By: Annie Kirk-Jeffs,
Executive, Office of Clinical Sciences

My name is Annie Kirk-Jeffs and I work as an executive in the Post Award Guidance (PAG) Core of the Academic Medicine Research Institute (AMRI), Office of Clinical Sciences. I am originally from Northern Ireland, and I say originally because it has been 20++ years and 6 countries since I lived there. Out of those 6 countries, the safety, cleanliness and weather all conspire to make Singapore the finest so far!

Prior to Duke-NUS the majority of my working life was spent as cabin crew or as we “in the know” call it - a Trolley Dolly. 

Flying around the world, meeting different people, experiencing a plethora of cultures, food and places is exhilarating and does ensure that one adapts easily to most situations.

An Award winning 'Trolley Dolly'

My journey to Duke-NUS started innocuously with several interviews culminating in one last interview with former Vice Dean of Clinical Sciences, Prof John Rush. Intimidated, I asked around for how best to handle the interview and kept getting the same advice. “Be yourself.” Now it is actually really easy to be yourself, until someone tells you to be yourself. Things then get complicated, and doubt reigns supreme!

“So Annie, have you ever been arrested?” 

This was the opening question in the interview, meant to be asked in jest, and left me flabbergasted. Of the many questions I had envisioned this was most definitely not amongst them. 

My response, “Not since last Tuesday!” earned me a laugh and eventually, employment.  And no, I have never been arrested! 

Annie at her new workstation at the Academia

My introduction to clinical research came when my eldest son was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and we were asked to participate in a clinical trial. Through this experience I feel I have gained a unique perspective of the research industry, a kind of ‘try before you buy approach.’ It is not until someone close becomes ill that the urgent need to find a cure becomes apparent. You finally understand why boundaries need to be pushed and why this industry is utterly indispensable.

Annie and her two boys, Barney and Sam in the beautiful town of Ostuni in Southern Italy

Here in the PAG Core, we have recognized that many players contribute to transforming medicine through research.  We recently started a forum called “AMRI Research Professionals” that is focused on meeting the needs of research team members. “Research Professionals” is the term used to encompass all research team members, from research coordinators and nurses to data managers and administrators. The forum addresses topics on research operations, administration, and other relevant areas. 

From No. 8 College Road to No. 20 College Road  (Duke-NUS to Academia) - meet some of the Clinical Sciences team members who are now based at the Academia

No day is typical here. I can be organizing forums, designing posters, liaising with forum speakers and organizing events on one day and the next, I can be writing a business proposal, making sure it flows and is grammatically perfect.  Another aspect of my role involves writing articles for news publications and our website.  I am a voracious reader, and writing about research in layman’s terms is a one of the best parts of the job. 

Having recently moved from Duke-NUS to Academia the general consensus is, it [Academia] is like Ireland, lovely but cold.  We even have grass on the walls! Come over and visit us but bring a coat. Our building also has the rarefied atmosphere of a scholarly symposium, in other words, noise travels a lot further here.

On a more serious note, ours is a collaboration between Duke-NUS and SingHealth and every collaboration starts with cooperation. To truly become the academic research support connection AMRI seeks to be, our attitudes need to be fluid. Our support may be offered from different sources or locations but it is the quality and scope of support we deliver that matters most.

Getting to know SingHealth from within is the start of a very exciting journey and working within this academic atmosphere both stimulates and satisfies my intrinsic curiosity for all things new.

To borrow from Ernest Hemingway “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”


Life is 'greener' on the other side of the road