Education Minister Chan Chun Sing and Health Minister Ong Ye Kung were Guests-of-Honour at the Duke-NUS Amphitheatre event. They were joined by NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye, members of the Duke-NUS Governing Board, and distinguished guests from the Ministries of Education and Health, SingHealth, and the Duke-NUS community.

Following the signing of the fourth phase of the Duke-NUS partnership agreement in October, stakeholders of this research-intensive, graduate-entry medical school gathered in Singapore on 21 November 2022 to celebrate this latest milestone.

The event, held at the Duke-NUS Amphitheatre in the Khoo Teck Puat Building, was graced by Singapore’s Education Minister, Mr Chan Chun Sing, and Health Minister, Mr Ong Ye Kung, as Guests-of-Honour. They were joined by National University of Singapore (NUS) President Professor Tan Eng Chye, members of the Duke-NUS Governing Board as well as distinguished guests from the Ministries of Education and Health, Duke-NUS’ academic medicine partner, SingHealth, and members of the Duke-NUS community.

The celebration started with a short video that featured some of the many memorable moments that defined the Duke-NUS’ 17-year journey before sharing key highlights from the phase IV signing ceremony held on 13 October 2022 at Duke to the audience in Singapore.

Taking up the story from there, Duke-NUS Governing Board Chairman Mr Goh Yew Lin reflected on Duke-NUS’ secret to success.

“When I first became Chairman about two years ago, I asked for an itemisation of ongoing engagements and I was amazed by the length of the list that was presented to me. These extensive collaborations have enabled Duke-NUS to punch well above its weight,” he said.

Expanding on the core pillars that Duke-NUS is built on, he added: “The ideal partnership is one where each party brings value to the other, and I think this win-win philosophy very much underpins the success of Duke-NUS. This partnership between universities is significantly enhanced by Duke-NUS’ symbiotic, mutually enhancing relationship with SingHealth in the Academic Medical Centre and in many other ways, which goes from strength to strength.”
Mr Goh also acknowledged the many collaborations and ties the School had forged with institutions and agencies in Singapore and beyond, including Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, A*STAR and Temasek.

Elaborating on the deep academic medicine partnership that Duke-NUS and SingHealth have forged over the years, SingHealth Group CEO Clinical Professor Ivy Ng next stepped up to the rostrum. She, too, reflected that together, the Duke-NUS and SingHealth partnership generates returns that are bigger than the sum of its parts.

“You take what is still the smallest medical school in Singapore and the largest public healthcare cluster. And you put them together and intuitively, you might not think it’s a good marriage, but it’s a wonderful one that has produced many things,” said Prof Ng, listing the creation of joint platforms and academic clinical programmes in 15 specialties as well as the SingHealth Duke-NUS Disease Centres and joint research institutes among the many enabling structures that today underpin the SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre (AMC).

But it is really four key factors that have enabled this symbiotic partnership to flourish: the drive to pursue the joint aspiration to be among the best AMCs in the world, the focus on a shared vision and mission to improve the lives of patients, the adoption of a people-centred culture and the deep trust that has grown between the two organisations.

As Duke-NUS embarks on its fourth chapter, Prof Ng urged everyone to “go higher, wider and deeper”, adding that by remaining adaptable, future challenges can be overcome.
“I am excited and optimistic and I think all of us can look expectantly to an even better phase IV,” she concluded.

Officially set to round out the programme in the Amphitheatre, Duke-NUS Dean Professor Thomas Coffman rose to address the guests, noting that holding the ceremony at Duke not only highlighted the importance and durability of the partnership between Duke and NUS but also created an opportunity to celebrate this milestone not once but twice. 

“It was a really nice ceremony [in Durham]. But it’s really good to be able to be here to celebrate it at home with extended Duke-NUS family,” said Prof Coffman, who went on to thank the many individuals involved from all stakeholders. He expressed particular thanks to NUS Provost Professor Ho Teck Hua, whose contribution helped “drag us all over the finish line”.

He ended his remarks, saying: “As we take this pause to think about our history and future, we can really celebrate the success of this Duke-NUS project, taking pride in the fact that a small, research-intensive, American-style, graduate-entry medical school can thrive here in Singapore and add significant value to medical education, to research, to academic medicine both here and globally.”

After a commemorative photo was taken, Mr Ong seized the moment to add a few words spontaneously, reflecting that he has been following Duke-NUS for a long time, having previously held the post of Minister for Education.

Medicine is distinct from other research disciplines, he noted, because of its clinician-scientist concept. Using the pandemic as an example, he added that many of the policies implemented were informed by research published in top journals, research that was clinically actionable.

“That has always been something special about the medical faculty, and I think it is that essence that makes Duke-NUS special,” he said.

“I am fairly confident that [Duke-NUS] will do well for phase IV and I’m fairly confident that we will have a phase V and I think we have ourselves a very good partner in Duke University.”

It was then time to proceed outside for a celebratory toast and to tour a specially curated exhibition that brought the School’s missions in education, research, innovation and academic medicine to life while the rest of the guests had a chance to network and catch up.

Duke-NUS now gears up to hit new highs during this next chapter, spurred on by Prof Coffman’s closing remark: “Go Duke-NUS!”