SingHealth and Duke-NUS leaders focus on what really matters for true success in the future of Medicine.

"Research and education can’t occur in isolation from the hospital, so the people are the cement between the two organisations."

Prof Ranga Krishnan, Dean, Duke-NUS

"Our partnership will evolve into an Academic Medicine system - where we really pull everything together."

Prof Ivy Ng, Group CEO, SingHealth

SingHealth and Duke-NUS has done a lot in establishing an Academic Healthcare Cluster.   They have achieved in the past four years what would typically take ten years or more to establish.  

Professor Ivy Ng, SingHealth Group CEO, and Professor Ranga Krishnan, Duke-NUS Dean, both agreed that the key objective is to protect the future of Academic Medicine by making the implicit relationship explicit, even as the structures of SingHealth and Duke-NUS become more porous for collaborations across the two organisations. 

“The academic culture has begun to flourish. The distinction between the two institutions is narrowing, the membranes are getting very permeable,” Prof Krishnan said.   “Research and education can’t occur in isolation from the hospital, so the people are the cement between the two organisations.”

Prof Ng added that the process allowed the focus to be on the right things, such as fusion of functions as research and educational programmes merge between institutions, “We are trying to create a culture of thinking through problems for better solutions.

“We want to create dynamic teams who bring in their knowledge and get excited by what we can do for the benefit of patient care.   The way forward is for us to bring multifunctional teams focusing on specialty areas together so that they can have common protocols, research projects, databases and plans for the talent pipeline.”

The first unified SingHealth Duke-NUS Department of Head & Neck Surgery and the National Neuroscience Research Institute Singapore (NNRIS) established this year are testimonials to the successful paving of the Academic Medicine vision, besides the establishment of ten Academic Clinical Programs (ACPs) involving multi-institution departments (see more in centre spread). 

Despite all the action inside the partnership, the Dean was mindful that the real stakeholder is the layperson in the community. For true success, its logic and advantages have to be communicated to the community. 

“It will be an educational effort because it hasn’t happened anywhere else in Asia. The Academic Medical Centre concept is still very, very new here and there were also failures. In some other countries, for example, there was integration at the top but you don’t get integration at the bottom, and it just didn’t work out.   Our partnership will evolve into an Academic Medicine system - where we really pull everything together,” he shared. 

The two leaders stressed that the real change will be when everyone has the ame sense of mission in curiosity fuelling healthcare advances. It takes moving the focus away from just clinicians and tying in with allied healthcare professionals and the nurses to make it work – they become pivotal for culture change because they form the front line of the system at every single minute.

Prof Ng said, “It’s also teamwork that goes beyond our institutions, beyond the local setting because people are networked with international collaborators.   So the work of that entire network serves that one patient with the complex condition at the end of the day.”

Prof Krishnan added, “It takes time because it is a whole culture change. It may be easier within the hospitals.   The main challenge is extending outwards and pulling the networks together, especially those who are further away or who may not think of themselves as part of the bigger whole.   “From what we have seen, people on the ground have real ideas on how to improve patient care and are pretty passionate about it.   So it tells you there is a lot of goodwill, intent and understanding.”

Both have confidence that Academic Medicine will bring hope and the best treatments to the patients because it is how therapies, technology and research at the forefront of Medicine can be offered, which the private sector cannot emulate.   It is also where the right people are - the curious ones driven by patient-centric challenges.