Thursday, 15 Sep, 2022
Nobel Prize Dialogue: Duke-NUS MD-PhD candidates join Nobel Prize laureates and global leaders to discuss the future of healthcare
Sharing a prestigious stage with Nobel Prize laureates to talk about the world’s future is an experience that most students only dream of. Two of Duke-NUS Medical School’s MD-PhD candidates—Mr Wharton Chan and Mr Jacky Zhao—were invited by Nobel Prize Outreach to do exactly that. And on top of that another Duke-NUS MD-PhD candidate—Mr Charles Tiu—was part of the organising committee for the event.
The Nobel Prize Dialogue was held in Singapore earlier this week, bringing together Nobel Prize laureates, world-leading scientists, policymakers and thought leaders to discuss global issues—with a special opportunity for young people to engage in these conversations. Associate Professor Kenneth Mak, Director of Medical Services at the Ministry of Health Singapore and a member of Duke-NUS’ Governing Board, was also one of the key speakers at the event.
Mr Tiu, a MD-PhD candidate with Duke-NUS’ Emerging Infectious Diseases programme and the first Duke-NUS President of Asian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA), Singapore, said on being part of the organising committee for the event, “I’m very happy and satisfied that the Nobel Prize Outreach and NUS Medicine invited students to be a part of this event. I feel that that’s very important because these kind of topics—these topics of intergenerational importance—should be discussed with students and youths involved.”
In the panel Our digital future, Mr Wharton Chan, an MD-PhD candidate with Duke-NUS’ Emerging Infectious Diseases programme, joined Nobel Prize laureate Serge Haroche, recipient of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physics, and four other panellists to talk about whether digital technologies enhance healthcare, the effect that artificial intelligence (AI) has across the globe and how to combat misinformation online.
Left to right: Nobel Prize Dialogue participants Wharton Chan and Jacky Zhao, who are joined by Charles Tiu, who is the first president of the Asian Medical Students’ Association from Duke-NUS and part of the organising committee for the event
Mr Chan said, “It was eye-opening to learn from both the laureate and other speakers. Laureate Haroche had great insights into how we should look at the harm done by AI and social media, while Prof Russell and Assistant Prof Ng provided practical problems to weaving AI in our lives. It prompted me to think deeply about the role of technology in science and medicine and how the healthcare landscape will change in the future.”
In a separate panel, Associate Professor Mak explored how the pandemic has reshaped the concept of global health with four other panellists. The panel also featured a video of Professor May-Britt Moser, who holds the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, in discussion with youths across the Asia-Pacific region on the same topic.
Left to right: Nobel laureate Serge Haroche (third from left) and Wharton Chan (fifth from left) during their panel Our digital future
Left to right: Associate Professor Kenneth Mak (fourth from left) during the panel Health after the pandemic
Left to right: Nobel laureate George Smoot (fourth from left) and Jacky Zhao (right most) during their panel Education and the future of youth
In the panel on Education and the future of youth, Mr Jacky Zhao, an MD-PhD candidate with Duke-NUS’ Cancer and Stem Cell Biology programme, shared his thoughts about tomorrow’s education with the audience and his co-panellists, including Nobel Prize laureate George Smoot and three others. They spoke on different aspects of gaps in education and how these could be addressed, equalising access to education, the importance of women’s education globally and how the education sector is moving forward after the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Access to education is a basic human right, much like healthcare,” said Mr Zhao. “While it provides a route for upward social mobility, we need to avoid what Pierre Bourdieu described as the trap of elite reproduction via education. We need to reflect on the curricula, the assessments and lifelong learning—and discussions like the one that we had at the Nobel Prize Dialogue help to facilitate such forward planning.”
“I hope that more students will participate in such conversations on global health, which are of importance to students not only in Singapore but also overseas,” said Mr Tiu. “At AMSA Singapore, there’s a lot of overseas engagement, and we create discussions with guests and students from overseas. That’s a very important part of being a doctor because Singapore is a global city and—as future doctors, as future leaders—we need to learn about problems existing across the world so that we can address them for a brighter and healthier future for all.”
Credit: Jacky Zhao // Nobel laureate George Smoot and Jacky Zhao after their panel at the Nobel Prize Dialogue
Laureate Smoot, who was awarded the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics, imparted some words of wisdom for students that he once received from his own mentor: “Be confident. Be confident that you can do it. But also be confident that you checked what you have done. The right path is that you have to have the confidence for something you can do, but you also have to be smart enough to realise that you could have made a mistake and you should check the hell out of it.”