Innovation, telomeres and technology: Embracing a progressive mindset in all our missions


You’d have to agree that innovation is a driving force behind progress in medicine, or any other field. The ever-evolving field of healthcare requires a constant influx of new ideas and advancements to continue improving patient outcomes and providing holistic care. As such, medical schools have a crucial role in training the next generation of physicians and clinicians with an innovation-centric mindset. That directly brings us to the inspiring story of Duke-NUS students teaming up with students from other NUS schools to innovate in our brand new Health Innovator Programme, the brainchild of Rena Dharmawan (Class of 2011). In just nine months, the teams had to come up with new inventions that can improve women’s health after which they had to pitch their prototype and business plan to a panel of judges. We bring you a report of that ‘shark-tank’-style session

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In our In Conversation With column, our editor, Nicole Lim, talked to global health reformer Ilona Kickbusch about the future of healthcare as countries seek to be better prepared against the next pandemic, reign in healthcare spending and why we need to rebuild global trust between societies, science and government. 

Resonating with Kickbusch’s views on the need to bring health into all areas of policymaking, our profile this issue is of a community health champion: Eugene Washington, who later this year brings his tenure as Chancellor for Health Affairs at Duke University to a close. We find out how growing up on a segregated community in Houston, Texas, has inspired him to fight for healthcare access for all and to create health outside of clinics, in homes, through education and access to opportunities. 

In this issue’s podcast, Nicole Lim goes “fishing” with two Duke-NUS scientists. They’re angling for telomeres—whose importance to medicine and health cannot be overstated. These protective caps on the ends of chromosomes—not unlike the caps of our ordinary shoelaces—play a crucial role in ageing and disease and are essential biological knowledge not just for medical students but also for all of us members of an ageing populace.  If we understand how they contribute to the pathophysiology of diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and neurodegenerative disorders, then we can make informed decisions about lifestyle choices. 

But learning about telomeres is just one aspect of medical education and research. To truly prepare students for a future in healthcare, medical schools must also prioritise the use of technology in teaching human anatomy,  the very foundation of health and disease. The advent of virtual and augmented reality technology has revolutionised the way we can learn about and interact with the human body. By allowing students to interact with 3D models of organs and systems, they can gain a deeper understanding of anatomy and physiology. This issue brings insights of this aspect to our readers–that’s you!

I am also delighted and proud to share that our young and small medical school has been recognised for leading the way in both innovation and education is ranked among the best employers in Singapore. We prioritise creating a culture of innovation and research, encouraging students and staff alike to think outside the box and develop new approaches to medicine. By nurturing an innovation-centric mindset, we are nurturing our students to truly be clinicians plus or leaders in the field of medicine tomorrow.

And speaking of an innovation-driven mindset, our own strategy to turn Duke-NUS from news source into a news maker has earned my team a Silver Award at last week’s 2023 PR Awards for Best Media Relations Strategy. In other People stories, we celebrate the achievements of our faculty and students and relive the buzz that has been filling our campus since our last issue of MEDICUS. By recognising the hard work and accomplishments of individuals and teams, Duke-NUS has fostered a sense of community, encouraging and inspiring all of us to strive for excellence. 

As a medical school and research powerhouse integrated in Singapore’s biomedical ecosystem, we have a responsibility to continue the legacy of innovation in healthcare. The stories in this issue of MEDICUS  showcase how we are contributing to the advancement of medicine and improving patient outcomes. 

Let me now invite you to the read the insightful stories we have curated for you. As always please let us know how you like (or not) about our magazine so we can truly make it a publication of choice for you.

And if you have not already, hit subscribe to receive the latest issue straight into your inbox.

Anirudh Sharma


MEDICUS, the School’s award-winning quarterly magazine, goes beyond the latest discoveries in education, research and academic medicine, shining a spotlight on the people whose ideas are shaping the future of science and medicine. In its coverage of Duke-NUS Medical School, a landmark collaboration between Duke University and the National University of Singapore, MEDICUS tells the stories of the scientists, educators, clinicians, students and alumni who work tirelessly to transform medicine and improve lives for people on the Little Red Dot and around the world.


About the masthead

This issue’s masthead shows a close-up of the cornea, which is the most densely innervated tissue in the human body. The nerves in our cornea maintain the health of the eyes by releasing substances which regulate reflexes such as tear production and blinking. In diabetes, defects in metabolism cause corneal nerves to degenerate, a condition known as corneal neuropathy that Associate Professors Liu Yu-Chi and Tan Hong Chang are hoping to address with fenofibrate, a drug initially used to reduce the levels of fat in the blood of individuals with high cholesterol. 

Anirudh Sharma

Nicole Lim

Writers and contributors
Chua Li Min
Jessie Chew
Nicole Lim
Sean Firoz
Sruthi Jagannathan
Wee Yanshou
Yu Zehan

Editorial Committee
Chow Wan Cheng, Duke-NUS
David Wang, Duke-NUS
Ian Curran, Duke-NUS
Karl Bates, Duke
Jenne Foo, Duke-NUS
Jenny Ang Thar Bin, SingHealth
Ovidia Lim-Rajaram, NUS
Patrick Casey, Duke-NUS
Reza Shah Bin Mohd Anwar, Duke-NUS

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