​Professor Victor J. Dzau (left) and Professor John O'Reilly received their award from President Halimah Yacob at the Istana. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

They are recognised for contributions to medical education, engineering research

An American doctor and a British engineer have been named honorary citizens of Singapore - the highest form of recognition for foreigners - for their contributions to postgraduate medical education and engineering research and development.

Professor Victor J. Dzau, president of the US-based National Academy of Medicine, and Professor John O'Reilly, chairman of the Science and Engineering Research Council at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star), were conferred the award by President Halimah Yacob at the Istana yesterday.

Prof Dzau, 73, played an integral role in bringing postgraduate medical research opportunities to doctors by establishing the Duke-NUS Medical School in 2005. He has been working in Singapore for 15 years. To connect the school's research capabilities with the clinical strengths of healthcare institutions, Prof Dzau shaped up the academic medicine partnership between Duke-NUS and SingHealth while he was a board member of SingHealth from 2008 to last year.

Under his leadership, the SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre has done multiple research studies on chronic diseases, ageing population trends and models of care that impact individuals in Singapore and the region.

Advancing medical treatments through research was the main reason to build Duke-NUS, said Prof Dzau. "The direction of medicine requires a lot of scientific advances and applying the science to patient care. You want to have doctors who are also very inquisitive and want to do research and stay at the patients' bedside and see what is missing... Then they go back to do research to try to fix the unmet needs.

"I'm very honoured and humbled to receive this award because it comes from a nation whose people I have great admiration and respect for," he added.

Sir John, 72, who came to Singapore more than a decade ago, set the path for research and development in engineering and physical sciences by accelerating collaborations between A*Star and British firms like Rolls-Royce, starting in 2007. In 2017, Rolls-Royce, A*Star and Singapore Aero Engine Services launched a $60 million joint lab to develop smart manufacturing technologies that include 3D industrial printing of complex aero-engine components, and advanced robotic and automatic solutions.

For Sir John, the business benefits for Singapore and the engineering giant were a bigger determinant than innovations in his decision to help bring Rolls-Royce here. He also led the creation of new research and development programmes as chair of several Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2020 funding review panels for the advanced manufacturing and engineering domain.

He said: "Over the years, I have been fortunate to witness Singapore's transformation into a Global-Asia node of technology, innovation and enterprise, and I feel grateful to have played a part in shaping the science and engineering research landscape here."