Speech by A/Professor Benjamin Ong, Director of Medical Services, at the 6th Singapore International Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders Symposium, 4 Apr 2014

Professor Lee Wei Ling, Director, National Neuroscience Institute

Associate Professor Louis Tan, Chairman, Organising Committee

Professor Tan Eng King, Vice-Chairman, Organising Committee

Members of the Organising Committee

Distinguished Speakers, Guests,

Colleagues, Friends from Overseas, Ladies and Gentlemen,


1          I am honoured to be here today to launch the 6th Singapore International Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Symposium organised by the National Neuroscience Institute (NNI). I understand that the participants, who number close to 400, hail from Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, China, Japan, Sri Lanka, Australia, Canada and Israel. I would also like to welcome our international speakers, who are here to share their knowledge and expertise with us. We will gain valuable insights from their presentations, which are on topics in line with our objectives in alleviating these prevalent neurological conditions. It is particularly gratifying to see how the symposium has evolved since its inception, in terms of regional reach, quality content and impact.

2          I think what most people don’t realise is that movement disorders as a whole are common and amongst this group of conditions, Parkinson’s disease is one of the most common of neurological disorders. Eng King was just sharing with me that he is seeing a lot more of Parkinson’s disease cases. In Singapore as our population ages, the prevalence of Parkinson’s disease will get more common, causing progressive disability that can be slowed, but still cannot be halted, by treatment. So there is still a lot more to do. It is estimated that Parkinson’s disease affects three in every thousand Singaporeans aged over fifty years, which is about 3,000 people today. This is a significant burden to the patients, their families and society. With that in mind, the Ministry has extended Chronic Disease Management Programme to cover Parkinson’s disease since 1 January this year, to help reduce the barriers for patients with Parkinson’s disease from seeking treatment.

3          Early symptoms can also be subtle and non-motor symptoms occur as well. Diagnosis remains dependent on good clinical acumen. Effectively tackling this disease needs a multi-disciplinary collaborative network of healthcare specialists, research experts, community care providers and partners from the neuroscience profession, who work together with our patients and their families to offer medical care, treatment and therapy that seek to improve and optimise our patients’ quality of life.

4          The focus of this Symposium is on clinical translational therapies in Parkinson’s disease. Such “bench to bedside” research seeks to turn research discoveries into better treatment for patients. I am particularly pleased that the National Medical Research Council recently awarded a $25 million Translational and Clinical Research Flagship Grant to a team led by Prof Tan Eng King. Through this programme, Eng King and his team aim to reduce the economic burden of Parkinson’s disease through identifying factors or markers that can facilitate early diagnosis, disease monitoring and development of individualised treatment. I would particularly like to congratulate the NNI on the recent formation of the National Neuroscience Research Institute Singapore (NNRIS), Singapore’s largest institute specialising in neuroscience research. This joint venture by the NNI and the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School will bring together clinicians and research professionals, in Singapore and internationally, to improve treatment and seek cures through collaborative research on brain and nervous system disorders.

5          Also worth highlighting is the NNI Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Centre which provides comprehensive care, research, education and training on Parkinson’s disease and similar movement disorders. The Centre’s team of healthcare professionals and research scientists collaborate with other major hospitals in Singapore through the NNI.

6          In October 2007, the Centre initiated Singapore’s first-ever organised outreach programme, known as the Community Care Partners Programme (CCPP), whereby a core team of NNI-trained healthcare professionals provide enhanced community care and support to the Parkinson community with an integrated network of community healthcare facilities. As of now, the Centre has 19 Community Care Partners in Singapore.

7          I note that Community Care will be discussed in tomorrow’s symposia. This effort of the NNI in bringing patients closer to the various Community Healthcare Providers is another great example of holistic patient centred care.

8          The Organising Committee has designed an excellent convention, which aims to enrich our knowledge as healthcare professionals.

9          As a neurologist myself, I am especially pleased to be able to officiate at this important Symposium. Finally, it is with great pleasure that I announce that the “6th Singapore International Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Symposium” is now open. Thank you very much.

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