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National Medical Excellence Awards 2021


The National Medical Excellence Awards (NMEA) recognise outstanding clinicians and healthcare professionals who have made outstanding contributions in advancement of healthcare improvements in standards of patient safety and quality of care, which ultimately improve lives.

This year, we are proud that seven SingHealth Duke-NUS AMC staff are recipients of the prestigious NMEA 2021:

National Outstanding Clinician Educator Award 2021

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Prof Tan Hak Koon

Designated Institutional Official, SingHealth Residency
Chairman and Chief of Obstetrics, Division of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, KKH
Academic Chair, SingHealth Duke-NUS Obstetrics and Gynaecology Academic Clinical Programme
Assoc Dean, Residency Education, Office of Academic and Clinical Development, Duke-NUS Medical School
Clin Prof, Duke-NUS Medical School

Professor Tan Hak Koon is a recognised and respected obstetrician with specialty in high-risk obstetric care and maternal foetal medicine. Having dedicated his entire professional life in the public healthcare sector for over 30 years, Prof Tan has significantly contributed to the advancement of obstetrics and gynaecology (O&G) clinical care, research and education at institutional, national and international levels.

Prof Tan is a compassionate, nurturing and astute clinician leader who adopts a multifaceted approach to healthcare management. To continuously develop and improve patient care, he remains actively engaged on the ground while holding various senior leadership roles. In addition to his clinical and research achievements in O&G, he has also made exemplary contributions towards the advancement of O&G clinical education.

Since the 1990s, Prof Tan has mentored and nurtured numerous young doctors, medical students, clinician scientist residents, and even nurses and allied health professionals. He constantly engages residents, who are the future talent to the healthcare system, to ensure that their needs are addressed. As a result of his efforts, Prof Tan has pivoted key changes in O&G graduate medical education. He improved the clinical learning environment for residents and established a ‘crisis management pathway’ in 2018, which provided a structured framework to guide the actions following any signs of distress or coping difficulties in residents, thereby enabling prompt intervention to take place.

Prof Tan’s dedication towards training and education has remained unfettered since the onset of COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic’s impact on residency training was unprecedented. Prof Tan acted swiftly by working closely with various stakeholders to mitigate the impact through the implementation of measures especially in areas of curriculum, progression, examination, and teaching methodologies. Through these strategies, there were no delays in the progression of the residency training, and final year residents graduated on time despite the disruption caused by COVID-19.

Residents were continually engaged during COVID-19 through virtual events. Prof Tan also endorsed an online overseas medical education programme that had benefited over 900 overseas medical students in 2020. Chaired by Prof Tan, the SingHealth Duke-NUS Obstetrics and Gynaecology Academic Clinical Programme, involving KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH) and Singapore General Hospital (SGH), aims to improve women’s health and well-being through clinical initiatives, education, research and collaborations. KKH and SGH see about 40 per cent of pregnant women in Singapore and perform 60 per cent of all gynaecological procedures in Singapore.

Beyond SingHealth, Prof Tan has taken on key roles in O&G medical societies in Singapore, formulating educational activities, developing clinical guidelines, planning postgraduate examinations, and providing expert opinion to committees in the Ministry of Health (MOH). He currently sits on committees in MOH, overseeing O&G medical education and training which will play a part in policy making and shaping the future training of O&G specialists in Singapore.

Extending a helping hand to developing countries, Prof Tan has been instrumental in an international voluntary programme to enhance maternal and child health services in government healthcare institutions in 26 districts of India. The programme equipped 200 healthcare workers with skills to manage obstetrics emergencies, and has benefited more than 100,000 mothers and newborns annually, with the maternal mortality rate of the state of Karnataka being reduced by half.

For his inspiring dedication and exemplary contributions in advancing O&G clinical education in Singapore and beyond, Prof Tan is awarded the National Outstanding Clinician Educator Award 2021.

National Outstanding Clinician Mentor Award 2021

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Assoc Prof Wong Kok Seng

Deputy CEO (Clinical Services), SCH
Senior Consultant, Internal & Renal Medicine, SGH
Clin Assoc Prof, Duke-NUS Medical School

As the Deputy Chief Executive Officer for Clinical Services at SingHealth Community Hospitals (SCH), Assoc Prof Wong Kok Seng plays a pivotal role in providing medical leadership, mentorship and policy oversight to a young SCH team as they strive to establish clinical models and bridge care for the delivery of affordable quality healthcare services in community hospitals.

A firm believer of nurturing the next generation, Assoc Prof Wong has knitted countless mentoring relationships with junior doctors. Many are inspired by his perseverance in pursuing the greater good in Medicine, and his encouragement to forge new grounds as they progress in their careers.

Assoc Prof Wong who was the Head of Department of Renal Medicine in Singapore General Hospital from 2002 to 2008, went on to head the Department of Internal Medicine from 2012 to 2018, growing it to double its strength to meet service needs. In both instances, Assoc Prof Wong attracted and retained aspiring talent to join the specialties, ensuring future sustainability for the profession. This could not have been accomplished without the close mentoring relationships forged between him and the talents.

Known for his nurturing mentorship, his mentees often turn to him for his wisdom and advice on facilitating good working relationships with different stakeholders of the healthcare family. His approach to problem-solving inspires many who have worked with him before – to first understand before being understood; whereby, he listens, gives his trust, and then offers his guidance.

An avid learner and advocate for medical education and mentoring, he collaborated with colleagues from Duke-NUS Medical School and Duke University to organise faculty development courses to equip his senior residents and young consultants to be better teachers and mentors. At the national level, his leadership position in medical education allows him to better align the delivery of education and clinical services with national goals and aspirations.

Assoc Prof Wong regards staff development as fundamental in providing adequate care and service to patients. He was instrumental in sending a multidisciplinary SCH team overseas to learn from international clinical experts, and also initiated design thinking workshops, a quality improvement framework and roadmap to upskill the SCH team. The SCH Research & Translational Innovation Office (RTIO) was also established under his leadership and mentorship, opening the doors to more novel and cost-effective care models for the future.

A clear mind, steadfast leadership, and a nurturing heart are the hallmarks of what make Assoc Prof Wong the model collaborative leader and mentor. The highly respected clinician is responsible for building strong teams, and also in nurturing future generations of clinician leaders through his passion in mentoring and education.

For his exemplary contributions and unwavering commitment to being an active role model in guiding and training young clinicians, Assoc Prof Wong is awarded the National Outstanding Clinician Mentor Award 2021

National Clinical Excellence Team Award 2021


GPFirst Programme

The GPFirst programme, an initiative spearheaded by Changi General Hospital (CGH) in 2014, was designed to improve the efficiency of Accident & Emergency (A&E) services for better management of patient load, and to optimise the prioritisation of care for patients requiring emergency treatment. The programme aims to encourage patients with mild to moderate conditions to visit a General Practitioner (GP) instead of presenting themselves at the A&E Department at first instance.

In right-siting care, the GPFirst team adopted a multipronged approach, which involved reducing the number of non-emergency cases seen at the A&E; engaging, empowering and collaborating with GPs to enhance their management of mild-to-moderate conditions within the community; and shaping healthcare-seeking behaviours in the community.

A joint study by CGH and Singapore University of Technology and Design showed that individuals who perceive their medical conditions to be critical were 3.5 times more likely to visit the A&E, even if their condition could be attended to by GPs. Recognising the need for a paradigm shift in mindsets, behavioural nudges were incorporated in the data-driven programme to help individuals rethink the level of care needed when they are making decisions on where they should seek treatment. Patients who are referred to the A&E by the participating GPs will be accorded priority over minor emergencies and they will also receive a $50-subsidy to offset their A&E attendance fee.

The GPFirst team also carried out public education campaigns to improve health literacy and empower the community in making their choice of healthcare provider wisely. Partnerships with the People’s Association, Community Centres and Resident Committees were forged to further increase the programme’s reach through community outreach events.

Through the development of GPFirst, the programme team has established strong collaborations with the network of 305 GP clinics in the eastern region of Singapore. To date, more than 80% of GP clinics in the network have participated in the regional primary care programmes, forming a lively eco-system to provide accessible, holistic and integrated care with better health outcomes for patients.

GPs in the GPFirst programme were invited to Continuing Medical Education activities to enhance knowledge-sharing in managing mild-to-moderate conditions within the community and improve the quality of care. The active engagement and collaborations with GPs increase their management of these conditions and contribute to their role as "gate-keepers" to A&E services. GPs are also able to reach out to a CGH A&E consultant via a 24/7 hotline.

The GPFirst programme has benefitted more than 33,000 patients in the East from 2014 to 2019. It also saw a 14 percent reduction in proportion of attendances at CGH A&E with mild and moderate conditions and a 36.6 percent reduction in walk-in attendances. Referral appropriateness under the programme has maintained at 97 percent since 2016. The reduction enhances the A&E’s ability to achieve greater streamlining of valuable resources to focus on emergency care, thus providing more timely treatment. In a survey of patients who experienced the programme, 87.3 percent of participants rated their overall experience as good or excellent, with 92.3 percent of them stating that they would recommend family and friends to visit the same GPFirst clinic for mild-to-moderate conditions prior to any A&E visit.

Following the successful rollout of GPFirst programme in CGH, coupled with the strong support across multi-disciplinary teams in the hospital, the GPFirst team worked closely with the Ministry of Health (MOH) and other local public hospitals in the sharing of its programme experience to facilitate the expansion of the programme on a national level. The GPFirst programme has since been implemented in other hospitals including Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, National University Hospital, Ng Teng Fong General Hospital, Sengkang General Hospital, and Woodlands Health Campus to-date. The GPFirst team continues to be MOH’s key partner in facilitating care shifts from the hospital to the community by expanding the GPFirst programme to more healthcare institutions.

For their timely contributions in enhancing Accident & Emergency efficiencies and shaping a holistic and collaborative healthcare ecosystem with better health outcomes for the community, the GPFirst team is awarded the National Clinical Excellence Team Award 2021.

National Clinical Excellence Team Award 2021

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Dr Chia Wan Ni

Research Fellow,
Emerging Infectious Disease Signature Research Programme,
Duke-NUS Medical School

Dr Chia’s team mates comprise inter-agency staff from A*STAR and NCID:


COVID-19 Research Workgroup

2020 presented an unprecedented challenge for healthcare systems across the world. With reported COVID-19 cases rising in Asia, there was an urgent need to understand the novel coronavirus. This led to the establishment of the COVID-19 Research Workgroup (RWG), chaired by Professor Leo Yee Sin, Executive Director, National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID), with Associate Professor David Lye, Director, Infectious Disease Research and Training Office, NCID as Deputy Chairman, and advised by Professor Tan Chorh Chuan, Chief Health Scientist, Ministry of Health (MOH). The RWG convened on 22 January 2020, a day before Singapore reported its first confirmed COVID-19 case, aimed at conducting studies to better understand COVID-19 and its transmission in Singapore.

A critical component of the RWG’s research was "PROTECT" – a multi-centre prospective study to detect novel pathogens and characterise emerging infections according to a pre-established outbreak drawer protocol developed in 2012 and coordinated by NCID. This protocol served as a foundation platform covering all public hospitals in Singapore, and enabled the collection of clinical data and biological samples for research. The first PROTECT subject was recruited on 24 January 2020, and as of December 2020 over 600 COVID-19 patients had participated.

The RWG has made significant research contributions in the COVID-19 pandemic, including: the development and validation of diagnostic tools, deeper insights and understanding of virus pathogenesis and transmission, biomarkers of disease severity, investigation of COVID-19 clusters in Singapore, characterisation of environmental contamination with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, development and evaluation of potential therapeutic agents, and a greater understanding of the socio-behavioural aspects of the pandemic on healthcare workers and other segments of the community. These research efforts in turn led to improved standards of care, diagnosis, health outcomes, and management of COVID-19 patients both locally and globally.

To-date, the RWG has contributed to some 212 publications. Notably, 23 of these publications are top-tier scientific journals, including the New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet, JAMA, Science, Nature, and Cell.

Importantly, the RWG’s research findings have been translated and incorporated into investigation of outbreaks, infection control measures, and public health policies on quarantine and isolation, as well as the development of diagnosis and treatment methods benefitting patients and the wider community, both locally and internationally. Some of the significant diagnostic tools and treatments against COVID-19 include the world’s first SARS-CoV-2 neutralisation antibody test (cPassTM) to identify people previously infected with the virus and who developed an adaptive immune response; the use of remdesivir and baricitinib in the treatment of COVID-19 patients in Singapore, through the RWG’s participation in international clinical trials led by the United States’ (US) National Institutes of Health and which contributed to national and international treatment guidelines; and the provision of patient samples used to develop the Regeneron monoclonal antibodies, which have since been shown to be effective in treating hospitalised patients with severe COVID-19 in the RECOVERY trial in the United Kingdom (UK).

For their instrumental contributions and significant achievements in COVID-19 research, and management of the pandemic response in Singapore and globally, the COVID-19 RWG is awarded the National Clinical Excellence Team Award 2021.