Advancing healthcare: NUS academics conferred the National Medical Excellence Awards 2023

Heartiest congratulations to seven NUS academics: Professor William Hwang Ying Khee, Professor Tan Huay Cheem, Associate Professor Mahesh Choolani, Adjunct Associate Professor Brenda Ang Sze Peng, Professor Julian Thumboo, Associate Professor Nigel Tan Choon Kiat, and Clinical Assistant Professor Christopher Lien Tsung Chien, who have been recognised for their dedication and significant contributions at the National Medical Excellence Awards (NMEA) 2023. They received their awards at a presentation ceremony which was held on 31 August 2023.

Presented by Minister for Health Mr Ong Ye Kung, who was the Guest-of-Honour for the event, the National Medical Excellence Awards is a national-level award to recognise outstanding clinicians and healthcare professionals who made outstanding contributions in advancing healthcare, improving the standards of patient safety, as well as driving research and education, which ultimately improve people’s lives.

First awarded in 2008, NMEA comprises five categories: National Outstanding Clinician Award, National Outstanding Clinician Scientist Award, National Outstanding Clinician Mentor Award, National Outstanding Clinician Educator Award, and National Clinical Excellence Team Award.

National Outstanding Clinician Award

This award recognises individuals who have made exceptional contributions to clinical work that advances the safety and quality of patient care. The recipients should have supported and facilitated research, and have also successfully introduced novel or effective treatment methods resulting in high standard of quality healthcare delivery, and are recognised by their peers as being master clinicians.

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Prof William Hwang Ying Khee  
Chair, Oncology Academic Clinical Programme, SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre; Principal Investigator, Laboratory of Haematopoietic Stem Cells, Duke-NUS Medical School

Prof William Hwang Ying Khee, a renowned expert in haematologic oncology, has received the National Outstanding Clinician Award in recognition of his dedication to serving his patients, sterling contributions in driving the advancement of haemato-oncology and stem cell transplantation, and steadfast leadership in clinical and research excellence. 

Prof Hwang played pivotal roles in shaping Singapore's healthcare landscape. On top of founding the Singapore Cord Blood Bank and establishing the Regenerative Medicine Institute of Singapore (REMEDIS), he also founded, and is currently leading the SingHealth Duke-NUS Cell Therapy Centre which provides a cluster-wide focal point in coordinating cell, tissue, and gene therapy research and education, as well as clinical trials and services. Prof Hwang also leads the Ministry of Health's (MOH) Clinical Services Strategy Committee for Cell Therapy, and he is actively involved with MOH Holdings' oversight committees. Furthermore, he chairs the Lien Centre for Palliative Care and co-chairs the National Advisory Committee on Cancer Care, emphasising holistic patient support. His influence extends to regulatory and guideline development, reflecting his involvement in various workgroups. 

With over 140 scientific publications, two patents, and clinical trials in his cap, Prof Hwang’s commitment to mentoring and teaching the next generation of healthcare professionals is evident through his numerous teaching awards. Despite his multifaceted contributions, Prof Hwang’s dedication to patient care remained unwavering, earning him multiple service awards. 

Read the citation here

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Prof Tan Huay Cheem 
Department of Medicine, NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine 

Prof Tan Huay Cheem, a distinguished cardiologist with a 35-year medical career, was conferred the National Outstanding Clinician Award for his excellence in clinical service and outstanding leadership and stewardship in revolutionising the cardiology services in Singapore, and elevating it to world-class standards. 

Prof Tan’s career, which includes 18 years in leadership roles, is defined by two key legacies: service and mentorship. His lifelong dedication to patient care has revolutionised cardiology services in Singapore, and transformed cardiology services, by implementing patient-centric care and innovative programmes. His pioneering advancements, such as primary percutaneous coronary intervention for heart attack patients, improved door-to-balloon times, and Western ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) led to the country’s shortest door-to-balloon time, highest volume of patients treated annually, and lowest mortality rate. 

With over 11,000 procedures performed, Prof Tan’s expertise cements him as a global opinion leader in his field. His numerous accolades received also serve as a testament to his illustrious career. 

Read the citation here, and Prof Tan’s interview with The Straits Times here

National Outstanding Clinician Scientist Award 

This award recognises individuals who have made outstanding contributions to clinical and translational research work relating to their field of specialty. It is a tribute to clinician scientists whose research work has resulted in novel understanding of diseases, with potential positive impact on healthcare delivery. 

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Assoc Prof Mahesh Choolani 
Head, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine 

A renowned clinician scientist dedicated to advancing precision healthcare for Asian women, Assoc Prof Mahesh Choolani, was presented with the National Outstanding Clinician Scientist Award for his immense dedication, passion, unwavering commitment to developing the clinician-scientist community in Singapore, and outstanding leadership in revolutionising the obstetrics and gynaecology field. Notably, he pioneered non-invasive prenatal testing using cell-free foetal DNA, a method now widely offered to pregnant women in Singapore and the region. 

Recognising the vital link between science, medicine, and industry, Assoc Prof Choolani founded a diagnostic company focusing on women’s health, and actively promoted collaborations between clinicians, scientists, and other research professionals through various programmes and initiatives. 

Read the citation here

National Outstanding Clinician Mentor Award 

This award recognises individuals who have contributed substantially in the training of young clinicians and clinician scientists via mentorship or by virtue of academic positions. 

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Adjunct Assoc Prof Brenda Ang Sze Peng 
Clinical Senior Lecturer, NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine 
(Photo: Tan Tock Seng Hospital)

Assoc Prof Brenda Ang Sze Peng was conferred the National Outstanding Clinician Mentor Award as a tribute to her tireless dedication, passion, and unwavering commitment towards championing the areas of Infectious Diseases (ID) and Infection Control, and nurturing successive generations of ID clinicians. Her distinguished contributions have elevated ID to a specialty in Singapore and promoted good infection control practices at institutional and individual levels. 

Assoc Prof Ang played a crucial role in controlling and mitigating various infectious disease outbreaks, including Nipah, SARS, MERS, Ebola, and COVID-19. In addition, her work on reducing nosocomial infections and multi-drug resistant organisms has been instrumental in strengthening surveillance of infections in the hospitals. 

Assoc Prof Ang, who embodies strong ethos, professional integrity, and exemplary values and conduct, has been a role model and constant inspiration to young generations of ID physicians. Since 2004, she has been teaching at the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine as a Senior Clinical Lecturer, sharing her wealth of experience with future health professionals. 

Read the citation here

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Prof Julian Thumboo 
Office of Clinical and Faculty Affairs and Health Services and Systems Research, Duke-NUS Medical School; Adjunct Professor, Department of Medicine, NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine 

Prof Julian Thumboo received the National Outstanding Clinician Mentor Award in recognition of his exceptional contributions in guiding and mentoring clinicians and researchers, imparting knowledge, and instilling compassion, commitment, integrity, and a passion for learning. 

Known to many as a dedicated, nurturing, and gentle mentor, Prof Thumboo supervised and mentored generations of medical professionals, budding clinician-scientists, and clinician-researchers, among many others, who have gone on to excel in their fields, and even become mentors themselves. His dedication extends to creating mentorship programmes, benefitting many beyond his direct mentees. 

Prof Thumboo's passion for mentoring is matched by his prolific research career. With over 330 published papers and substantial grant funding secured for healthcare institutions, his impact on the healthcare industry is undeniable. 

Read the citation here

National Outstanding Clinician Educator Award 

This award recognises individuals who have contributed substantially to the training of clinicians or clinician scientists. 

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Assoc Prof Nigel Tan Choon Kiat 
Associate Dean, MD Programme, Duke-NUS Medical School 

An accomplished epilepsy neurologist, Assoc Prof Nigel Tan Choon Kiat was conferred the National Outstanding Clinician Educator Award for his tireless dedication and leadership in advancing the education and training of clinicians in Singapore and internationally. 

Assoc Prof Tan’s impactful contributions span institutional, cluster, national, and international levels. Renowned for his effective teaching methods and enthusiasm, he educated medical students, residents as well as healthcare professionals, fostered active learning and fair assessment, and pioneered education frameworks and programmes. 

A leader on national and global stages, Assoc Prof Tan revamped the Neurology Exit Examination and implemented the new examination format in 2015, displaying adept education and change management skills. Internationally, he spearheaded the ILAE Genetic Literacy Series, producing influential publications with global impact. 

Having authored 22 education publications, won numerous awards, and delivered impactful clinical work, Assoc Prof Tan's dedication to education and patient care, is truly commendable. 

Read the citation here

National Clinical Excellence Team Award 

This award recognises teams or organisations that have undertaken a clinical quality or practice improvement project that has contributed significantly to bridging the gap between knowledge and practice, with a strong research element in knowledge translation process, resulting in improved standard of care, health outcomes, high efficiency and/or more effective patient-centred services. Award recipients have also demonstrated their achievements through successful population of novel care delivery services beyond their own units, wards or departments.

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Clinical Asst Prof Christopher Lien Tsung Chien 
SingHealth Duke-NUS Medicine Academic Clinical Programme 

Asst Prof Christopher Lien Tsung Chien and his team under the EAGLECare Programme won the National Clinical Excellence Team Award for their outstanding commitment in establishing a collaborative model of care with nursing home partners to enable meaningful and quality end-of-life care for nursing home residents and their families. 

The team employed a two-pronged approach to ensure patients receive round-the-clock, holistic care and support by equipping over 460 staff members with vital skills to provide comprehensive geriatric and end-of-life care. EAGLEcare also advocates for Advance Care Planning discussions with the patients and their families, addressing their preferences and goals. The team’s success is based on strong collaborative partnerships between healthcare institutions, nursing homes, medical professionals, and healthcare providers. 

Read the citation here.