Almost 800 guests turned out in support of medical research and education at the SingHealth Duke-NUS Gala Dinner 2019. Themed ‘Odyssey of Stars’, the biennial event which took place on Saturday 14 September at the Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore, was an opportunity to thank donors and partners for their generous support of Academic Medicine and to celebrate healthcare advances that are bringing hope to patients across Singapore and beyond. 

One of the highlights of the evening was the cheque presentation by the Goh Foundation which made a gift of $12 million to establish a new childhood cancer programme, which will reside under the Paediatrics Academic Clinical Programme (ACP). The programme will enhance cancer diagnosis and treatment, perform leading-edge research, and provide advanced medical training and education to healthcare workers – clinicians, scientists and students - in providing care to cancer patients and their families. The Ngee Ann Development also received tokens of appreciation for its $40 million gift towards Academic Medicine which was announced earlier this year. 

The need for such generous philanthropy was poignantly shared by Professor Ivy Ng, Group CEO, SingHealth, in her opening speech. Prof Ivy said that as a doctor, she has encountered her share of ‘heart sink’ moments, when she was unable to answer a patient or parent’s most pressing questions. While acknowledging the advances made in Medicine over the past few decades, Prof Ng said that many questions still remain unanswered, and the impact of ill health can be devastating. She also emphasised the importance of focusing on the needs of the patient and how research can potentially change lives by giving hope in times of despair. Prof Ivy gave the example of how genomic medicine played a part in helping a couple to conceive a healthy baby after two devastating pregnancies that resulted in babies who died after being born with incomplete brain development due to a previously unknown genetic mutation. 

“No parent should have to outlive their child. And no child should have to say goodbye to a parent at a young age or lose them to the ravages of progressive illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease in later life. This is why research matters.” 
- Prof Ivy Ng 

The evening provided an opportunity for clinicians and researchers to network and exchange ideas with donors and peers across the Academic Medical Centre. Professor Thomas Coffman, Dean, Duke-NUS Medical School said that such collaboration is key when tackling complex healthcare challenges. 

“One of the strengths of our Academic Medical Centre comes from the integration of outstanding, high-level specialty medicine coexisting with regional and community care, and supported by cutting edge, world-class research.” 
- Prof Thomas Coffman 

Prof Coffman said that philanthropic funding from committed donors, creates opportunities for startling discoveries that can change clinical practice. Such breakthroughs include work by the Viral Research and Experimental Medicine Centre@SingHealth Duke-NUS (ViREMiCS) which was established two years ago with a gift from the Tanoto Foundation to reduce the time taken to develop new vaccines that are safe and effective against infectious diseases. Prof Coffman shared that the team has already provided proof of concept of a vaccine against yellow fever.

Entertainment at this year’s Gala Dinner included a projection mapping dance that brought the Dinner to a rousing start and staff performances by Normadiah Binti Hamzah. As the evening drew to a close, a virtual hammer fell on the items in the silent auction, which included fine wines, jewellery, art works and luxury experiences. The successful bids raised more than $62,000. 

The next SingHealth Duke-NUS Gala Dinner will be held in 2021.