The SingHealth Duke-NUS Oral Health Academic Clinical Program (ORH ACP) focuses on honing its faculty and developing innovation that matters.

The Oral Health (ORH) ACP launched on 26 August 2014 is the newest ACP to be established.   It marries research, education and clinical work across three clinical departments and six specialties from NDCS, KKH, SHP, as well as a satellite clinic at Changi General Hospital (CGH). 

Associate Professor Poon Choy Yoke, Director of NDCS and Academic Chair for ORH ACP, said that recognising education and research through the ACP means better allocation of resources.

She highlighted AMRI and AM•EI, joint institutes by SingHealth and Duke-NUS, as two platforms that the ACP leverages on to foster a collaborative environment: “We can now tap on these platforms of expertise and networking to improve research and education. The partnership with them creates a sustainable ecosystem that enhances the delivery of care to our patients.”

"We can now tap on [AMRI and AM•EI’s] expertise and networking to improve research and education."
Assoc Prof Poon Choy Yoke, Academic Chair, ORH ACP

Most NDCS faculty members have a commitment of one weekly teaching session. Some are involved in research, while a smaller number are involved in all three – clinical service, education and research. Associate Professor Marianne Ong, Academic Vice Chair of Education for ORH ACP, acknowledged that there will be challenges ahead as clinicians try to find a balance between these roles.

“We will get the education expertise of Duke-NUS and AM•EI in running enabler courses that raise the level of our teaching faculty.   We will consider running some of them within NDCS,” she said.

Prof Ong hopes to engage the younger faculty members with a bigger picture in mind: “There are ample opportunities at NDCS for clinicians to hone their clinical skills and expertise upon completion of their basic specialty training.

“Teaching and research opportunities are available in addition to Faculty Development programmes.   We aim to engage and encourage our junior staff in the early stages of their specialty career so they see the value in being adequately trained both as clinicians and educators. This will equip them adequately in teaching the next generation well.”

ORH ACP’s four key research themes: bone bioengineering, oral services and therapeutics, genomics and biomarker discovery, and health services research. 

ORH ACP’s current educational focus is on nurturing clinician educators and exploring the possibility of collaborating with Duke-NUS on joint certification of Senior Residency and Fellowship Programs.   This allows dental practitioners to develop an all-rounded career in education, based on their specialty interests and fieldwork in NDCS.

Registrars will have protected time to work with the Heads of Department, clinician scientists and research coordinators on projects at a departmental level.   The Fellowship Program will provide training opportunities of rare and complex procedures for sub-specialties practitioners. Prof Poon added, “We can even introduce the Fellowship Program to regional practitioners.”

Working with industry partners and collaborating institutions, ORH ACP is also aiming to break new ground with vital innovations in four key research themes: bone bioengineering, oral devices and therapeutics, genomics and biomarker discovery, and health services research.   Bone is the second most transplanted tissue in the world after blood.   Along with the significant clinical challenges of replacing tooth and bone defects, bone bioengineering has high potential commercial value due to the growing demand for dental implants and bone reconstructive work.

The oral devices and therapeutics theme encompasses the research and development of integral products in dentistry.   Genomics, biomarker discovery and health services research projects have long-term impacts on general health and the population.

According to Prof Poon, the absence of a dental department within Duke-NUS does not limit the ORH ACP.   The ACP’s common structure and governance model are already demonstrating the ease of interdisciplinary cooperation and fertile grounds for creativity.

As a nod to ORH ACP’s research development, Prof Poon said, “Powerful associations and discoveries happen when experts from completely different fields come together to solve a problem. Our recent MOU with Nanyang Technological University to harness the synergy between engineers and our clinicians is testimony to that.”