Round-up of Duke-NUS’ latest people news

In this round-up, we catch up on all the goings-on on our campus, celebrate excellence with our award winners and mark the start of a new chapter as we welcome a new head for the Office of Research. In February, the Duke-NUS community, together with colleagues from the wider Academic Medical Centre (AMC), came together to raise funds for our students’ community service projects by flipping—and eating—pancakes and to induct a new cohort of outstanding clinical faculty into the School’s Hall of Master Academic Clinicians. We also gathered to launch the Duke-NUS COVID Stories book, which captures the scientific contributions to the fight against COVID and the personal stories of Duke-NUS scientists, educators and alumni as they lived through the pandemic. While the pandemic may have lost its heat, Duke-NUS researchers continued their work to help ready the region be better prepared against the next pandemic. Just days after Duke-NUS celebrated its 18th Founder’s Day on 14 April, the School ranked among Singapore’s Best Employers for the third consecutive year. Our strong performance also helped attract strong interest from potential students, who filled our campus with buzz during our first in-person open house since the pandemic. And just a week before we published this edition, the Communications and Strategic Relations team clinched a silver award for its media relations strategy at the 2023 PR Awards.

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Duke-NUS welcomes Professor Patrick Tan as Senior Vice-Dean for Research

Duke-NUS announced that Professor Patrick Tan has been selected to assume the role of Senior Vice-Dean (Designate) for Research at Duke-NUS, effective from 1 May 2023, and will step into the full role of Senior Vice-Dean for Research, with effect from 1 July 2023, taking over the reins from Professor Patrick Casey. He will concurrently hold the role of Senior Scientific Advisor at SingHealth, where he will be pivotal in strengthening the relationship between the two institutions in the fields of research and innovation, as part of our academic medicine partnership. Both roles will be fully effective from 1 July 2023. 

Prof Patrick Tan

“I feel privileged to develop Duke-NUS’ signature research programmes, which are already making impactful translational discoveries and breakthroughs. Particularly, I look forward to further strengthening collaborative partnerships between the School and our research partners in Singapore’s biomedical landscape, while my new role in SingHealth extends these efforts throughout the SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre. I hope to drive new and deeper research and innovation collaborations, as well as to nurture aspiring clinician-scientists and PhD scientists to push the boundaries of medicine through research.”

Senior Vice-Dean (Designate) Prof Patrick Tan

Duke-NUS inducts nine exceptional clinicians into its prestigious Hall of Master Academic Clinicians
Master Academic Clinicians 2023

On 23 February, the Duke-NUS community celebrated the induction of nine outstanding clinicians from the AMC into the School’s prestigious Hall of Master Academic Clinicians—the School’s highest recognition for outstanding clinical faculty.

The nine inductees represent eight of the 15 SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Clinical Programmes established to facilitate residency training in specific clinical specialties for Duke-NUS graduates. To be considered for induction to the Hall, they stand out among their peers in the training and mentorship of medical students and young clinicians, and in their pursuit of academic excellence to improve the lives of patients in Singapore and beyond.

“Our Master Academic Clinicians may practise in different specialties, but what they have in common is a passion for advancing the academic medicine mission, while at the same time mastering their clinical craft to provide the best care for patients. Along with their dedication to patient care, they are beacons within the health system, guiding and encouraging peers and younger doctors alike, inspiring the next generation of Clinicians-Plus. They are the best of us.”

Duke-NUS Dean Prof Thomas Coffman

Duke-NUS launches a new book chronicling the School’s research, innovation and people’s stories during the pandemic

Duke-NUS senior management with the researchers, clinician-scientists and alumni featured in the book

Duke-NUS scientists, researchers and leaders gathered on 3 March to celebrate the launch of a new book about the School’s collective accomplishments, innovations and discoveries made in the fight against COVID. Titled Duke-NUS COVID Stories, the book chronicles these milestones alongside the personal stories of the researchers, clinician-scientists and alumni who made the discoveries.

“It just reminds us every day that people matter. People can make a difference. Everybody can make a difference in the end. And hopefully, this is going to make a difference in helping us be ready for the next time [a pandemic] comes because it probably will come again in our lifetimes and we’re going to be much more ready.”

Senior Vice-Dean for Research Prof Patrick Casey

Duke-NUS clinician-scientists and researchers fly the flag at the National Medical Research Council award ceremony

Recipients of the National Medical Research Council’s Human Capital Awards and Talent Pipeline Programmes were honoured on the first day of the National Medical Research Council (NMRC) Awards Ceremony and Research Symposium 2023, held at the Raffles City Convention Centre from 27 to 28 April. Among the scientists were seven Duke-NUS and AMC researchers and clinician-scientists who received the Singapore Translational Research (STaR) Investigator Award—the highest category of human capital award offered by NMRC.

Singapore Translational Research Investigator Award recipients with Guest-of-Honour and NMRC leadership
Singapore Translational Research Investigator Award and Clinician Scientist - Senior Investigator Award recipients at the recent ceremony with Guest-of-Honour Mr Chan Yeng Kit // Credit: National Medical Research Council

Recognising recipients from three grant calls, namely June and November 2021 and July 2022, the seven STaR Investigator Award recipients were joined by colleagues from across the AMC who received other NMRC Human Capital Awards including Clinician Scientist and Clinician Innovator Awards. They accepted their certificates from Guest-of-Honour Permanent Secretary (Health), of the Ministry of Health, Mr Chan Yeng Kit. 
Singapore Translational Research Investigator Awardee Project
Professor Derek Hausenloy New treatments and strategies to prevent heart failure in diabetes
Prof Jerry Chan Professor Jerry Chan Preclinical intrauterine nanoparticle-based gene editing for genetic diseases
Marcus Ong Duke-NUS Professor Marcus Ong Future-ready interventions for survival after cardiac arrest
Professor Ooi Eng Eong Defining how the dengue virus “makes haste slowly” to enable a rational approach for engineering new live attenuated vaccine candidates
Prof Patrick Tan Professor Patrick Tan Functional epigenomic interrogation of altered chromatin states in gastrointestinal cancer
Professor Stuart Cook Understanding and targeting the IL11/LKB1/AMPK/mTOR axis to extend healthspan
Associate Professor Toh Han Chong Precision Immunotherapy for nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and conquering liver cancer

Flipping pancakes for a good cause

Rather than marking the day with chocolates and flowers, the Duke-NUS community spent last Valentine’s Day eating pancakes flipped by the School’s deans and leaders from across the AMC—all in support of a good cause, with the proceeds of each pancake breakfast going towards students’ community service projects.

“I’m really grateful for this fundraiser because it paves the way with great opportunities for students to explore their interest in global health or community service,” said second-year student Ms Dana Chow from the Class of 2025, who introduced the different community service projects—such as Camp Simba and Project DOVE—to attendees at the event.

Dean Prof Thomas Coffman

Readying the region against the next pandemic through better surveillance

A group of laboratory experts from Kazakhstan and Tajikistan came to Duke-NUS in March for an intensive hands-on training course to equip them with the necessary skills to study pathogen exposure at the camel-human interface. Camels make great hosts for viruses, causing illnesses like MERS, Q fever, tick-borne encephalitis and Crimean Congo haemorrhagic fever. But detecting these viruses can be challenging. This training focused on equipping participants to pinpoint high-risk areas for key viral threats and roll out more effective surveillance programmes in their countries. Taught by members of the lab of Gavin Smith, who heads the Emerging Infectious Diseases Programme at the School, the participants honed their serological testing skills—such as coupling viral surface proteins to carboxylated polystyrene microspheres and validating the reactivity of these microspheres with the associated viral antibodies on the Luminex MagPix platform—while deepening their understanding of how interactions between camels, bats, livestock and their parasitic communities can create the perfect storm for a spillover event.

“The fight against infections largely depends on rapid and correct diagnosis based on the use of highly specific assays. Therefore, the development and improvement of tools and methods of laboratory diagnosis of infectious diseases of animals, such as multiplex microsphere immunoassay, and implementation in veterinary practice are relevant.

[I] learned this technique at Duke-NUS under the guidance of Professor Gavin Smith and his excellent team [and it] will soon be implemented for the first time at the Institute of Biological Safety and Biotechnology in Tajikistan and further integrated into the routine diagnostic work of the Institute. We believe that such a method is necessary for timely diagnosis of infectious diseases.”


Dr Shuhrat Jumaev, Deputy of Director, Institute of Biosafety Problems and Biotechnology, Tajik Academy of Agricultural Sciences (left back)
Dr Shuhrat Jumaev, Deputy of Director, Institute of Biosafety Problems and Biotechnology, Tajik Academy of Agricultural Sciences (left back)

Duke-NUS is among Singapore’s Best Employers 2023
ST Best Employer 2023

Duke-NUS ranks among “Singapore’s Best Employers” for the third year in a row. The accolade is a recognition of the School’s commitment to providing an exceptional working environment and dedication to creating a culture of excellence.

The 2023 ranking by The Straits Times and Statista spotlights the top 250 organisations in Singapore, based on recommendations made by more than 17,000 employees working for companies employing at least 200 people. The ranking takes into consideration employees’ ratings of factors such as working environment, development prospects, culture and benefits.

“We firmly believe that when our people flourish, the entire School prospers. We are committed to nurturing an atmosphere of trust where open communication and honest feedback are valued while creating an environment where everyone can thrive.”

Duke-NUS Dean Prof Thomas Coffman

Duke-NUS Open House makes a roaring come back
Duke-NUS Open House makes a roaring come back

In a first since the pandemic, Duke-NUS welcomed prospective students to its campus for an interactive, hands-on Open House on 15 April. Some 150 people interested in studying medicine attended the event, filling the amphitheatre to the brink for talks including Professor London Ooi’s admissions talk. The strong interest in Duke-NUS’ unique research-intensive four-year MD programme was further evidenced by the long queues that formed at the Admissions and Financial Aid booth during the day.

Duke-NUS comms team clinches Silver at the 2023 PR Awards
The Duke-NUS communications and strategic relations team on stage receiving their PR Award (silver) for best media relations strategy

For its innovative media strategy that turned Duke-NUS from a news source into a news maker, the Duke-NUS Communications and Strategic Relations team clinched silver at the 2023 PR Awards for Best Media Relations Strategy.

Having made a shortlist of ten contenders including technology giant Dell, pharmaceutical conglomerate AstraZeneca and Science Centre Singapore, the Duke-NUS strategy and its results impressed the panel of judges. The PR Awards recognise outstanding work in the PR and communications industry across Southeast Asia, South Asia and Oceania.

“Delighted by this terrific recognition of my team’s concerted effort to make Duke-NUS’ brand shine brighter!”

Communications & Strategic Relations Director Mr Anirudh Sharma

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