Academia was designed to provide proximity between state-of-the-art research, and diagnostic and education facilities. In this issue of Joy at Work, we follow members of the Executive Network as they tour the complex and some of its laboratories.

SingHealth Duke-NUS Institute of Medical Simulation (SIMS) Surgical Skills Simulation Lab

L: Diana introducing the surgical skills simulation lab, R: attendees trying their hand at the laparoscopic box trainer

Also known as the “dry lab”, the surgical skills simulation lab is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for surgeons and junior trainees to practise their surgical skills at their convenience. The lab mainly focuses on two facets of surgery – endoscopy and laparoscopy.

Diana Fu, Assistant Manager, SIMS (Programmes), explained that the simulators work very much like computer games, where scores are given for performance, allowing for the identification of areas that require improvement.

We were encouraged to experiment with the simulators, including the laparoscopic box trainer, where participants had to use instruments such as scopes and mechanical graspers to manipulate small objects and carry out tasks, such as thread a piece of string through a series of loops. Many valiant attempts were made and some recognised their lack of hand-eye coordination, resulting in some good laughs from this experience.

SIMS Procedural Skills Labs

Hidden in the basement of Academia are the procedural skills labs. Zayar Min, Manager, SIMS (Procedural Skills Lab) explained that, unlike the simulated operating theatre, these labs are not meant for any specific procedures, and allow doctors to hone their skills in any clinical procedure of their choosing.

The largest in Singapore and one of the largest in the region, the “wet labs” offer doctors the opportunity to work on cadavers and other specimens, such as pork belly and other animal tissue.

A variety of classes and courses are often conducted here too, from the most basic sessions on suturing techniques, to more complex ones exploring new or emerging surgical techniques.

Min introducing the procedural skills labs in the preparation area. The sliding glass doors behind him lead into the labs.

While we were there, Min prefaced that the labs were being set up for a facial anatomy course, to pre-empt us before we entered that we might see some doctors working on a specimen in preparations for it. Sure enough, as soon as we walked through the doors of the lab, a group of doctors stood surrounding a table. When they moved aside, it soon became clear what exactly they were working on - a human head.

Thankfully, none of the attendees seemed fazed by this scene, and we were ushered out of the labs soon after in order not to further disrupt the ongoing preparations.
(Understandably, photography was prohibited in these labs, so you might prefer to just imagine this scenario instead!)

For more on Min and “Silent Mentors”, please click here.

We also went on a tour of 3 other labs in Academia – here are some fun facts about them!

The tour of the labs at Academia offered some terrific insight into what goes on in Academia besides what we are familiar with, and definitely gave all attendees a better understanding of the many platforms available for our colleagues and clinicians to hone their skills and ultimately deliver the highest standard of care for patients.


The Executive Network was established in 2016 and is open to all staff, in particular, executives in SingHealth HQ who are keen to connect with colleagues across departments. The network aims to provide a fun and relaxed platform to promote staff bonding and interactions, which can also lead to potential collaborations at work.

If you are keen to find out more about the Executive Network or join its activities, please email Bryan Lee at or Joyce Mak at

You may also read this article for a special ‘behind-the-scenes’ visit to KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH) by the Executive Network.