Partnering for better global health

The SDGHI was launched by Dr Balakrishnan (3rd from left), together with (from left) Prof Ivy Ng, Group CEO, SingHealth; Mr Peter Seah, Chairman, SingHealth; Mr Kai Nargolwala, Chairman, Duke-NUS Governing Board; Prof Coffman, Dean, Duke-NUS; and Prof Merson, Director, SDGHI (Photo: SingHealth)

The SingHealth Duke-NUS Global Health Institute (SDGHI), which aims to address global health challenges in Southeast Asia and beyond, was launched by Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore Minister for Foreign Affairs at the SingHealth Duke-NUS Scientific Congress 2018 on 21 September.

Gracing the occasion as Guest-of-Honour, Dr Balakrishnan highlighted the importance of globalisation in healthcare in his opening address. “We live in a globalised world where new threats will emerge very quickly and we have to extend our area of care beyond our own boundaries,” he said. Real breakthroughs in global health would take place in interdisciplinary areas, he added, saying, “It’s the work of researchers outside our immediate clinical arena that will give us the new tools to measure, to intervene, to operate and ultimately to make a difference on a personal and on a population basis.”


Dr Balakrishnan giving the opening address at the Scientific Congress (Photo: SingHealth)

The Institute will leverage the expertise of SingHealth and Duke-NUS Medical School (Duke-NUS), as well as Duke University’s history in global health. It will work in partnership with both regional neighbours as well as countries further afield to tackle health issues, strengthen health systems and better cushion countries from pandemics and threats of disease.

The Institute aims to focus its efforts in four areas — research to respond to current and emerging health issues; education and training of future global health leaders; policy development to implement strong regulatory practices and high value health systems; and capacity building to develop a robust collaborative network of regional partners.

These collaborative endeavours will allow researchers, educators and healthcare practitioners in the Institute to gain deeper insight into diseases seldom seen in their home country, as well as offer the opportunity to conduct multinational research studies.

The Institute will be led by Professor Michael Merson, former vice-provost for global affairs at Duke University, US and founding director of the Duke Global Health Institute at Duke University. Prof Merson has held a number of prominent global health leadership positions, including serving in an advisory capacity for the World Health Organization; The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; World Bank; and World Economic Forum.

We live in a globalised world where new threats will emerge very quickly and we have to extend our area of care beyond our own boundaries.

The Congress also saw the presentation of a $2 million gift from Parkway Pantai to the SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre for the establishment of the Mount Elizabeth-Gleneagles Graduate Scholarship Fund. The gift will help to provide scholarship awards for financially challenged students at Duke-NUS as well as talent development awards for outstanding medical students from NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine and other local medical schools who have distinguished themselves in academic projects, offering them the chance to present their findings at international platforms.

Each year, the Fund aims to support some 10 scholarship awards and eight talent development awards.

Professor Thomas Coffman, Duke-NUS Dean expressed the school’s appreciation of the generous gift, saying, “We are grateful to Parkway Pantai for their generous support of medical education and the future of healthcare in Singapore. The Mount Elizabeth-Gleneagles Graduate Scholarship will enable Duke-NUS students to realise their aspirations of becoming great clinicians without undue financial burden.”