Round-up of Duke-NUS’ latest people news

Starting this academic year, Duke-NUS third-year medical students as well as their innovation-minded peers studying engineering and business at the National University of Singapore benefit from a new programme—the Duke-NUS Health Innovator Programme. Duke-NUS also launched a new start-up to develop the discovery of broadly neutralising antibodies into next generation vaccines and therapies. The last quarter also saw One Health experts gather for the World One Health Congress in Singapore, Duke-NUS students discuss intergenerational issues with Nobel Prize laureates, the Academic Medicine Advisory Council meet after a pandemic-induced hiatus, and the SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre’s "Clinician Plus" shine at the National Medical Excellence Awards, as well as plant the flag for Singapore at top international meetings.  The School’s Emeritus Professor Duane Gubler was honoured with the Taylor Award and in more bittersweet news, Duke University Chancellor for Health Affairs Professor Eugene Washington announced that he will be stepping down in 2023.

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Seventh World One Health Congress opens 

Guest of Honour Mdm Halimah Yacob, President of the Republic of Singapore, giving the Opening Address at the 7th World One Health Congress

“We must work together, not only when a crisis unfolds, but strive to be ahead of the curve through strong collaborations and preparations, even during peacetime… It is only by working collectively that we can secure the health of this generation and the next. I am confident this Congress will pave the way for many exciting collaborations which can lead to new solutions and better outcomes for health,” said World One Health Congress Guest-of-Honour President of the Republic of Singapore Madam Halimah Yacob as she opened the seventh edition of the Congress, which this year was organised by the SingHealth Duke-NUS Global Health Institute and attracted more than 2,500 delegates.

Duke-NUS launches new Health Innovator Programme for third-year med students

Conceived by Duke-NUS alumnus Assistant Professor Rena Dharmawan (MD Class of 2011), the Duke-NUS Health Innovator Programme aims to bring innovations from the imagination of scientists into the public domain.

Speaking at the launch of the new programme on 22 September, Duke-NUS Dean Professor Thomas Coffman said: “[The Health Innovator Programme] represents a fantastic opportunity for third-year Duke-NUS students who are interested in innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Thomas Coffman, Karen Chang, Rena Dharmawan and Goh Yew Lin
Professor Thomas Coffman, Duke-NUS Senior Vice-Dean for Corporate Services Ms Karen Chang, Assistant Professor Rena Dharmawan and Duke-NUS Governing Board Chairman Mr Goh Yew Lin at the launch of the Health Innovator Programme

The programme provides an immersive experience for third-year medical students who are teamed up with peers from the National University of Singapore’s engineering and business programmes, and mentored by clinicians and industry partners. The inaugural cohort comprises nine students split into three teams who will focus on innovations in women’s health.

As for the future, Dharmawan, who is Assistant Dean for Clinical Innovation and Ecosystem Development as well as a cancer surgeon, has big plans. “In the coming years, we’ll actually be scaling this programme further and we’d like the support of everyone here on our journey as we become the flagship innovation programme for all medical students here in Singapore,” she said at the launch. 

Duke University Chancellor for Health Affairs Eugene Washington to step down in 2023

Professor Eugene Washington, Duke University Chancellor for Health Affairs and Duke-NUS Governing Board member, who in October co-signed the fourth phase agreement underpinning the Duke-NUS partnership, will step down from his roles in 2023, the University announced in a statement on 26 October

Washington wrote in an email to colleagues, excerpts of which were published in Duke’s The Chronicle:

“For those of you who are wondering why now, my decision is principally driven by my desire to devote more attention to my personal life. Last month, I turned 72 years of age. Young! Earlier this month, Marie and I celebrated 40 years of marriage, and we are thrilled about spending more time together. And as some of you know, we have a new granddaughter. I imagine that this personal renewal will be invigorating…At the same time, I also believe that institutional renewal is good. In fact, in dynamic industries and organisations such as ours with rapid, dramatic change afoot, renewal is a constant imperative.”

Professor Eugene Washington

Paul Yen

The SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medicine Advisory Council convenes for its fifth meeting
AMAC dialogue

After a pandemic-induced hiatus, the long awaited fifth Academic Medicine Advisory Council (AMAC) gathered in person at the Ngee Ann Kongsi Auditorium on 25 October. With three new members—including Professors Gillian Harvey from Flinders University and Margaret Chan from Tsinghua University—joining the Council, the AMAC met to review the progress of the SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre (AMC). At the end of the four-day meeting, the Council shared a set of recommendations that will help the AMC continue advancing its triple mission of excellence in patient care, research and education. 

Thomas Coffman speaking at AMAC 2022

“Your input over the years has helped us make progress with real tangible effect. And the privilege of having a group of wise academicians spend four, five days really working hard to evaluate our programmes and give us feedback from your perspectives is immensely valuable. And yes, we have made a lot of progress, but as Ivy said, we have great aspirations still and we really think, hope and know that you will be able to help us reach those goals.”

Professor Thomas Coffman, Duke-NUS Dean, said in his opening remarks

Duke-NUS students part of the Nobel Prize Dialogue 2022

Duke-NUS students part of the Nobel Prize Dialogue 2022

“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 kinds of topics—topics of intergenerational importance—should be discussed with students and youths involved,” said Charles Tiu, pictured first from right, an MD-PhD candidate with Duke-NUS’ Emerging Infectious Diseases programme and the first Duke-NUS President of the Asian Medical Students’ Association, Singapore, on being part of the organising committee for the event, where students—including Tiu’s fellow MD-PhD candidates Wharton Chan and Jackie Zhao—had the opportunity to discuss topics including our digital future and the future of education alongside Nobel Prize laureates during a dialogue held on 13 September 2022

New start-up to commercialise Duke-NUS’ discovery of broadly neutralising antibodies into innovative solutions to the pandemic
Duke-NUS Professor Wang Linfa (second from right) and his team from the School’s Emerging Infectious Diseases Programme

Professor Wang Linfa (centre) along with this team, in a picture from July 2022, discovered broadly neutralising antibodies that are now being developed by start-up CoVBio

“The rapid speed at which SARS-CoV-2 viruses are mutating poses significant challenges to the current COVID-19 vaccination strategy. Instead of targeting specific variants, our approach is to provide booster shots that can induce pan-sarbecovirus neutralising antibodies to build broad spectrum immunity that protects against not just the current pandemic but future ones as well.”


Professor Wang Linfa said when the start-up was announced. He and his team made the discovery of broadly neutralising antibodies in 2019. Besides developing the pan-sarbecovirus mRNA and protein subunit vaccines, Duke-NUS and the new start-up CoVBio will also co-develop broad-spectrum therapeutic antibodies as part of this partnership that will offer additional treatment options for people suffering from severe disease. Sarbecoviruses are a group of viruses that encompass SARS-CoV-1, SARS-CoV-2 and multiple coronaviruses in bats and pangolins that have the potential to infect humans.

SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre experts shine at the National Medical Excellence Awards

At the National Medical Excellence Awards (NMEA) 2022, three individuals and two teams representing the School and the Academic Medical Centre were honoured.

“The NMEA is a great recognition of the increasing importance of Health Services Research in Singapore, and the role it has in saving lives and improving outcomes for our patient.”


Marcus Ong Duke-NUS

Professor Marcus Ong, Director of the Health Services and Systems Research programme at Duke-NUS and the Health Services Research Centre at SingHealth, received the Outstanding Clinician-Scientist Award and whose career journey is featured in this issue.

Besides Ong, Clinical Professor Chan Choong Meng, who is Senior Associate Dean in the Office of Education at Duke-NUS, received the Outstanding Clinician-Educator Award, while Clinical Associate Professor Ng Kee Chong, who is Senior Associate Dean of the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital campus under Duke-NUS’ Office of Academic and Clinical Development, received the National Outstanding Clinician-Mentor Award.

Two teams received the Clinical Excellence Team Awards: the CHAT team from the Institute of Mental Health, led by Duke-NUS Associate Professor Swapna Kama Verma, and the CareLine team comprising Changi General Hospital and the Agency for Integrated Care.

Carolyn Lam becomes first Rene Laennec Lecturer at the European Society of Cardiology from outside Europe 

“When I first got interested in what was then called diastolic heart failure, I was quite dissuaded from pursuing that because at that time people didn’t even believe the syndrome existed. More than 20 years ago, people were still not very sure if this form of heart failure existed and heart failure was synonymous with systolic heart failure. So the lesson is if you’re interested…and even if nobody else thinks this is going to be a big thing…but in the end, I pursued and just drove according to my interest.”


Professor Carolyn S. P. Lam

Duke-NUS Professor Carolyn Lam made the comments speaking to Frank Ruschitzka about being awarded the Rene Laennec Lecture in Clinical Cardiology—the master clinician award of the European Society of Cardiology for clinical cardiology—at the sidelines of the meeting held earlier this year in Barcelona. In addition, Lam, who is also a senior consultant with the department of cardiology and the director of Women’s Heart Health at the National Heart Centre Singapore, received an honorary doctorate from the University of Oslo in September 2022.

Duane Gubler receives prestigious Richard M Taylor Award 

“I was deeply honored to receive the Richard M Taylor award from the American Committee on Arthropod-Borne and Zoonotic Viruses and the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. I am humbled to have my name placed on the list of recipients of this award, who represent the giants in the field of arthropod-borne and zoonotic viruses.”


Emeritus Professor Duane Gubler

Duke-NUS Emeritus Professor Duane Gubler, who was the founding director of the School's Emerging Infectious Diseases Programme, received the Richard M Taylor Award earlier this year. The award is given every three years to a person who has made outstanding contributions to arbovirology throughout their career. Reflecting on his career, Gubler's personal highlight has been the building of sustainable scientific programmes that contribute to improved public health. In particular, he cited the Dengue Branch at the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States and the Programme in Emerging Infectious Diseases at Duke-NUS.

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