By Prof Julian Thumboo
Academic Vice Chair, Research, SingHealth Duke-NUS Medicine ACP
Senior Consultant, Department of Rheumatology & Immunology, SGH

Ms Helina Chan is a patient with systemic lupus erythematosus who is under my care. She is a go-getter who abounds with passion for life. When she noticed there has not been a new drug for her condition introduced for over 20 years, she set out to raise funds for research and to raise awareness of rheumatological diseases.

Her aspiration started my colleagues and I on a trajectory to raise funds for research, and helped me to learn about philanthropy in medicine.

The process of setting up a research fund with a group of like-minded patients, well-wishers and doctors made me realise the important role of philanthropy in supporting various needs in healthcare. We need to work in partnership with patients like Helina to rally those who share this passion so they can contribute in various ways.

The figures, once we know them, are stunning. Today we have data that points to a pressing need for research in rheumatological diseases, as over 600,000 people in Singapore suffer from these conditions.

The exact cause of rheumatological diseases remains unknown, and treatment options are limited. The number of lives afflicted with these debilitating, and sometimes life-threatening conditions, translates into a major burden for our healthcare system.

Clinician stewardship can play an important role in philanthropy. It has allowed my colleagues and I to accelerate research in rheumatological diseases, informed by the needs and suffering we see while caring for our patients.

Today, through the tireless efforts of patients like Helina, we have the Reverie Rheumatology Research Fund (see below) for which we aim to raise $3 million by late 2016 and $12.5 million in the long term to accelerate discoveries and uncover new cures.

As a clinician, I am learning that philanthropy is one more way I can put patients at the heart of all I do. We as clinicians can work together with likeminded patients, families and well-wishers by providing our support, professional input and encouragement to develop philanthropic projects to improve the lives of our patients!

The Reverie Rheumatology Research Fund

The Fund supports research to uncover new treatments and cures for complex Rheumatological diseases in which the immune system attacks the body.

The Fund focuses on research in 5 Rheumatological diseases, namely Systemic Lupus Erythematosus , Systematic Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Osteoarthritis and Spondyloarthritis.

You can make a gift today to accelerate discoveries for Rheumatological diseases by contacting the SGH Fundraising and Development Office, 167 Jalan Bukit Merah Tower 5 #03-11, Singapore 150167, Tel: +65 6326 6474/6378 or email

Buy an art piece to support Rheumatology research

Ms Helina Chan runs the iPreciation gallery, and she and the artists working with her have generously donated artwork to support the Reverie Rheumatology Research Fund.

Artwork by the following well known artists is available: Lee Wen, Milenko Prvacki, Jeremy Sharma, Boo Sze Yang, Tay Bak Chiang, Wee Kheng Li, Michael Lee, Donna Ong, Hilmi Johandi and Luke Heng. Esteemed Taiwanese sculptor Ju Ming has also contributed one of his “Living World Series – Painted Wood” sculptures to the cause.

To make a donation or acquire the artworks, please visit All proceeds will go to the Reverie Rheumatology Research Fund.