Speech by Mr Gan Kim Yong, Minister for Health, at the National Medical Excellence Awards Ceremony 2013, 24 July

Distinguished colleagues and guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good evening.


Introduction

I am pleased to join you this evening for the National Medical Excellence Awards Ceremony.  Tonight, we recognize a group of talented clinicians who have made significant contributions in the fields of research, knowledge translation, clinical practice and healthcare delivery.  

 

Singapore’s Healthcare Landscape and Challenges

2.      Ten years ago, SARS struck Singapore. Healthcare professionals displayed tremendous courage and resolve in battling this new disease which we knew almost nothing about. At the risk of their personal safety, our healthcare professionals persevered in their duty to take care of patients and ensure no disruption in healthcare services. Their clinical expertise and dedication helped Singapore through the crisis. The ever-present threat of infectious diseases remains a concern worldwide. All of us must continue to be vigilant against emerging threats such as H7N9 and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus.

3.      As with many other developed countries, Singapore also faces the challenges of an aging population and changing lifestyles. For example, we have observed a worrying trend of more young Singaporeans becoming obese and picking up smoking.  Hence, we need to constantly find new and innovative ways to keep Singaporeans healthy.

4.      To address this, Parliamentary Secretary, Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim is leading the Healthy Living Master Plan Taskforce to develop a national blueprint for healthy living through the 3Ps: Place, People and Price. Over the past few months, we have organised dialogues in English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil for over 150 Singaporeans to discuss how we can do more as a nation in areas such as healthy diet, exercise and mental wellness.

5.      It is my desire to see this become a shared vision through the cooperation and concerted efforts of all, to help keep Singaporeans healthy and to provide them with greater peace of mind.  To achieve this, we will have to work together to ensure that our healthcare system is affordable, accessible and of high quality. 

 

Contributions of our Healthcare Professionals towards Medical Excellence

6.      Research and development is a key driver to advance our healthcare sector.  Beyond boosting our scientific capabilities, R&D can bring new insights from the bench to the bedside and vice versa, generating medical breakthroughs for better health and economic outcomes. Last month, I attended the Official Opening of the Asian Pacific Association for the Study of the Liver (APASL), Liver Week 2013, which saw over 5000 healthcare professionals and researchers coming together to better understand liver diseases and develop improved, more cost-effective diagnoses and treatments for patients.  Singapore is an ideal location for researchers and doctors to collaborate and achieve greater heights in medical excellence.

7.      The Government recognizes the value of investing in R&D.  Our investments in biomedical R&D have expanded over the years.   

8.      The desired goal is to have a deeper understanding of the causes, consequences, diagnoses and treatments of human diseases, and to translate this knowledge into meaningful applications for the patients’ benefit.  Each of the award recipients has demonstrated excellence in their area of work. They and others like them have an important role and responsibility in contributing towards the training and development of their colleagues, not just in their own institutions but across different healthcare institutions in the country.

9.     Associate Professor Yeoh Khay Guan from the National University Hospital (NUH), one of tonight’s winners, has demonstrated this amply in the field of gastroenterology. He led the Singapore Gastric Cancer Consortium to make ground-breaking findings in the early detection of gastric cancer, which is one of the top killers in Singapore and the region. For this, the Consortium was awarded the first Translational and Clinical Research (TCR) Flagship Programme Grant by the National Medical Research Council (NMRC).  The award has been successfully renewed this year.

10.    Professor Fong Kok Yong, one of our National Outstanding Clinician Award winners, is another exemplary healthcare professional who has made exceptional contributions to clinical work while at the same time, supported research and actively nurtured clinician scientists. Budding researchers under his guidance were able to successfully compete for national-level research grants.  He also contributed significantly to the set up of the Rheumatology department and eventually the Autoimmunity and Rheumatology Centre in SGH.

11.    Another of our award winners tonight, the team led by Associate Professor Dale Andrew Fisher, from National University Hospital (NUH), effectively decreased the MRSA infection rates in the hospital through a bundle of control measures.  With these measures in place, which include active surveillance, audits and hand hygiene publicity campaigns, an estimated 20 lives could be saved every year.  This team has successfully bridged the gap between knowledge and clinical practice to improve the outcomes, standards, safety and quality of patient care. 

12.    As we embark on our Healthcare 2020 Masterplan, to build an inclusive healthcare system for the future, we need to continue investing in R&D to expand our capabilities in translational and clinical research for a healthier Singapore. We also need to continue nurturing future leaders in the healthcare sector, who are able to work across institutions, building on the expertise and skills of doctors, nurses and AHPs in the different clusters.

 

 Conclusion

13.    Let me now extend my warmest congratulations to all the NMEA winners this year.  I wish you all every success as you continue to dedicate yourselves to the pursuit of medical excellence. 

14.   Thank you.

 

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