Round-up of Duke-NUS’ latest people news

From awards to being selected as case study for the future of medical education, Duke-NUS continues to make waves. The School also launched a new graduate certificate to boost innovation in health services while the leadership of the SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre (AMC) gathered virtually to discuss the role of AMCs in managing the next pandemic during the 2021 Academic Medicine Leaders’ Forum.

Top awards for Duke-NUS faculty

“I am delighted and deeply humbled by this honour. I look forward to be a part of ASM’s mission to promote and advance microbial sciences.”


Professor Wang Linfa from the Emerging Infectious Diseases Programme was recently elected as a fellow of the prestigious American Academy of Microbiology, along with 64 experts from ten other countries. His election to the Academy is a nod of recognition for his research that has led to the development of the world’s first SARS-CoV-2 neutralising antibody test and his many contributions in the field of infectious diseases.

“My team showed how improved outpatient rehabilitation services uptake could be cost saving for the Singapore healthcare system. So, this project was the logical next step—how to improve uptake by addressing the barriers.”

Prof David Matchar

Professor David Matchar from the Health Services and Systems Research Programme, and his team at Duke-NUS bagged two prestigious awards at the International Stroke Conference 2021. For their  project on improving outpatient rehabilitation services uptake, they received the Stroke Rehabilitation Award from the American Stroke Association as well as the Paul Dudley White International Scholar Award for submitting the highest ranked abstract from Singapore.

“I am but representing the many who selflessly gave their time, effort and talent towards the partnership with Arcturus Therapeutics to develop a vaccine that Singapore would have access to, if all else fails. This honour is really on their behalf.”


Professor Ooi Eng Eong from the Emerging Infectious Diseases Programme was among a group of five individuals representing COVID-19 frontline workers who were named The Straits Times Singaporean of the Year 2020. Responding swiftly in the face of the pandemic, he spearheaded a collaboration with California-based Arcturus Therapeutics to develop LUNAR-COV19—a novel self-replicating messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine, propelling the vaccine from preclinical to clinical trials within the span of just four months. Ooi received The Straits Times Asians of the Year award along with five other recipients in December 2020 for his work during the pandemic.

“My team and I are extremely grateful for having received this award and excited for what we will be able to do with it. Our ability to observe and subsequently combat disease is always moving in parallel with the development of technologies that facilitate these observations.”

Assistant Professor Owen Rackham from the Cardiovascular & Metabolic Disorders Programme recently received the 10× Genomics-Illumina Single Cell Grant Programme, which will boost his team’s effort in their mission to systematically control cell fate. With the cutting-edge technologies from 10x Genomics and Illumina, he hopes to optimise this process of converting a cell from one type to another, which could lead to the development of cell therapies in treating diseases and restoring previously lost capabilities in patients.

New graduate certificate set to boost innovation in health services

To bridge the gap between research and clinical practice, Duke-NUS’ Health Services and Systems Research (HSSR) Programme launched a novel Graduate Certificate Programme that will foster innovation to improve the performance of health services. Launched on 23 March, the programme kicks off with an inaugural cohort of 30 promising clinician innovators from across the SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre.

The Programme will build a sustainable training programme in health services innovation, increase the skills and confidence for health services research among healthcare providers in Singapore, and train a workforce able to identify opportunities for improvement in the existing healthcare system.

Addressing the 150-strong audience at the e-launch, Duke-NUS Dean Professor Thomas Coffman talked about the making of this certificate:

“This course has been cooking up for a while, and was created through many months of hard work, discussions and assessments by the directors, aimed at developing an impactful course on how to design and implement clinical innovation within our health system.”

Introducing the programme, Professor Nicholas Graves, the Deputy Director of the HSSR Programme and the Course Director for the Graduate Certificate Programme, said that clinician researchers will graduate with the skills and confidence needed to generate solutions that can be implemented to bring about changes in the healthcare system.

“Innovation is something of an emerging discipline, so programmes such as this will give you those qualifications to have impact,” he said, addressing the students.

The Graduate Certificate Programme aims to enrol up to 50 clinician researchers in its second cohort in 2022. 


Read more: Graduate Certificate Programme in Health Services Innovation e-Launch

HSI launch

TeamLEAD featured as an example of “Super Courses” in education

TeamLEAD has been featured as a case study by bestselling education author Kenneth Bain in his new book Super Courses: The Future of Teaching and Learning (Skills for Scholars). The book is an essential resource for educators, parents and students alike. In the search for extraordinary case studies that demonstrate how educators are reshaping education, Bain identified the TeamLEAD pedagogy as an example of how medical courses are innovating and changing in the modern world: by building a system where medical practitioners are no longer trained as lone wolves but collaborative team players.

Bain quotes from a 2021 paper that former Duke-NUS Vice-Dean for Education Professor Robert Kamei and colleagues wrote: “The long-dominant model of patient care by solo practitioners is increasingly replaced by care through collaborative teams of healthcare providers that include doctors, nurses, social workers, pharmacists,” and others.

As the founding Vice-Dean for Education at Duke-NUS, the new pedagogical approach was the brainchild of Kamei and founding Senior Associate Dean Professor Sandy Cook, who worked with a team of faculty and staff to turn their idea into reality. Inspired by the model of Larry Michaelson, an organisational psychologist, TeamLEAD, which stands for Learn, Engage, Apply, and Develop, has been key in Duke-NUS’ MD programme since the outset and lessons are held in bespoke facilities. Since then, TeamLEAD has served as a model for curriculum change at Duke University Medical School and schools around the world.

Kamei, who was Vice-Dean from 2006 to 2016, is further quoted, saying, “We sought to foster critical and creative thinking skills, self-directed learning, and teamwork.”

TeamLEAD focuses on “learning by doing” as opposed to memorisation so that students can solve problems and understand concepts more deeply. This, in turn, enables them to apply their knowledge in solving clinical cases. Students study materials before attending class and learn by engaging in practical problem-solving and small group discussions in class.

About the inclusion of TeamLEAD in Super Courses, Kamei said, “I felt quite honoured that of all of the different outstanding programmes around the world, he chose to feature us in his book.”


Read more: TeamLEAD at Duke-NUS

Highlights from the 2021 Academic Medicine Leaders’ Forum

Leaders from the SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre convened for the 2021 virtual Academic Medicine Leaders’ Forum held on 23 April. This year’s forum, hosted by Senior Associate Dean for Academic & Clinical Development Clinical Associate Professor Chow Wan Cheng, explored the theme of future proofing academic medicine centres for the next pandemic.  

Professor Victor Dzau, President of the US National Academy of Medicine, gave the keynote presentation at this year’s forum. Delivering his presentation from the United States, the former Duke-NUS Governing Board Member and Duke University Chancellor Emeritus shared his insights on how academic medical centres can prepare for the next pandemic. 

Dzau cited findings from the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board that demonstrated that “no one is safe until all are safe”. To achieve this, countries need to combine a coordinated national response strategy with an effective global collective response, said Dzau. 

Deep diving into the COVID-19 responses from Singapore and the United States, he spoke about how the fragmentation of public health capabilities in the United States posed as a challenge to the nation’s effort in controlling the pandemic, which contrasted with Singapore’s approach. The city state effectively leveraged the central public health care system through integrating the three healthcare clusters to tackle the pandemic. 

“Your ability to coordinate, integrate is the reason for your success,” said Dzau. 

But regardless of the national approach, academic medical centres (AMC) play a crucial role in translating research efforts from the bench to bedside, highlighted Dzau. Elaborating on the roles played by AMC in facilitating such research efforts, he pointed out how AMCs are not only a source of innovation and research, but also aid in translating basic scientific discoveries into novel diagnostics and therapeutics, treating complex cases and educating the next generation of clinicians and scientists. 

Reflecting on the experiences of AMCs in the United States, Dzau then shared a multi-pronged approach that AMCs could adopt in preparing for the next pandemic. He recommended modernising clinical operations and emphasised the importance for AMCs to collaborate with various stakeholders, such as federal and state partners to support public health and the systemic collection of data that would inform pandemic preparedness and response, while acting as anchor institutes in their communities. Another issue that Dzau touched on was that on burnout in healthcare workers, and how AMCs can work to prevent and address this in clinicians. 

The forum drew to a close with a lively panel discussion which was moderated by Vice-Dean for Academic & Clinical Development Professor Wong Tien Yin and Professor Kenneth Kwek, Deputy Group CEO of Organisational Transformation and Informatics at SingHealth. During the discussion, Duke-NUS Dean Professor Thomas Coffman and SingHealth Group CEO Professor Ivy Ng joined Dzau in sharing their experiences of helming an AMC, while Professor Edward Buckley, Duke-NUS Governing Board member, provided his perspective from the United States. 

The discussion then rounded up with Dzau’s words of advice to young leaders in the AMC: “Leadership is when you rise to the occasion, and being able to take on whatever hardship it is and turn it into an opportunity. And I think that COVID certainly is. I am very proud of SingHealth Duke-NUS AMC. I saw it born, and I see it flourish. You have done well and that reflects what the opportunity is.”