Duke University Medical Center Partners with Singapore to Create Medical School

DURHAM, N.C. -- In an international effort to share educational strategies, research and health care know-how, Duke University Medical Center and the National University of Singapore will partner to establish that country's first graduate medical school. A Memorandum of Understanding between National University of Singapore and Duke University Medical Center has been signed formalizing the partnership. The new school will be based on Duke's medical school curriculum and the U.S. model where students enter medical school after earning their baccalaureate degree.

The new Graduate Medical School (GMS) will supplement the existing National University of Singapore (NUS) School of Medicine, which is based on the British model where students enter medical school with essentially a high school degree.

"This is a very important and exciting initiative for both Singapore and Duke," said Ralph Snyderman, M.D., chancellor for health affairs and president and CEO of Duke University Health System, who recently returned from Singapore with a delegation from Duke. "The Government of Singapore has launched an impressive and thoughtful campaign to reorient their educational and economic emphasis toward biomedicine. This new school and Duke will play a key role in this effort."

For Duke, this endeavor represents an opportunity to work in a rapidly evolving research and clinical care environment in a region of the world with great scientific and economic potential, Snyderman said. Moreover, there is a mutual commitment to "prospective health planning" which stresses preventive care and individualized plans for confronting health care.

Duke will play a key role in the new school. The first dean will be from Duke, and Duke will help select and evaluate both students and faculty. In addition, the GMS will follow Duke's four-year curriculum, which features one year of basic science, one clinical year, one research year and then one final clinical year. This curriculum is focused on producing physician-scientists and leaders in new approaches to medicine, Snyderman said. The program will lead to a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree.

The government of Singapore approached Duke about this initiative because of its Medical Center's renowned reputation and its School of Medicine's distinctive educational program, its research activity and faculty resources, according to the Singaporean Ministry of Education. It expects Duke's involvement to raise the profile of the GMS and enhance the standing of Singapore as a regional center for medical education and research, the Ministry said.

Singapore, with an economy and health system equivalent to nations like the United Kingdom and France, has a population of 4.2 million people. A governmental committee led by Deputy Prime Minister Tony Tan has long sought opportunities to expand the country's knowledge-based industry. To that end, they have established world-class research institutes in genomics, biomedical engineering, bioprocessing and bioinformatics, Snyderman said. What was missing, they felt, was the educational infrastructure to support their growing prowess in the research arena.

Singapore's health care delivery network consists of two systems. The National Health Group is made up of four hospitals and two research centers and is the site of the NUS School of Medicine. Three hospitals and four research centers comprise SingHealth. Together, these two systems care for about 80 percent of the island residents. The GMS will co-locate with Singapore General Hospital, the tertiary and teaching hospital for SingHealth.