The Centre for Clinician-Scientist Development (CCSD) brought together leaders from Duke-NUS and the SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre (AMC) to celebrate the achievements of eight recipients of the Ministry of Health’s National Medical Research Council (NMRC) Transition Award and first-time Clinician Scientist Award, who had gone through CCSD’s rigorous mentoring, grantsmanship and administrative support programme.

The awards are conferred by NMRC, as part of its Talent Development Programmes, providing a career pathway and protected time for clinicians who choose this dual track of being a clinician and a scientist. This year’s awardees hail from Singapore General Hospital, Singapore National Eye Centre, National Neuroscience Institute, National Cancer Centre Singapore and National Dental Centre Singapore. They include:

Transition Award November 2020 Grant Call Awardees

Dr Tay Kae Jack, Consultant Department of Urology, Singapore General Hospital
Dr Rachel Chong, Consultant, Glaucoma Department, Singapore National Eye Centre
Dr Yeo Tianrong, Consultant, Department of Neurology, National Neuroscience Institute
Dr Valerie Yang, Associate Consultant, Division of Medical Oncology, National Cancer Centre Singapore
First-time Clinician Scientist Award (Investigator) November 2020 Grant Call Awardees
Dr Daniel Ting, Consultant, Surgical Retina and Cataract & Comprehensive Ophthalmology Department, Singapore National Eye Centre
Dr Yu Na, Director, Medical Technology, National Dental Centre Singapore
Dr Tan York Kiat, Senior Consultant, Department of Rheumatology and Immunology, Singapore General Hospital
Dr Chao Yinxia, Junior Principal Investigator and Clinician Scientist, National Neuroscience Institute

Their achievements were celebrated at a special Zoom event organised by Duke-NUS' CCSD—formerly led by Founding Director Professor Koh Woon Puay, and now under the leadership of Professor Roger Vaughan, who recently assumed the directorship of the Centre, and Professor Wang Jie Jin, Deputy Director of CCSD, who served as Interim Director before then. The work of the Centre is well supported by senior scientists at Duke-NUS who mentor the junior clinician-scientists within CCSD grantsmanship programmes with valuable guidance.

At the frontline of CCSD are Chen Meixuan, Fion Farn and Angie Tan, the Centre’s Clinician-Scientist Managers, who provide critical support to the ACE-in-Grants and Research Skill workshops, the various Khoo grants and the Centre’s day-to-day administration.

Like the previous event last year, this year’s event was conducted online, with each winner taking turns to share their research journey. The event was opened by Prof Wang, who served as host and introduced the various speakers, including Prof Vaughan, the TA and CSA winners.

Prof Vaughan, still newly-minted as CCSD Director, called research “the quintessential team sport” and shared how much he looked forward to being part of the team. He further highlighted plans to broaden the mission of the Centre, going forward.

Prof Wang reflected on the achievements of the winners, remarking that the journey is “not always easy but, in the end, is highly rewarding”. She noted how some of the women award recipients were in fact holding three jobs – as clinicians, scientists and mothers.

As each TA and CSA winner took turns to say a few words about their work and accomplishments, a common theme was their gratitude to the CCSD team, particularly Prof Koh and Prof Wang, and the wider team of mentors in Duke-NUS, which has helped them overcome the challenges they faced in combining their passions in clinical practice and research.

As in previous years, Duke-NUS and AMC leaders graced the event to congratulate and encourage the winning cohort to greater heights in their journey as clinician-scientists, including Dean Thomas Coffman, Senior Vice-Dean for Research Patrick Casey, Vice-Dean for Academic & Clinical Development Wong Tien Yin, and Senior Associate Dean for Academic Medicine Chow Wan Cheng.

Dean Coffman particularly called out Prof Wang as the School’s “ace-in-the-hole” for her role in nurturing new clinician-scientists and helping them secure grants, in reference to Prof Wang’s ACE-In-Grant intensive mentorship programme that has played a major role in boosting the success of CCSD’s participants in gaining NMRC Talent Development support grants. He highlighted that Duke-NUS will continue to develop programmes and support CCSD to help aspiring clinician scientists enter “what I think is a fantastic career path” that not only bring personal returns but also have an impact on others.

In closing remarks, Vice-Dean Wong Tien Yin picked up on Prof Vaughan’s earlier ‘team sport’ analogy and called on the TA and CSA winners to consider themselves elite sportsmen, with the aim of achieving “a podium finish, if not the Gold Medal” in the Olympics. And, he reminded, in time, they will be the ones helping to mentor the next generation of clinician-scientists.