It was a night of celebration for the SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre (AMC) at the 2023 National Medical Excellence Awards as three senior clinicians—Professors William Hwang and Julian Thumboo, and Associate Professor Nigel Tan—were honoured with individual excellence awards. Adding to the accolades, a team from Changi General Hospital (CGH) and St. Andrew's Community Hospital, which provides end-of-life care in nursing homes, clinched the team excellence award at the ceremony held on 31 August. With three individual wins and a team award, AMC recipients clinched awards in four of five categories presented that evening.
Prof Hwang, SingHealth Duke-NUS Oncology Academic Clinical Programme Chair and CEO of the National Cancer Centre Singapore, received the National Outstanding Clinician Award “for his dedication to serving his patients, sterling contributions in driving the advancement of haemato-oncology and stem cell transplantation, and steadfast leadership in steering National Cancer Centre Singapore to new heights in clinical service and research excellence.”
“I am humbled and grateful to receive the NMEA award and would like to dedicate it to my peers, junior doctors, nurses and allied health professionals whom I’ve had the privilege of working with over the years. Like pieces of a jigsaw, it’s the combined efforts of the whole team that ensure the best outcomes for the patient, and it’s because of these great working relationships that I have received this honour,” said Prof Hwang.
Reflecting on his journey in clinical medicine, Prof Hwang said, “I chose haematology and the subspecialty of stem cell transplantation because I saw that it could give patients a real chance of a long-term cure for some otherwise fatal bone marrow diseases and blood cancers.”
As a pioneer in the field, he played a crucial role in establishing clinical services including the Singapore Cord Blood Bank, Singapore’s first public cord blood bank, where he was the founding medical director. He also spearheaded the establishment of the SingHealth Duke-NUS Cell Therapy Centre, which he currently leads, to help train, coordinate, and execute various clinical cell therapy activities across SingHealth. “It is a challenging field but the positive impact on patients is tremendous. It is a decision I have not regretted and till today, I enjoy both the clinical and research aspects of my work,” he shared.
Joining Prof Hwang as an NMEA 2023 recipient, Prof Thumboo from the SingHealth Duke-NUS Medicine Academic Clinical Programme accepted the National Outstanding Clinician Mentor Award “for his outstanding contributions in guiding and mentoring clinicians and researchers, imparting knowledge, and instilling compassion, commitment, integrity and a passion to learn”.
A dedicated mentor, Prof Thumboo, who was inducted into the Duke-NUS Hall of Master Academic Clinicians in 2022, has supervised and mentored doctors training in rheumatology and internal medicine, budding clinician-scientists and clinician-researchers as well as medical and PhD students.
The Duke-NUS Master Academic Clinician’s enthusiasm for mentoring also drove him to set up several programmes at the institutional and national level to create proper structures and a conducive environment to support mentoring, such as the SingHealth Nurturing Clinician Researcher Scheme.
While Prof Thumboo was honoured for his mentorship, Assoc Prof Tan, Duke-NUS’ Associate Dean for the MD programme, received the National Outstanding Clinician Educator Award “for his dedication and leadership in advancing the education and training of clinicians in Singapore and internationally”. Known for his infectious enthusiasm, Assoc Prof Tan has promoted active learning through effective teaching methods, fair assessments, and by providing actionable feedback—efforts that have impacted individuals and organisations at many levels.
Extending his congratulations to the winners, Duke-NUS Dean Professor Thomas Coffman said: “My heartiest congratulations to all of our winners, who continuously strive to improve the quality of care for our patients through their clinical excellence, mentorship and dedication to advancing medical education. The NMEA honours are recognition of their terrific work, whether it is leading a multidisciplinary team to improve end-of-life care in nursing homes or to strengthen and expand life-saving stem cell services as William has done. I am also heartened to see Julian and Nigel recognised for their invaluable roles in inspiring and nurturing the next generation of junior clinicians and medical students to carry on our mission to transform medicine and improve lives.”
Given out every year, the NMEA recognise the efforts of outstanding clinicians, clinician-scientists and other healthcare professionals for their contributions in healthcare, patient safety, as well as research and education.