Professor Donald Tan is Partner and Senior Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon at Eye & Retina Surgeons (ERS), Camden Medical, and heads the Eye & Cornea Surgeons division of ERS.
A founding doctor of the Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC), Professor Tan went on to helm SNEC as Medical Director of SNEC from 2008 to 2014. He was the Director of the Singapore Eye Research Institute from 2000 to 2008, and was Head of the Department of Ophthalmology, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore from 2001 to 2007. He was appointed as the Arthur Lim Professor in Ophthalmology in SNEC’s Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences Academic Clinical Program within the Duke-NUS Medical School in 2015, and currently remains as Clinical Professor.
Pioneering the development of Corneal Transplantation and Refractive Surgery
Professor Tan is a global leader and innovator in the field of corneal and external diseases, with major contributions to the development of new techniques and devices in corneal transplantation and corneal refractive surgery. He has played a major role in Asia in the introduction of the new forms of corneal transplantation, and developed new techniques for the Asian eye. These include Deep Anterior Lamellar Keratoplasty (DALK), Descemets Stripping Automated Endothelial Keratoplasty (DSAEK), and most recently, Descemets Membrane Endothelial Keratoplasty (DMEK). He developed new surgical instrumentation and medical devices for these operations which have transformed the success of corneal transplants, including the Tan EndoGlide surgical device for DSAEK and DMEK surgery. Recognizing the need to provide donor corneas of the highest quality for Singapore, he has led the Singapore Eye Bank as Medical Director since 1993, which continues to track over 4,000 corneal transplants performed in Singapore. In the field of ocular surface disease, Professor Tan also helped in the development of the conjunctival autograft procedure for pterygium, ocular surface stem cell transplantation, and artificial cornea surgery in the form of the “tooth-in-eye” OOKP (osteo-odonto keratoprosthesis) procedure for the most severe end-stage corneal diseases. In the field of refractive surgery, he introduced the ReLEx SMILE procedure as an alternative to LASIK surgery for the treatment of myopia and astigmatism. Professor Tan also led in the development of clinical trials using low-dose atropine eyedrops used for myopia control in children, which have now been shown to reduce myopia progression by 60% in young children with myopia.
Professor Tan is regarded internationally and regionally for his surgical techniques and expertise as well as for his radical innovations; constantly forging new frontiers in cornea transplantation and refractive surgery. In 2014, Professor Tan was named as the 3rd most influential ophthalmologist on the UK-based Ophthalmologist’s Power List, he then topped the list as the most influential ophthalmologist in 2018, and in 2020, remains on the top 10 list internationally.
Education and Research
Professor Tan has trained 32 corneal transplant surgeons over the last 2 decades, which includes corneal surgeons from 13 countries, and 13 local corneal surgeons. As the lead instructor for advanced corneal transplantation courses in SNEC, he has trained over 70 surgeons globally to perform the newer forms of corneal lamellar transplants.
As a clinician scientist, Professor Tan was the lead investigator of 2 back-to-back S$25 million National Research Foundation Translational Clinical Research Flagship Grants to develop new therapies in cornea, refractive surgery and glaucoma, which has spawned 2 spin-off companies in ocular drug delivery and new ocular antibiotics, and continues to develop new forms of corneal surgery.
In addition to being a past Chairman of the Singapore Eye Research Institute, as well as the a Chairman of the National Medical Research Council, Professor Tan has published over 350 peer-reviewed scientific articles, contributed 18 book chapters, and holds 12 patents in the fields of corneal, refractive surgery and myopia.
Recognition and Awards
Professor Tan is the recipient of over 20 local and international awards.
Selected Local Awards
- 2006 Minister for Health 2006 Award for Outstanding Performance in Public Health
- 2008 National Outstanding Clinician Scientist National Medical Excellence Award
- 2009 President’s Science Award
- 2011 SingHealth Excellence Distinguished (Visionary) Leader Award
- 2011 NUS Medical Faculty Research Excellence Award
- 2019 President’s Science Award
Recent International Awards
- 2009 American Academy of Ophthalmology Senior Achievement Award
- 2009 Saudi Ophthalmology Society Gold Medal
- 2011 Australia and New Zealand Corneal Society 2011 Doug Coster Award
- 2011 Canadian Society of Ophthalmology W. Bruce Jackson Award
- 2012 Refractive Online & SICCSO Medal
- 2012 EuCornea Medal
- 2012 Portland Oregon Arthur Devers Lecture
- 2012 Albrecht von Graefe Innovator’s Lecture
- 2013 Intraocular Implant & Refractive Surgery of India Gold Medal
- 2014 Contact Lens Association of Ophthalmology Oliver H. Dabezies Jr Lecture
- 2015 Contact Lens Association of Ophthalmology Richard L. Lindstrom MD Lecture
- 2015 American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery 2015 Binkhorst Lecture
- 2016 Moorfields Alumnus Lecture
- 2017 Donders Medal, Netherlands Ophthalmology Society
- 2017 Jose Rizal Medal, Asia-Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology
- 2017 University of Illinois at Chicago Marvin D. Henry Lecture
- 2018 Charles Tillet Lecture, Fuchs Symposium Philadelphia
- 2019 Canadian Society of Ophthalmology W. Bruce Jackson Award
- 2020 EuCornea Medal, Amsterdam
Professional and Academic Leadership
Professor Tan is the founding and current President of the Asia Cornea Society, which he formed in 2007, and the founding and current chair of the Association of Eye Banks of Asia (AEBA). In 2012, Professor Tan became the first international President of the Cornea Society, and is currently its immediate Past President. Professor Tan is the Adjunct Professor in Ophthalmology at the Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences Academic Clinical Program of Duke-National University of Singapore Graduate Medical School, Professor of Ophthalmology of the Department of Ophthalmology NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, and Adjunct Professor (Honorary) at the Nanyang Technological University.
Professor Tan practices general ophthalmology and cataract surgery, but subspecializes in refractive and corneal surgery, focusing on the newer forms of corneal transplantation such as Deep Anterior Lamellar Keratoplasty (DALK), Descemets Stripping Automated Endothelial Keratoplasty (DSAEK), and Descemets Membrane Endothelial Keratoplasty (DMEK). He also focuses on Artificial Cornea surgery with the Osteo-Odonto Keratoprosthesis and the Boston Keratoprosthesis, Artificial Iris surgery, laser vision correction surgery with LASIK and ReLEx SMILE, and myopia control therapy using low dose atropine eyedrops in children.