Everyone Wins

27 March 2017 | EducationEventsAcademic MedicineResearch 

​SingHealth Duke-NUS AMC launched Women in Science (WinS) Network on 21 March 2017 to nurture and empower women researchers across the cluster to succeed in their scientific careers.

The network will provide women researchers with targeted training workshops for professional development, encourage networking and peer support, facilitate social events in the community and build mentoring relationships between senior and junior women clinician researchers.

Professor of Clinical Sciences at Duke-NUS, Prof Koh Woon Puay helms the network. She said, "WinS aims to connect women researchers across SingHealth and Duke-NUS for networking, training and mentoring. We need women to come together to encourage, inspire and help one another. We also want to mentor younger women in our midst so that more of them are encouraged to do research."

"WinS aims to connect women researchers across SingHealth and Duke-NUS for networking, training and mentoring."
- Prof Koh Woon Puay

In medical school classrooms, 50% of the students are female. However, among the medical faculty this number drops quickly and the underrepresentation of women becomes even more apparent at senior levels – in the hospitals less than 30% of clinical heads of departments are women, while in the research area less than 20% of nationally-funded clinician scientists awarded in 2016 are women.

Speaking at the launch event, Professor Ivy Ng, Group CEO of SingHealth said, "Half of our talent resides with women. When you see that decline – it means that we've lost talent. The launch of WinS and its focus to address this issue is our turning point. We should all work to see success in this effort."

Professor Thomas Coffman, Dean of Duke-NUS, highlighted the importance of supporting the role of women in all areas of an academic medical centre: "Diversity in perspectives is what makes us strong, but we do face some challenges in this area. WinS can help ensure equal opportunities through specific and relevant mentoring and act as a place for women researchers to contribute to others in the group."


Speakers at WinS launch event.
(Left to right): Dr Kris Sullivan, Adjunct Faculty at Duke University; Prof Ivy Ng, Group CEO of SingHealth; Prof Koh Woon Puay, Professor at Duke-NUS; Prof Thomas Coffman, Dean of Duke-NUS; Prof Wong Tien Yin, Vice-Dean of Clinical Sciences at Duke-NUS and Head of the Academic Medicine Research Institute.

Prof Wong Tien Yin, Vice-Dean of Clinical Sciences at Duke-NUS and Head of the Academic Medicine Research Institute, shared statistics and literature that revealed the problem of gender diversity in academic medicine. The pipeline is strong: half of Transition Award winners are female. However the number goes down quickly at more senior levels. He also shared studies that have shown women are as competent, if not more so, than men in leadership positions, and that gender diversity in organisations lead to better outcomes.

Prof Wong said, "We need to recognise the problem [of low gender diversity] and understand the implications. Then we need to change the current culture and facilitate that process by having success role models, a defined strategy and a way to monitor the progress. We can't leave it to chance and hope ten years later things will be different."

Prof Ivy Ng
, Group CEO of SingHealth, shared the lessons and challenges in balancing work-life and family in her successful career. Asked "How do you do it?", Prof Ng shared that it boils down to four things:

1. Purpose: "I've always been clear about my purpose – I've wanted to be a physician since I was a child, and the passion for that purpose drives me."

2. Priorities: "I fiercely prioritise what I do every day. It helps me to know when to say yes, and more importantly, when to say no. We had our first child before starting post-grad traineeship, and I would use my lunch hours to study instead of going out with my peers. I spent less time socializing than other young doctors but I didn't miss it, because when I was home, I had time for family."

3. People: "Form a team around yourselves. Be unafraid to depend on other people, and know that you don't have to do everything yourself."

4. Persistence: "You just have to keep at it and stay focused during the difficult times."

Dr Kristine Sullivan, Adjunct Faculty at Duke-University, specialises in leadership development. She highlighted that the most pivotal time in family life often coincides with the most pivotal time in one's career. Hence, mid-career women need to be strategic in determining their next steps and leverage their strengths as women.

"Women have been shown to be more empathetic than men. This is great in leadership and frontline positions. We have also been shown to be relationship oriented, making sure that there is no communication breakdown. Lastly, women tend to align with teams better and listen to all voices in the team. Be proud of your strengths."

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