“Better collaboration,” Professor Terrance Chua said, when asked what one thing he would do differently if he could restart his Cardiovascular Academic Clinical Program (ACP).

“I’ve learned a lot about research in the past ten years.   It’s really about teamwork. It’s hard to be competitive on an international, or even national, scale unless you have a team.   On top of funding requirements, finding partnership that brings research success is key,” Prof Chua, Academic Chair of Cardiovascular ACP, shared with the audience at the inaugural Academic Hour on 13 January.

Associate Professor Ng Wai Hoe, Academic Chair of Neuroscience ACP, echoed Prof Chua: “The way the world is moving, in any industry, is through collaboration. I would start by establishing collaboration with more institutions.”

The Academic Hour was hosted by Cardiovascular ACP and Neuroscience ACP. Both ACPs were formed in 2012, with Cardiovascular ACP being a few months younger.   “We are hoping there will be more inter-ACP collaborations through the Academic Hour discussions – which will be hosted by different ACPs subsequently,” said Adjunct Associate Professor Nigel Tan, Academic Vice Chair, Education, Neuroscience ACP.

For a start, the National Heart Research Institute Singapore, a partnership between NHCS and Duke-NUS residing in the NHCS building, has research cores that are available to other ACPs with common techniques or platform. NHRIS also has Principal Investigators who oversee different aspects of cardiovascular research, with areas that overlap with neuroscience research and other ACPs.

On training healthcare professionals, Assistant Professor K Gunasegaran, Academic Vice Chair, Education and Training, Cardiovascular ACP, pointed out that like research, education is also a collaborative effort: “We focus on people because they play the biggest part and make the biggest difference in education. I have learned a lot on how to improve teaching across the board through collaborating with Nigel.”

Prof Nigel Tan added, “This is a community of practice where people work, practice and hone the same craft together.” Professor Tan Eng King chimed in and shared that in NNI they don’t look at single individuals.   “We don’t need nobel laureates.   What we need is people who are willing to spend time with us and integrate with the larger team.”

There are many challenges in the current healthcare landscape, and one of them is coping with the complexity of medicine.   “Information is now distributed among many people – each in their own specialisation or sub-specialisation,” said Prof Chua. Taking reference from surgeon and writer Atul Gawande, Prof Chua continued, “Healthcare model is changing from relying on master clinicians to relying on a team of many people.   We need to move to a system designed that accommodates this well.”

Prof Stuart Cook, Academic Vice Chair, Research, Cardiovascular ACP, said we can learn from the competition between the two technology giants Samsung, which has progressed rapidly, and Sony, which has been rather stagnant: “Samsung can progress because of their collaborative network that Sony doesn’t have, and Sony is also held back because their culture is where people work in silos and don’t communicate with one another. We need to build up trust to move forward.”

Prof Nigel Tan said, “In education, we need a philosophical reframing in the whole of SingHealth. Honestly it’s not an easy animal to harness. We need to find a specifically Singaporean solution and not just copy from others.”

Drawing an analogy between nerve cells, or neurons, and ACPs, Prof Ng Wai Hoe said, “The nucleus is our ACP core team, the axon the structures and processes, while the synapses that create the connections are our collaborations. We need to create new “neurons”. New structures. But that is not the end all. Each of them need to connect with others to work.”


Academic Hour is a series of regular academic discussions on topics across disciplines and specialties, healthcare thought leadership and trends. Through these dialogues, it is hoped more inter-ACPs, inter-domain collaborations benefiting patients will take root and flourish in the SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre family.

The inaugural Academic Hour was held on 13 January 2014 at the National Heart Centre Singapore auditorium.   Titled "Winning Hearts, Engaging Mind - Confessions, Collaborations and Lessons from Cardiovascular and Neuroscience ACPs," was attended by about 170 of SingHealth staff.   There were insightful sharing by the six leaders from the two ACPs about their struggles, quick wins and ‘Aha’ moments.   The session ended with a panel discussion about the Academic Medicine journey.