​SingHealth Group CEO and Duke-NUS Governing Board member Professor Ivy Ng and Associate Professor Ashley St John from the School's Emerging Infectious Diseases Programme were among a select group of faculty who were honoured with the NUS' highest tribute—the University Awards—on 4 December.

Prof Ng, who has been instrumental in the shaping of the SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre, received the Outstanding Service Award, which honours accomplished and respected individuals from the NUS community who have distinguished themselves through their sustained and exceptional contributions in serving the University and society.

In accepting the award, Prof Ng paid tribute to the many people who have worked with her to make a difference.

"It is also a recognition of the wonderful and excellent individuals and teams I have worked with in the SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre, who are passionate and committed to doing their best for each and every patient, and who relentlessly strive to find new cures and breakthroughs," she said. "They have made my journey in medicine a truly meaningful and special one." 

The University Awards recognise excellence in educating and nurturing talent, advancing knowledge, fostering innovation and contributing to country and society. Awards are presented across five categories—Outstanding Educator, Young Researcher, Research Recognition, Outstanding Service and Special Commendation.

Clinching a second award for Duke-NUS, Assoc Prof St John received the Young Researcher Award. She was one of two researchers under the age of 40 who were recognised for their impact and promise in research.

"Ashley is a brilliant young scientist who is already recognised among the top researchers in her field. As a viral immunologist, Ashley studies immune responses to viral infections and her work has significant translational impact," said Professor Chen Tsuhan, NUS Deputy President (Research and Technology) in his citation.

One example of the translational impact of her work comes from her studies on vascular leakage in dengue, which led to a clinical trial of a novel therapeutic strategy. 

Being singled out among her colleagues across NUS is humbling, said Assoc Prof St John.

"I need to thank the leadership in my department and in the Duke-NUS Dean's office for creating an environment where I could succeed," she said.

"This award also makes me feel challenged to continue contributing to science and making research advances that are meaningful. I hope that other young researchers who are just starting their careers, and particularly young women in science, can see that there are many rewards to pursuing research even as it requires significant effort and resilience," she added.

Part of her award includes a research grant of $10,000 that awardees can use to pursue a high-risk, high-reward project and Assoc Prof St John already knows what she wants to investigate—the neuro-immune interface.

 "The nervous system and the immune system communicate with each other in surprising ways and I hope to identify some novel communication signals occurring in the brain during infection using state-of-the-art single-cell sequencing," she said.  

In bestowing the award on her, Prof Chen also cited Assoc Prof St John's passion for science communication and outstanding mentoring of graduate students, something that is central to her philosophy.

"I love working with other scientists to address big questions and one of the most fun aspects of that for me is training graduate students," said Assoc Prof St John, who hopes to continue building her research programme into one that addresses scientific questions and translates findings into products and therapeutics that can improve lives.

Commenting on the awards, Duke-NUS Dean Professor Thomas Coffman said, "We are very proud of the well-deserved recognition of these two recipients of University awards from our campus.  As a Board member and health system leader, Ivy's passion and commitment for advancing academic medicine make her an exemplary role model and champion for our School and the wider Academic Medical Centre. I am equally delighted that Ashley received the young researcher award. Her work has been on the cutting edge of her field and I can't wait to see what she does next."