Dr. William Tan

Neuroscientist, physician, Paralympian, World Records Holder


Known to many as the record-breaking “Singapore Paralympic Superman”, Dr William Tan personifies both passion and compassion.

He contracted polio at the age of two and is paralysed from the waist down. Notwithstanding his disability, he has shown outstanding strength in overcoming adversities. Dr Tan overcame incredible odds in pursuit of his dream to become a scientist and physician, He has First Class Honours in Physiology, and was a Harvard University Fulbright Scholar and Oxford University Chevening Scholar. He has also trained at the world-renowned Mayo Clinic in USA.

An accomplished sportsman Dr Tan is an Asia Para Games triple gold medalist, he has also competed in many international games including the 1988 Seoul Paralympics, the World Games as well as the Commonwealth Games. He holds six endurance marathon world records including the “Fastest time to complete Three marathons in Three Consecutive Days in Three countries”.

Current Work:

Since then, he has devoted to championing as well as fundraising for needy causes in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Africa, South America, Australia, New Zealand, China, United States and the United Kingdom. He has skydived, water-skied, sailed and even climbed a 14-storey building to raise money. Some of his ultramarathon endeavours included wheelchair pushes across the length of New Zealand, Singapore to Penang, Thailand to Singapore, Boston to New York to Washington DC and Australia’s Larapinta Trail. He has helped raised more than $18 million on a voluntary basis for charities locally and internationally, over the last 22 years. Some of his humanitarian efforts include Polioplus for the worldwide eradication of polio and Operation Smile.

Dr Tan holds numerous world records. He was the first person to accomplish a marathon in a wheelchair in the North Pole and the fastest person in the world to complete 7 marathons across 7 continents on a wheelchair in 26 days, 17 hours, 43 minutes and 52 seconds.

In April 2009 Dr Tan was diagnosed with Stage 4 (end-stage) leukemia. Continuing to prove that he is unstoppable Dr Tan has transformed this adversity into an opportunity and cancer has become his cause. During his 6 months of chemotherapy followed by a bone marrow transplant, he championed for needy cancer patients who cannot afford the high cost of cancer treatment in Singapore.
On 26 September 2010, he staged an inspiring comeback and achieved his best time ever in para-cycling at the Berlin Marathon. One year after his bone marrow transplant, he accomplished two full marathons back to back on 7 and 14 November 2010 with finishing times better than his pre-leukemia days. On 5 December 2010, he won a gold medal at the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon’s 10 km event.

His battle against end-stage leukemia has been his longest and most painful RACE. It has transformed him into a more compassionate physician and invigorated him to dedicate his new lease of life to doing more for humanity.

His journey of resilience and reinventing himself to scale greater heights in the face of adversity continues to inspire many individuals and corporate leaders.

Awards & Recognition:

– 1995 Singapore Youth Award
– 1996 Outstanding Young Persons of Singapore Award
– 1997 Outstanding Young Persons of the World Award (Humanitarian/ Voluntary Leadership) awarded by the Junior Chamber International, USA
– 1998 the Commonwealth Youth Award for Excellence in Youth Work
– 2000 the ASEAN Youth Award and the Public Service Medal
– 2000 the Reader’s Digest Inspiring Asian Award
– 2007 the prestigious Special Recognition Award and the Singapore National Day’s Public Service Star Award.
– 2008 Singapore Disability Sports Council’s Sportsman of the Year and the FORTIS’ HERO Award


Talking Points
Turning Setbacks into Comebacks
The Power of Possibility Thinking
Turning Adversity into Advantages