Mr Peter Seah, Chairman, SingHealth,
Professor Ivy Ng, Group CEO, SingHealth,
Professor Ranga Krishnan, Dean, Duke-NUS,
Friends, Colleagues, Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. It is my pleasure to join you this morning at the opening ceremony of the SingHealth Duke-NUS Scientific Congress 2012.
2. At the 65th World Health Assembly held earlier this year, Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organisation highlighted two areas that are pivotal to health development - Innovation and Research. Indeed, over the past decades, we have witnessed significant progress in the development of healthcare services locally with healthcare policy reforms, translational clinical research breakthroughs and innovative treatments and procedures.
3. Singaporeans enjoy good access to a good healthcare system. However, in the face of aging and changes in lifestyles which bring in their wake new disease patterns, we must continue to innovate so that our population continues to enjoy affordable, quality medical care. Defining Tomorrow’s Medicine, the theme for this year’s Congress, defines this relentless pursuit of excellence well. It reflects the need for healthcare professionals to push boundaries and set new benchmarks so that we can sustain good healthcare outcomes for patients today and for generations to come.
The importance of academic medicine
4. I am heartened to note the direction taken by SingHealth and Duke-NUS to collaborate in academic medicine. Academic medicine involves the integration of clinical services, education and research. In the United States for example, many pioneering innovations such as vaccine development and the world’s firsts in various types of organ transplants took place in academic medical centres involving partnerships between medical schools and teaching hospitals.
5. As part of our development of the healthcare system, Singapore is stepping up our academic medicine and clinical research efforts. The SingHealth group, with its established excellence in clinical service and growing research presence, will be able to combine its expertise with the strong education and research capabilities of the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School.
6. We have made strides in recent years to grow our healthcare infrastructure, and improve the quality of clinical research and healthcare education. The Academic Medical Centres (AMCs) and Regional Health Systems facilitate integrated patient care education and research across disciplines. This is a whole-of-Singapore effort, with our AMCs working with partners from the Regional Health Systems. In healthcare, it is crucial that our AMCs have access to a good mix of patients and complex cases.
Research for better healthcare
7. Above all, our investment in academic medicine must yield healthcare outcomes and bring quality treatment to Singaporeans in an affordable way. I am glad that there are several examples of this. Recently, researchers from the Singapore National Eye Centre made a breakthrough in the treatment of severe dry eyes which causes painful inflammation and impairs vision. SNEC researchers developed eye drops from patients’ own blood plasma, which not only relieves symptoms but reduces epithelial damage and makes expensive anti-inflammatory medications unnecessary. A patient who has benefited from this research said that she used to feel like having a knife slicing off a layer from the surface of her eye every time she blinked. The treatment has been a great relief to her. I am glad to know that the researchers are now working with the Health Sciences Authority to make this cutting edge therapy available to more patients.
8. Singapore’s multi-racial population has given our researchers particularly fertile ground to innovate. As research in other countries may not always be relevant to Singapore, it is important for our own researchers to look at the specific needs of our local patients. For example, National Cancer Centre Singapore researchers have found that the screening guidelines based on data in other countries may not be optimal for local patients. KKH researchers have also found that the optimal gestational weight gain for local women is quite different from Western standards and have revised the guidelines for Singapore. The Department of Cardiology at the National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS) has conducted research on anticoagulation therapy and Dr Ho Kay Woon will be giving an oral presentation during this Congress.
9. A team of researchers from Duke-NUS, the National Cancer Centre Singapore and the Singapore General Hospital have also researched into the genetic causes of why some East Asian patients fail to respond to cancer drugs which have been successful in the West. Treatment strategy for patients of certain cancers can be modified once this is known. Patients for example can be tested and given a drug that targets the cancer mutation. Such research and innovations are necessary to improve treatment outcomes for Singaporean patients.
Medical Education is key to the advancement of healthcare
10. Just as research is a key driver for the advancement of healthcare, the future of medicine also lies in training and nurturing the next generation of healthcare professionals. SingHealth has a rich training legacy which has groomed generations of healthcare professionals. Many amongst you are clinical educators, mentors and passionate teachers. Your unwavering commitment to pass on your skills, medical knowledge, values and ethical practice is crucial in building the next generation of healthcare professionals.
11. Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School has been a catalyst in changing our mindset with its innovative teaching model. TeamLEAD, which Prof Ranga Krishnan had shared, focuses on team-based learning. It is a departure from the traditional lecture-based teaching format. TeamLEAD has helped Duke-NUS students to perform better and is now being adopted or explored for use by others in Singapore. It has also been adopted by Duke University in the US for their medical school and undergraduate courses, thus bringing back to the US a made-in-Singapore innovation.
12. I am pleased to share that SingHealth and Duke-NUS are bringing together their expertise and strengths in education, to jointly establish a new Academic Medicine Education Institute to build a pool of educators who are passionate in developing and nurturing the next generation of healthcare professionals. The Education Institute will support innovation in pedagogical methods and curriculum, promote research that focuses on learning methods and outcomes, and very importantly recognise our outstanding educators. The ultimate goal of the Education Institute is to develop healthcare professionals and educators, who are not only doctors but also dentists, nurses, and allied health professionals, who will create a learning environment that promotes the best possible patient care.
13. Dedicated and experienced faculty staff play a key role in mentoring and guiding aspiring and junior doctors to become well-rounded physicians, I am glad to note that SingHealth Academy and Duke-NUS have established the Golden Apple Award to recognise outstanding educators from different healthcare professions for their contributions to education. It is important to recognise dedicated educators who will groom the next generation of healthcare professionals with the right skills and knowledge, delivering care ethically and compassionately.
14. My Ministry will continue to facilitate and support research and innovation in healthcare, including the investment in talent development programmes to develop and nurture translational and clinical researchers beyond just doctors.
15. Our nursing and allied health professionals (AHPs) have expanded roles to teach, research and publish as well. I understand that close to one-fifth of the over 500 abstracts submitted for this Congress are from the research efforts of SingHealth nurses and AHPs.
16. Take the example of Ms Joyce Lim, an Advanced Practice Nurse (APN) at the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital. Joyce works in partnership with the doctors to look after our patients. She conducts nurse clinics for diabetic patients, and leads in inpatient ward rounds to review, examine patients and suggest relevant follow-up plans for them. She teaches actively and trains nurses in paediatric medical conditions and diabetes. Joyce’s keen interest in diabetes research, and belief in improving care outcomes for diabetic patients through research led her to study adolescents with Type 1 Diabetes, exploring the association between diabetes management and the quality of life for these young patients. She will present a poster in this Congress later.
17. Another example of an outstanding healthcare professional is Dr Camilla Wong, Deputy Director of the Allied Health Division in Singapore General Hospital (SGH). Camilla holds a Doctor of Pharmacy degree. She is passionate and very dedicated in training and educating pharmacists, through the pharmacists’ training programmes both at the hospital and national level. This led her to conduct relevant research to study the effectiveness of different training or competency frameworks for pharmacists. Camilla’s research on the feasibility of implementing advanced competency training frameworks for pharmacists in a large tertiary hospital such as SGH is featured at this Congress under the Health Services & System Research category.
18. Our pharmacists play an important role in our healthcare ecosystem. Through the guidance and training by mentors and leaders like Camilla, our pharmacists will be more confident and better able to understand and serve our patients effectively.
19. Kay Woon, Joyce and Camilla are examples of our healthcare professionals who inspire us with their passion and dedication in advancing clinical practice, education and research.
20. My ministry is committed to the pursuit of affordable, quality healthcare for all Singaporeans. Ensuring that we invest appropriately in developing innovations and improve patient outcomes is part of our plan. I am heartened at the commitment and efforts from organisations like SingHealth and Duke-NUS to help achieve this.
21. It is now my pleasure to declare the SingHealth Duke-NUS Scientific Congress 2012 open. I wish you a fruitful and productive learning journey to define Tomorrow’s Medicine, as your efforts will help shape the future of Singapore healthcare.
22. Thank you.