The COVID-19 Research Workgroup (RWG), comprising scientists and clinicians from Duke-NUS, A*STAR and the National Centre for Infectious Diseases, as well as Duke-NUS Associate Dean of Residency Education Professor Tan Hak Koon were among four recipients from the SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre (AMC) who were honoured at the 2021 National Medical Excellence Awards held on Friday, 5 November.

The COVID-19 RWG along with a team from Changi General Hospital (CGH) received National Clinical Excellence Team Awards, while Prof Tan received the National Outstanding Clinician Educator Award and Clinical Associate Professor Wong Kok Seng was named National Outstanding Clinician Mentor.

The COVID-19 RWG, a large multidisciplinary and interinstitutional group, includes Dr Chia Wan Ni, research fellow at the Emerging Infectious Diseases (EID) department at Duke-NUS, along with Associate Professor David Lye and Dr Barnaby Young of the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) and A*STAR’s Professor Lisa Ng.


Representing the COVID-19 Research Workgroup from L-R: Professor Lisa Ng, Dr Chia Wan Ni, Dr Barnaby Young and Associate Professor David Lye (Credit: National Centre for Infectious Diseases)

The RWG convened on 22 January 2020, a day before Singapore reported its first confirmed COVID-19 case, laying out the first studies to better understand the then novel virus and its transmission in Singapore. The group’s findings have since led to improved infection control methods, public health policies and the development of diagnostic and treatment methods that benefit patients locally and worldwide.

Their instrumental contributions and significant achievements in COVID-19 research, and the management of the pandemic response in Singapore and globally earned the COVID-19 RWG the National Clinical Excellence Team Award 2021.

“I am part of a very amazing team,” said Dr Chia, who represents Professor Wang Linfa’s team at Duke-NUS in the team award. “Everyone contributed very significantly at the highest level and I am proud of what our group at Duke-NUS has contributed to the national fight against COVID-19.”


Professor Tan Hak Koon, pictured here with his team, has devoted himself to educate medical students, residents and other healthcare professionals (Credit: KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital)

Prof Tan is a recognised and respected obstetrician, who has dedicated his career to advancing obstetric and gynaecological clinical care, research and education at institutional, national and international levels. Since the 1990s, he has also devoted himself to educating medical students, residents and other healthcare professionals.

As the Designated Institutional Official for SingHealth Residency Programmes and Associate Dean of Residency Education at the Office of Academic and Clinical Development at Duke-NUS, Professor Tan Hak Koon’s main responsibilities are to maintain oversight of SingHealth’s residency programmes, which at any one time comprise more than 900 trainees, and the administration of the SingHealth Graduate Medical Education Office. Along with an excellent team of clinician-educators, he has been instrumental in ensuring outstanding quality of graduate medical education across the SingHealth Duke-NUS AMC. When faced with the disruption caused by the pandemic, Prof Tan has worked to minimise the impact on trainee doctors allowing them to complete their training without substantial delays.

He received the National Outstanding Clinical Educator Award in recognition of his inspiring dedication and exemplary contributions in advancing clinical education in obstetrics and gynaecology in Singapore and beyond.

“I am receiving this award on behalf of all the excellent educators in our Academic Medical Centre,” said Prof Tan, who is also the Chairman and Chief of Obstetrics with the Division of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at KK Women's and Children's Hospital. “This is the best recognition for the years of hard work and dedication by our educators. It also encourages us to continue our efforts in education.”

The National Medical Excellence Awards recognise individuals for their outstanding contributions to advancing healthcare, enhancing patient safety and driving research and education to improve people’s lives.

Duke-NUS Dean Professor Thomas Coffman said, “I would like to congratulate all our winners on their well-deserved recognition. I am particularly proud that the COVID-19 Research Workgroup is being recognised for their stellar achievements. Their drive and commitment to improving lives has made an impact that is reverberating well beyond our borders.

“And I am delighted that Hak Koon, a distinguished clinician-educator, is being honoured alongside other exemplary clinician faculty members. With their passion for education, they truly make Duke-NUS a great place for students and our wider SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre a centre of choice for young residents who want to learn from the best.”

Other SingHealth Duke-NUS AMC winners


The GPFirst team featuring (L-R): Clinical Associate Professor How Choon How, Ms Priscilla Goh, Clinical Associate Professor Steven Lim and Adjunct Assistant Professor Oh Hong Choon (Credit: Changi General Hospital)

The National Clinical Excellence Team Award has also been accorded to the GPFirst Programme team from CGH for encouraging people with mild to moderate medical conditions to visit their GPs first rather than going direct to an emergency department. The team consists of Clinical Associate Professor Steven Lim Hoon Chin, Senior Consultant with CGH’s Accident and Emergency Department and Programme Director for GPFirst; Duke-NUS Clinical Associate Professor How Choon How, Senior Consultant Family Physician; Adjunct Assistant Professor Oh Hong Choon, Assistant Director of both CGH Health Services Research and the Centre for Population Health Research & Implementation at the SingHealth Office of Regional Health, and Ms Priscilla Goh, Manager for Primary Care Integration and GP Engagement.


Throughout his medical career, Associate Professor Wong Kok Seng, pictured here with a younger colleague, has been an active role model in guiding and training the next generation of clinicians (Credit: SingHealth Community Hospitals, taken pre-COVID)

The National Outstanding Clinician Mentor Award has been conferred to Associate Professor Wong Kok Seng, Deputy CEO (Clinical Services) at SingHealth Community Hospitals for close to 40 years of service in the healthcare industry and his role in the mentorship of young clinicians and clinician-scientists. Assoc Prof Wong is also Clinical Associate Professor at Duke-NUS.