Round-up of Duke-NUS’ latest people news

In this round-up, experts share their top concerns about access to diagnostics raised during a recent dialogue,  rallied to further support women in breaking the bias and honed their research skills, so that collectively, the SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre continues to advance its vision of transforming medicine and improving lives. For their excellence, staff, students and clinical faculty received top honours. In February, Duke-NUS inducted its second cohort of outstanding clinical faculty into the School’s Hall of Master Academic Clinicians, while March saw Research Assistant Kamini d/o Kunasegaran receive the COVID-19 Hero Award. In a different form of heroism, a Duke-NUS Class of 2024 student received the Singapore Civil Defence Force’s Community Lifesaver Award. At the same time, the campus put in a strong show of support for students who rely on financial aid to pursue their dream of becoming clinicians and donated their blood in a student-organised blood donation drive.

Duke-NUS inducts second cohort of outstanding clinicians into its prestigious Hall of Master Academic Clinicians

Master Academic Clinicians (MAC) 2022

Members of the SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre (AMC) community gathered on 25 February to celebrate the induction of the second cohort of outstanding SingHealth clinicians into Duke-NUS’ Hall of Master Academic Clinicians—the highest recognition for outstanding clinical faculty bestowed by the School.

The eight newest inductees represent seven of the 15 SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Clinical Programmes, which were established for each clinical specialty to facilitate residency training for Duke-NUS students upon graduation.

To be considered for election to the Hall, they had to demonstrate subject matter mastery, academic excellence and exceptional mentoring for Duke-NUS students.

“Clinicians are the lifeblood of any AMC. We are proud of the many accomplishments of our clinical faculty and committed to recognising their invaluable contributions to the success of the SingHealth Duke-NUS AMC.”

Professor Thomas Coffman, Dean, Duke-NUS

Spotlight on the global lack of access to diagnostics at regional dialogue

On 16 February, close to 300 healthcare leaders and diagnostics specialists from around Singapore and the region, as well as experts from the Lancet Commission gathered for the first regional dialogue spotlighting the lack of access to diagnostics globally. The virtual gathering was themed A Regional Outlook on the Global Crisis in Diagnostics. It was organised by the SingHealth Duke-NUS Global Health Institute and Radiological Sciences and Pathology Academic Clinical Programmes, in partnership with Singapore’s Academy of Medicine and the Lancet Commission. The event was opened with a speech by Guest-of-Honour Associate Professor Kenneth Mak, Director of Medical Services at Singapore’s Ministry of Health.

The inaugural dialogue called for an examination of the applicability of the Lancet Commission on Diagnostics’ key global recommendations within Asia. It provided a platform to explore the contribution of diagnostics as an entry point towards addressing global health challenges and strengthening the healthcare systems in the region, and for healthcare leaders and specialists to assess opportunities for collaboration and partnerships to advance the field of diagnostics in Asia.

Kamini d/o Kunasegaran named a COVID-19 hero

Kamini Kunasegaran receives Asian Scientist Lab Tech of the Year 2021 MiRXES COVID-19 Hero Award

 “I was pleasantly surprised and delighted to have received this award. More importantly, I am thankful for being part of a wonderful team for giving me the opportunity to contribute to the fight against COVID-19,” said Ms Kamini d/o Kunasegaran, a research assistant with the laboratory of Professor Antonio Bertoletti from the Emerging Infectious Diseases Programme, who received the Asian Scientist Lab Tech of the Year 2021 MiRXES COVID-19 Hero Award for her instrumental role in pivoting the Bertoletti lab’s operations from the hepatitis B virus to SARS-CoV-2 by reorganising reagents to test SARS-CoV-2 T cells and adapting what the lab had learnt about studying T cells in hepatitis B-infected patients to work for SARS-CoV-2-infected and vaccinated people. And all that in a matter of weeks.

Photo credit: Nina le Bert

Flagship research skills workshop draws strong interest

Duke-NUS’ Centre for Clinician-Scientist Development organised a two-day research skills workshop, where the 40 participants from across the SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre honed their research and professional skills, and heard inspiring stories from senior researchers, met peers, made friends and expanded their networks.

A key highlight was a panel discussion on clinician-scientist journeys by Professor Roger Vaughan and Associate Professors Katy Leung, Darren Lim, Joanne Ngeow, Sng Ban Leong and Daniel Ting. During it, the panellists covered topics such as where do good research ideas come from, finding time for research—or the myth of work-life balance—as well as managing your mentors, collaborators, research team and clinical bosses, handling failure and navigating bureaucracy.

Ooi Eng Eong’s talk on the art and science of grant writing resonated very well with me as I am at the stage of writing a grant for the upcoming NMRC grant call. I have picked up many pearls from Prof Ooi and I hope I can do Prof Ooi proud in my grant writing!

I have [also] learnt a lot from Anthony Sung’s talk on running your research like a startup. Having started research late (only when I was a registrar) and having a family of three school-going children, his journey resonated very well with me. I hope that I can be as successful as him in balancing research, clinical and personal time.”

Paul Yen

Dr Ng Kok Pin, a workshop participant and a consultant at the National Neuroscience Institute

“The biggest strength of this workshop was the opportunity to meet like-minded people and to realise that although we are all from different fields, we face very similar problems. It is somehow encouraging to know that you are not the only one who has many challenges to meet. Simultaneously, the workshop gave some extremely helpful tips on how to meet some of these challenges.” 

Dr Adeline Ngoh

Dr Adeline Ngoh, workshop participant and an associate consultant at KK Women’s and Children’s hospital

‘Break the bias’ calls women in science network

The ‘Break the bias’ leadership seminar by Karolina Gwinner opened a week of events to celebrate International Women’s Day all aimed at doing exactly that—to empower attendees to break through the diverse barriers they face in the workplace.

Another highlight among the varied events organised by the SingHealth Duke-NUS Women in Science (WinS) network, was a panel discussion on the topic of diversity, innovation and entrepreneurship in academia, held on 11 March. Hosted together with Singapore Women in Science, panellists discussed the challenges and the opportunities facing academia in engaging women and underrepresented groups in breaking into the entrepreneurship space to advance innovations.

Asst Prof Ann-Marie Chacko

“As our AMC strives to innovate in research, education, and clinical care, we need to work towards ensuring gender, ethnic and cultural diversity, equity and inclusion of all of our staff, students, and trainees to drive sustainable progress.”


Assistant Professor Ann-Marie Chacko, lead, WinS and the WinS Research Scientists Initiative (WinS-RSI), an initiative aimed at ‘early career’ female research scientists.

Duke-NUS students host a successful blood donation drive

Over six days in February, more than 30 Duke-NUS staff, students and faculty made their way to the Bloodbank@HSA in the hope of being able to donate blood to save lives. They were met by Duke-NUS student volunteers from across the MD and MD-PhD cohorts who helped guide them through the process. This Duke-NUS student-led donation drive was part of a larger effort to boost blood reserves and raise awareness of this precious resource undertaken by the TriMedSoc Alliance, an umbrella group of Singapore’s three medical school student bodies. A total of 118 people donated blood during this drive.

Dean Thomas Coffman at the Deep Tech Summit

“When the COVID-19 pandemic started in 2020, there were critical shortages of certain blood types. Even though the crisis was averted when Singaporeans stepped up to donate their blood, we need to educate the public about the importance of blood donation so that similar blood shortages do not arise again.” 

Mr Hema Prashaad, one of the organisers and President of Duke-NUS’ Class of 2025

Community spirit of Champathon leads to generous support for student financial aid

In an inspiring show of support for students in financial need, 2,850 participants from Duke-NUS, SingHealth and the general public clocked an impressive distance during the inaugural Champathon virtual run, covering 217,522km and raising more than $75,000 for the Student Financial Aid Fund.

“I planned at least a half-marathon distance daily after work and ultra-marathon distance every weekend or off day including Chinese New Year. My legs couldn’t take it after a few runs in the first few days. So, I just alternated running and walking on weekdays. For the weekend ultra-marathon distance, I spent most of the time brisk walking as I would rather conserve my stamina to cover a longer distance. I’m glad that I also had the moral support from my wife throughout the event.”  

Prof Chow Wan Cheng

Mr Lincoln Fong, a lead clinical research coordinator from the Singapore Eye Research Institute clocked 1,070.43km over 28 days with his iron discipline and laser-focused strategy, making him the top male runner among Duke-NUS and SingHealth participants

“I enjoyed the Champathon very much and it has driven me to exercise at a greater intensity than my usual exercise regime. I ate a lot of my favourite bak kwa and pineapple tarts during Chinese New Year, thus I was extremely motivated to burn away the calories and continue working on my weight loss goal. It was also my peak period at work and running helped me to destress. More importantly, I believe in championing our future clinicians and I feel passionate about it, especially when my boss encouraged our IT dept to participate in two teams which made this event very fun.” 

Ms Deborah Seah

Ms Deborah Seah, a senior executive with Duke-NUS’ IT department contributed 685km, making her the top female runner among Duke-NUS and SingHealth participants

Duke-NUS Class of 2024 student receives community lifesaver award

“Happening upon this incident, I was concerned first and foremost with the patient’s safety and wanted to stabilise him until he could receive complete medical care at the nearest hospital. I was further concerned for the patient’s wife as she had gone into shock seeing her husband collapse.

As it was the first time I performed CPR and AED on an actual patient, I remember feeling nervous yet highly alert in case any complications occurred. Recalling my previous interactions with other healthcare professionals in urgent situations reminded me to stay calm and composed to adequately address the matter at hand.

After handing the patient off to emergency services, I had some time to converse with the patient’s wife and console her. While I regret not being able to do more for her, I am thankful to have been able—in the words of Edward Livingston Trudeau—“to comfort always”.

My experience that day also demonstrated how much more I had to learn and practise to become a competent physician and how much more I could offer then.

In retrospect, this incident reminded me of how fragile life is and how much can change in a matter of seconds. I am thankful that our impromptu team of helpful members of the public and SBS Transit staff worked so cohesively to save someone’s life.”

Mr Chan Yarn Kit, Duke-NUS Class of 2024 student, on why he stepped forward to help resuscitate a member of the public who had suffered a cardiac arrest at Tan Kah Kee MRT station. He, along with three others, received Singapore Civil Defence Force’s Community Lifesaver Award for their intervention.
Duke-NUS student interns write and illustrate special edition COVID-19 comic book

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