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Defining Tomorrow's Medicine
At the SingHealth Duke-NUS Scientific Congress

In the recent SingHealth Duke-NUS Scientific Congress, Dr Tay Ee Guan and Assoc Prof Sandy Cook were actively involved. They defined areas where challenges can be addressed and where further progress can be made.

Associate Professor Sandy Cook
Senior Associate Dean, Curriculum Development, Duke-NUS

Four Key Areas
At the congress, Assoc Prof Sandy Cook presented the audience with a progress card on the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School for the past six years. Here she talks about key areas that medical education needs to address.

What did you learn from the congress?

I spent most of my time in the educational related sessions. What struck me the most was the amazing commitment and passion to promote education here in Singapore. Based on the great response and level of audience engagement, it shows great promise for the future of additional education topics within the congress.

What are some of the key areas that medical education needs to address?

Based on the 2010 Flexner report, there are four recommended goals that Academic Medicine needs to address. First, we need to standardise learning outcomes and at the same time balance the need to provide some personalisation of learning processes for each individual. Second, we need to integrate  basic science knowledge with clinical experience, roles and responsibilities. Learners need to understand these interrelated roles. Third, we need to develop and encourage habits of inquiry and continual improvement. Last, we need to explicitly address the formation of these clinical professional identities that merge research and education.

I am glad to say that these key areas are closely aligned with the goals of Duke- NUS and SingHealth in establishing excellent medical education in Singapore.

Has the Scientific Congress improved education collaboration between SingHealth and its partners?

The congress is a reflection of the growing interconnection between SingHealth and Duke-NUS. The future activities of creating the Academic Clinical Programs and both the newly established AM•EI and AMRI will continue to foster these collaborations and strengthen our relationships.

What is the significance of the congress on the education landscape?

The congress has been a place where we can showcase what is happening in education, and hopefully as the AM•EI progresses, there will be more opportunities to highlight our accomplishments, but also recognise those individuals responsible for helping Duke-NUS and SingHealth achieve these accomplishments. This will be the overall goal: creating a positive culture of education and appreciation for educators.

Any thoughts for the future?

The AM•EI is hoping to organise special education-focused event every other year when the congress is not in place, so that the education message does not fall off the radar in between. We envision an event that highlights the educational successes and achievements of our faculty. This will further develop the culture and value of education, leading to improved quality healthcare.

What do you hope to stem out of this new AM•EI event?

I hope that the event, alongside with other educational conferences, will be able to recognise those individuals who have contributed to the education of all learners; as well as begin to translate that culture of education, inquiry and improvement to better patient care. This means bringing a scholarly approach to education and creating a larger sphere of influence by teaching other teachers, all in the plans of AM•EI.

A milestone for us would be to see increasing numbers of people promoted along a Clinical Educator academic track. The bigger goal is for SingHealth to be recognised as the “Teacher of Teachers” and the learning culture to be so well known that students want to come here to learn and faculty want to come here to teach; people see this as the most exciting and energised place to work in and ultimately that patients will know they will be provided with the best care. 

Dr Tay Ee Guan

Director, Education and Research, SingHealth Polyclinics 


As a member of the congress’ organising and scientific committee, Dr Tay Ee Guan, Director of Education and Research for SingHealth Polyclinics, was deeply involved in its logistics planning, administration and content development. Dr Tay shares his thoughts on how the congress can help realise goals in collaboration.

What were some areas of focus in this year’s congress for you?

The keynote lecture by Prof Michael Faston described the journey of how a research question was first birthed in clinical practice, answered through research, and how the findings of the project has impacted clinical care, illustrating the important role of research in the practice of medicine. We hope the audience would be inspired by this story and be excited in our pursuit of Academic Medicine.

Beside the clinical topics that were of interests to the various SingHealth institutions, there was also a focus on the education agenda in this meeting. The role of education in our Academic System and Education innovation was discussed in this meeting and will certainly bring our education efforts to another level.

What made the congress a fruitful event for all?

Bringing different clinical disciplines and healthcare professional groups into a single scientific meeting promotes better understanding of the work done by various groups within SingHealth. It also facilitates the sharing of ideas. This was one of the objectives of the organising committee. 

One of the reasons for the event’s success is the fact that SingHealth is the largest healthcare cluster, encompassing all clinical disciplines in Singapore. The strong allied health community and the richness of the academic environment provided a very good multidisciplinary symposium with carefully prepared presentations approached from different angles and perspectives.

What impact does the congress have on the research landscape?

The congress has opened up numerous opportunities between SingHealth and Duke-NUS in terms of more joint projects, collaborations and research presentations. It has become a synergistic platform between the two organisations, where we provide programmes and showcase research projects that are more collaborative, multi-disciplinary and integrated for the audience.

The congress is also a showcase of the fruits of SingHealth’s collaboration with Duke-NUS. We have kicked off the SingHealth Residency Programme and seen the formation of the Academic Medicine Education Institute (AM•EI) and the Academic Medicine Research Institute (AMRI). These joint institutes are the beginnings of a system and framework for deeper partnership on further projects and deeper collaborations that can bring us further in medical research and education.

What benefits do you see the congress having for research?

I see the congress as a unifying event for the whole healthcare cluster, from doctors to dentists, pharmacists and students. What we lack in depth we make up for with having multidisciplinary topics and broad interest activities that everyone in the ecosystem can be involved in. We were clear of our role and chose to be this broad-based platform versus smaller, multiple groups of special interest and focus.

A research-based participant will come away knowing that the academic world is much bigger than you thought, with plenty of potential opportunities and partners around to work with. The congress is a collaborative network that makes it easier for researchers to seek out someone of like-mindedness and similar interest to do a project together.

Any thoughts for the next congress two years from now?

We are constantly soliciting feedback from the ground to see how we can better meet the audience’s appetite. The concept and spirit of the congress should continue and we would like to develop it into an inter-professional platform. 

We are also looking at increasing partnerships and engagement with General Practitioners (GPs) and the Family Physician community. GPs provide 80 per cent of family care in Singapore and we need to support them in terms of their education and research needs. This year, we focused on Coronary Artery Disease as an opportunity to update them on how to better manage patients with this disease.

Extracted from Tomorrow's Medicine (Issue 04-2012), a SingHealth Publication

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