The third biennale SingHealth Duke-NUS Scientific Congress looks set to become the most successful one yet, with record abstract submissions and a plethora of speakers and plenary sessions. Co-Chairs Associate Professor Tan Thiam Chye (TC) and Professor Patrick Tan (PT) tell us why the event is a must-go for anyone involved in the Academic Medicine scene.

Why is this congress the best so far?
PT:   This year’s Congress will be the third time SingHealth and Duke-NUS have come together to showcase the best of our medical and scientific achievements.

Practice makes perfect, and we have learnt steadily from previous times on how to organise a compelling and balanced mix of sessions that has “something for everyone” in the SingHealth Duke-NUS family - including basic scientists, clinicians, educators, nurses and allied health professionals.

TC:   A lot has happened since the last two congresses.   We’ve established academic structures; we’ve got joint research and education ventures; and this third congress will be the highest culmination of all our progress so far; definitely a great learning and sharing experience for all.

What’s so different this time round?
TC:   We have involved many disciplines in this congress from clinical to research and education.   We also recognise the increasing involvement of our residents in research, and we’ve dedicated an entire track to our young doctors.

With more than 90 speakers in various symposiums during the two days, there really is much to look forward to.

PT:   The most obvious difference is that unlike previous Congresses, this year’s event will be held on “home soil” in the recently-opened Academia.   Attendees of the Congress will be amazed at the breadth of disciplines and expertise present, and we really hope that people will take the time to talk to each other.

We have received 714 abstract submissions this year - a near 40% increase from the last one. Why do you think there is such an increase, and what does this mean for the congress?
TC:   We are really harvesting the fruits of academic enthusiasm and passion that has been incubating the last few years. This is truly an indication of our transformation to an Academic Healthcare Cluster - from vision to reality.

   It is important to point out that besides this increase in the number of abstracts, the overall quality of the submissions has risen substantially as well.    The abstract judges are going to have a tough time!

To me, this increase is a clear and tangible indication that the Academic Medicine initiative is really taking hold at SingHealth, and that the best medicine comes about through the combination of excellent service, research and education.

I also want to specially mention the SingHealth Academy secretariat, who have done an amazing job in planning the event logistics and publicity of the Congress. Much of their work is behind-the-scenes, and we need to recognise their invaluable contribution.

More than 90 overseas and local speakers across more than 30 plenaries/symposiums - what will this congress bring to the participants?
PT:   We have assembled a first-class series of speakers that we are tremendously excited about. For example, Assoc Prof Brian Smith from Duke University will talk about his experiences in conducting practice-changing clinical trials in the pediatric setting.

We also have ready a stellar group of local speakers, including Prof Stuart Cook, one of our new SingHealth STAR investigators who will speak about the genetics of heart disease; and Prof Freddy Boey from NTU, the recipient of last year’s President’s Science and Technology Medal, who will educate us on his experiences in translating basic research ideas to clinical and commercial reality.

We will also hear about the latest research findings occurring right in our backyard – for example, Assoc Prof David Silver from Duke-NUS will share his breakthrough discovery of the long sought-after brain transporter for DHA, a fundamental building block for brain development.

TC:   I’m excited about our keynote speaker, Prof Elizabeth Armstrong who is the founder of Harvard Macy Institute for medical education.   We will certainly be inspired by her dedication and commitment towards education and hopefully, we can ignite a stronger flame for academic work, especially among the residents.

Does the congress mean anything to our patients?
TC:   With constant innovation and research, patients would be given the best care and this would optimise their outcomes.   So ultimately, patients would be the greatest beneficiaries of this academic pursuit.

PT:   Patients form the heart and core of Academic Medicine.   As a medical community, we need to constantly strive to provide the best care for patients, and to continually seek out better ways to diagnose, treat, and manage disease. The congress provides a concrete example of our commitment to this quest.