By introducing a virtual format and new methods of collaboration, the sixth SingHealth Duke-NUS Scientific Congress, which will be held from 17 to 18 September 2021, is ready to tackle topics at the forefront of medicine.

Using the conventional method of passaging and cultivating large quantities of a virus to develop vaccines may have worked well in the past, but the process also took years – time we could not afford with the COVID-19 pandemic. In contrast, the discovery of the mRNA vaccine method in 2005, which involves synthesising DNA templates in a lab, allowed for the COVID-19 vaccine to be created in mere months.

“This is just one of many reasons medicine must evolve with times,” said Associate Professor Ong Sin Tiong, from the Cancer and Stem Cell Biology Programme at Duke-NUS Medical School, and one of the two co-chairs of the sixth SingHealth Duke-NUS Scientific Congress.

Acknowledging that there are limitations to current forms of treatment, Associate Professor Aaron Wong, Head & Senior Consultant, Department of Cardiology, National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS) and co-chair of the Congress, added, “We have to change the way we practise in order to cope with what is new.”

By sparking conversations about trends in healthcare, the biannual Congress hopes to do precisely this – to inspire new ideas that can meet the evolving landscape.

The Congress is one of the most distinguished healthcare-related scientific event in the region, gathering over 3,000 thought leaders, healthcare professionals, academics and researchers each year to share the latest developments in medical care, innovation, research and education.

“The main aim of the Congress is to improve clinical outcomes,” Prof Wong shared. By letting healthcare professionals, scientists and clinicians present recent findings and research breakthroughs, there are opportunities for learning, networking and peer encouragement.

“For the Academic Medical Centre (AMC), it is like a stock take to see what we have and what can be improved. By inviting renowned speakers to give us a perspective on what is coming and their challenges, we can formulate what is needed for the future,” Prof Wong added.

Today’s collaboration for tomorrow’s medicine

Aptly titled “Revolutionising Medicine – The New Frontier”, the sixth run of the biennial Congress will see an exciting line-up of local and international speakers discuss the latest advances in medicine, such as digital health, precision medicine and immunotherapy.

Besides various tracks in which different topics will be presented, there will be standalone plenary sessions and keynote lectures that will address trends and growing healthcare needs, like ageing, community care, commercialisation and translation and genomics, to name a few.

“This year, what is unique is that we try to get all the specialties to have a programme to highlight the research, clinical work and aim to encourage an exchange of ideas in the SingHealth Duke-NUS AMC.” Prof Wong shared.

The Congress is also encouraging collaboration between the Academic Clinical Programmes (ACPs) and the Duke-NUS’ Signature Research Programmes (SRPs) to co-develop content that will impact clinicians and scientists across specialties and seniorities.

“Usually, there is a divide between researchers’ bench-related work and clinicians’ clinical work. What I hope, is that the Congress will offer opportunities to close this gap – for both groups to meet and suggest topics that might be of interest to each other, so that a joint general interest and potential opportunities for collaborations are created,” Prof Ong explained. 

He believes this will open the door for participation and attendance from people across various health professions and seniorities including students and trainees.

Push boundaries and frontiers in medicine

The new virtual format of the congress comes with advantages. For one thing, it will make the event more accessible to speakers from across the globe. Participants can easily move between talks, and access recordings of the ones they are most interested in for up to two weeks post-event.

“Whether one is a junior resident or senior resident, attending another track offers an opportunity to learn from different specialities,” Prof Wong elaborated, adding that both he and Prof Ong recommend attending talks outside of one’s areas of expertise.

“If we can just learn one new thing that influences our research in the lab, or one new way to manage our patients, or make one new friend – whether a clinician, researcher or educator – if each person could fulfil each of the three, then I would deem it a success,” Prof Ong elaborated.

Referring to the example of the mRNA vaccine and its impact in the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, he mused, “To stimulate an immune response in this way is ground-breaking.  This revolutionary approach comprised many small steps, which together, resulted in the breakthrough that we are all benefiting from.”

“If you put all the small steps together, maybe you will spur even more innovations!” Prof Wong chimed. This is exactly what the Congress hopes to ignite: sparks of inspiration that will lead to fires of change.


Be part of the SingHealth Duke-NUS Scientific Congress 2021 by submitting abstracts or registering now! Abstracts submission is extended until 19 May and registration closes on 13 August. For more information, visit