As a respected academic and Vice-Dean for Duke-NUS’ Office of Education, Professor Ian Edward Curran has won prestigious credentials such as the BMJ Award for Excellence in Healthcare Education, President’s Medal by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Elected Fellow Royal College of Physicians of UK, Elected Fellow Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh and Fellow of the Academy of Medicine, Singapore, College of Clinical Educators.

Yet Professor Curran is a down-to-earth personality who loves learning and continues to do so from others.   With this laudable spirit and curiosity of mind, the newest faculty member of Duke-NUS Medical School shares his plans for our institution’s medical education strategies.

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1) What attracted you to Duke-NUS?

“It is an exciting opportunity to be part of a world-class academic medical centre and ambitious medical school that has a very clear vision of its role in promoting medical education and clinical research in Singapore. I continue to be impressed by our people, our facilities, and our institutions and am intrigued by the possibilities and opportunities they offer.   I am glad to contribute to the School’s vision in transforming medicine and improving lives with our capable and dedicated team.”

2) Why is it important for Duke-NUS to refine its curricula at this juncture?

“The ever increasing demands on today’s healthcare system in Singapore requires creative and innovative solutions.   I believe we need to train high quality clinicians first but we also need to train our clinicians so that they develop broader capabilities such as a critical thinking, problem-solving mindset, with the ability to come up with innovative and entrepreneurial solutions; develop the “Clinician Plus”.   This is why we will be placing an increased emphasis on educating our students in design thinking, innovation, population health, health economics and patient safety; going well beyond the traditional medical curricula staples of biochemistry, physiology, human anatomy, pathology and pharmacology.

Clinicians cure diseases but they must also recognise the importance of their role in health promotion, health advocacy and disease prevention.

In addition, Duke-NUS’ redesigned curricula will incorporate and champion important elements of healthcare practice such as patient safety, quality improvement, systems thinking and healthcare leadership as tomorrow’s medicine will not just be about treating diseases.

To be a successful medical educational institution of the future, we must also be able to shape and help inform the clinical and policy environment as well.  Our graduates will face ever expanding clinical and leadership challenges and they will need to be able to adapt to emergent challenges.  We will also need to better prepare our graduates to care for themselves to ensure they live happy, fulfilled careers and avoid the challenges of burnout. 

Our team is championing mindfulness, self-care and self-compassion to help our students cope with busy, challenging careers.

3) Have the efforts been on target at this point? 

Duke-NUS has been moulding outstanding clinicians and will continue to do so.   My team and I are seeking to nurture clinicians who do not just practice medicine but who are also able to help shape, innovate and transform medicine for Singapore and beyond. 

Our holistic educational experience and approach aims to nurture and hone these capabilities which help our students excel and become future clinician leaders, researchers, educators and innovators.

4) What are your views about the SingHealth Duke-NUS collaboration?

“We are potentially one of the world’s most important academic medical healthcare systems.   The strong, strategic partnership that we have built with SingHealth is a unique advantage and strength for the School.  We share a common goal to promote clinical excellence and to advance medical science.

We will achieve academic excellence through our joint commitment to developing a vibrant community of learning and practice across our Academic Medical Center (AMC). 

In education, we have excellent leaders who walk the talk, like SingHealth’s Group Director of Education, Associate Professor Chan Choong Meng.   Sharing a common vision, we are working together as co-directors of the Academic Medicine Education Institute (AM.EI) to better meet the educational needs of healthcare professionals across the AMC with a focus on patient safety, quality of patient experience, quality improvement, disruptive innovation and transformational leadership.   I am keen to work with every level of the organisation to promote educational excellence. 

Since I arrived in Singapore, I have spent a lot of time with clinical colleagues to better understand their views of the School and how we further develop our shared ambition to produce outstanding clinical graduates.    These conversations will continue because I want to keep reaffirming and developing the partnership.   I am delighted that this collaboration with SingHealth’s clinicians is continuing to deepen and facilitate a seamless, enhanced curriculum that will enrich our students’ learning experience.

5) What are some principles that have guided you as an educator?

“Learning is a joy, teaching is a privilege and education is a strategic imperative."

I am honoured to play a small part in shaping future generations of doctors for Singapore.   It is a delight to be involved in the progressive professional learning culture that is unique to Singapore.  

To help mould a culture of academic excellence and so, ensure tomorrow is better than today.   Greek philosopher and scientist Aristotle famously said, ‘Excellence is not an act, but a habit’ and I am keen to bring and support excellence across our SingHealth Duke-NUS AMC, particularly around the educational mission. I look forward to working with my colleagues across the AMC in achieving this mission.

Another wise educator, Derek Bok, former President of Harvard University, who made the point, ‘If you think education is expensive, try ignorance’.  Let us not deny the inevitable changing landscape of medicine and always strive to promote excellence in all that we do.

6) What are your aspirations for this SingHealth Duke-NUS partnership?

“I want to work with our clinical colleagues at SingHealth to nurture a centre of educational excellence and to create an MD curriculum that produces excellent clinicians with value-adding capabilities who have a good appreciation of the current and future healthcare challenges.   We must all work together to provide practical, effective and innovative educational solutions and support clinical excellence across this established partnership.

I remain humbled but excited by the challenge.  I am clear I have much to learn and understand about Singapore’s world-renowned healthcare system, its people, its opportunities and its challenges.

I am committed to working collaboratively with my clinical, academic and professional colleagues to make sure that Duke-NUS meets and exceeds the needs of Singapore and trains high-performing, high-quality clinicians who are “Clinicians First” and who are capable of transforming medicine and improving lives to become “Clinicians Plus”. 

This will give us the strong foundations to promote clinical, research and educational excellence.

7) How have you been adjusting to life in Singapore?

“I love how everything works here, like the MRT system.    I am particularly fond of the wonderful air-conditioning here especially as I still wear a jacket most days – old habits die hard!  I love the Zoo, the civic spaces, beautiful parks like the Botanic Gardens, great food like fish head curry, the landmarks such as the Supertrees at the Gardens by the Bay.

In Singapore, there is a lovely juxtaposition of 21st century modernity as featured in buildings, architecture and progressive systems, in close proximity to natural beauty, allowing appreciation of nature.    I find that successful integration very impressive. 

I also like Bus Service 5, which daily takes me to work and places around the city.   Over time, I hope to find out more about Singapore, this ‘Isle of Wonder’, as I explore it further on my folding Brompton bike, which has been travelling around the world with me too. 

Over the last year or so, Singapore and its people have been very gracious hosts to me; they have touched my heart and made me feel very welcome.  I suspect a small part of me will always be Singaporean lah!”