was a groundbreaking initiative that allowed children to not only gain safe access to parents, but also maintain family relations which were integral to the child’s development.
Mindful of the voice of the child in divorce situations, she trained social workers and counsellors at the Courts to advocate for their voices to be heard. She continued her work with families undergoing divorce at Thye Hua Kwan Moral Charities (THK) where she established the Centre for Family Harmony @ Circuit in 2005. The Centre was appointed by MSF in 2015 as a divorce support specialist agency providing supervised visitations for children and parents.
Always keen to innovate, she has been leading teams in THK to rethink how things can be improved, such as using technology and mobile services to widen outreach. As an appointed social service fellow, Dr Dawood also contributes her expertise to the social service sector.
Despite the difficulties, from spearheading new departments and initiatives, advocating for the vulnerable and rallying professionals to a common vision, her indomitable spirit, leadership, and compassion, led her to consistently break barriers in the social service sector.
During the awards ceremony, which was organised by the Singapore Association of Social Workers, and supported by MSF and ExxonMobil Asia Pacific, the Promising Social Worker Award was also given to two other social workers. Said Minister Masagos Zulkifli, “Social workers play an integral role in uplifting and supporting those in need in our society. While the pandemic has presented obstacles, it is encouraging to see that social workers have continued to reinvent and adopt new ways to ensure that those in need receive the necessary help and intervention. To all our winners, I commend your tremendous achievements and wish you many more years of success! To every social worker, thank you for your commitment and dedication to meeting the needs of our community.”
(** PHOTO CREDITS: Singapore Association of Social Workers)