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Curtin University
John Curtin Day
John Curtin Medallists

Dr Eric Tan (1998)

Upon graduating in medicine from the University of Western Australia 30 years ago, a young doctor made his first mark on Australian history.

Eric Tan, born in Malaysia of Chinese parents, became the first overseas student to graduate at the top of his class at any medical school in the nation.

This was the beginning of a lifetime of significant achievements for Dr Tan, who has not only influenced major medical procedures in Australia and overseas, but has campaigned against racism and worked tirelessly for Australia’s youth.

Dr Tan’s early vision was that the Chinese community would become part of mainstream Australia and he used his position as President of the Chung Wah Association and National Coordinator of the Conference of the Australian Chinese Community to bring this about.

Helping to establish the Western Australian Chinese Chamber of Commerce, Dr Tan has attracted political, academic and business leaders from Australia and Asia to speak at the Chamber’s renowned ‘Coffee Shop Forums’.

As a surgeon, Dr Tan pioneered the now commonplace endoscopic ‘keyhole’ surgery in Australia and has taught the technique overseas.

More recently, he established a pharmaceutical joint venture in China and set up the Vietnam International Hospital in Hanoi with the support of other Australian doctors.

His passion for harmonious community relations was evident in his involvement in organising a testimonial photograph of many Western Australian community leaders holding their hands up in harmony – the project won the United Nations Peace Prize in 1997.

Celebrating Australia Day 10 years ago were various community groups performing in the Oz Concert – staged by Dr Tan – which is now an annual event and telecast in many other countries. Reflecting this interest, he was appointed to the Board of SBS Television for three years.

His tireless work for Australian youth was highlighted during the last recession, when, with the help of some friends, he established Project Employ Youth, which found more than 1,000 jobs for unemployed young people.

He was instrumental in persuading the CSIRO to locate its National Centre for Petroleum and Mineral Resources in Perth.

Dr Tan’s keen support of many worthy causes has helped to improve the lives and made a lasting impact on many people in Australia and overseas.