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National Medical Excellence Awards 2023


The National Medical Excellence Awards (NMEA) recognises the efforts of outstanding clinicians, clinician scientists and other healthcare professionals for their contributions. It acknowledges their achievements in advancing healthcare, improving the standards of patient safety and driving research and education, which ultimately improve people's lives.

This year, we are proud that six SingHealth Duke-NUS AMC staff are recipients of the prestigious NMEA 2023:

National Outstanding Clinician Award 2023

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Prof William Hwang
Chief Executive Officer, NCCS
Senior Consultant, Department of Haematology, SGH
Chair, Oncology Academic Clinical Programme, SingHealth Duke-NUS AMC

Professor William Hwang is a locally and internationally recognised expert in haematology, especially in the field of haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). Prof Hwang has played key roles in establishing several clinical services including the Singapore Cord Blood Bank, Singapore's first public cord blood bank, where he was the Founding Medical Director. He initiated and set up the SingHealth Duke-NUS Cell Therapy Centre, which he currently leads, to help train, coordinate, and execute various clinical cell therapy activities across SingHealth. To address the growing science of regenerative medicine, he also set up the Regenerative Medicine Institute of Singapore (REMEDIS) as a joint institute of SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre. 

Prof Hwang serves in several national roles to help shape healthcare for the benefit of Singaporeans. He is Deputy Chairman of Ministry of Health's (MOH) Clinical Services Strategy Committee for Cell Therapy, where he provides leadership for creating a pipeline for cancer therapeutics based on patients' needs, and also part of the Board Oversight Committee of two entities in MOH Holdings – the Singapore Translational Cancer Consortium, and the Advanced Cell Therapy and Research Institute. He currently serves as Chairman of the Lien Centre for Palliative Care and Co-Chair of the National Advisory Committee on Cancer Care, to strategise and enhance collaborations to ensure patients receive holistic support every step of the cancer journey. Prof Hwang has also been involved in the development of various national-level guidelines, regulations, and recommendations as Chair of the Biobanking Advisory, MOH; Co-Chair of the Cell, Tissue and Gene Therapy Regulations workgroup, and Co-Chair of the HSCT Regulations workgroup.

Prof Hwang is internationally recognised as a key opinion leader in HSCT, and he was previously elected as President of the World Marrow Donor Association from 2013 to 2015 and was the first Asian to serve in this role. He was also an Executive Board member of the Asia Pacific Blood and Marrow Transplant Group, and currently serves as a Global Committee member of the European Blood and Marrow Transplant Group and Regional Vice-President (Asia) of the International Society of Cell and Gene Therapy.

Prof Hwang has published over 140 scientific papers, and conducted clinical trials and laboratory research in haematology. A key opinion leader in haematologic oncology and HSCT, Prof Hwang is regularly sought as an international speaker to share his expertise. He has two patents based on new molecules and cytokines which could be used to treat human diseases – one for growing blood stem cells and another for treating autoimmune diseases.

An advocate for training the next generation of healthcare professionals, Prof Hwang has mentored numerous young doctors, post-doctoral fellows and PhD students.  Prof Hwang has received several teaching awards, including Outstanding Faculty for Engagement, Distinguished Faculty, and Outstanding Faculty for his teaching in various modules at Duke-NUS Medical School.

Even with the diverse roles that he serves, service to patients as a clinician remains Prof Hwang's passion. Over the course of his career, he has won several service awards, including the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) Service Quality "Service with a Heart" award, SGH Heart of Gold Award and SGH CEO Service Award for outstanding patient care. He has also been awarded the Singapore Health Quality Service Award (Star and Gold awards) and SingHealth Transplant Most Outstanding Doctor Award.

For his dedication to serving his patients, sterling contributions in driving the advancement of haemato-oncology and stem cell transplantation, and steadfast leadership in steering National Cancer Centre Singapore to new heights in clinical service and research excellence, Professor William Hwang is awarded the National Outstanding Clinician Award 2023.

National Outstanding Clinician Mentor Award 2023

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Prof Julian Thumboo
Senior Consultant, Department of Rheumatology and Immunology, SGH
Research Director and Director, Health Services Research Unit, SGH
Professor, Office of Clinical and Faculty Affairs and Health Services and Systems Research, Duke-NUS Medical School

The filmmaker Steven Spielberg once said, "The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image but giving them the opportunity to create themselves."

That is exactly what Professor Julian Thumboo has been doing and beyond. Besides medical and PhD students, he has supervised and mentored doctors training in Rheumatology and Internal Medicine as well as budding clinician-scientists and clinician-researchers, amongst many others.

In particular, Prof Thumboo, who was Head of the Department of Rheumatology & Immunology at Singapore General Hospital (SGH) from 2007 to 2014, has mentored a generation of rheumatologists. Some mentees have become mentors themselves, just as Prof Thumboo was inspired by his own mentors to become one. One such mentee, Associate Professor Andrea Low, currently helms the Department of Rheumatology & Immunology at SGH. Others have taken on senior positions in public healthcare institutions or private practice or are making significant contributions in their respective fields of research.

To ensure there are proper structures and environment to facilitate mentoring, Prof Thumboo initiated several programmes at the national and institution levels, such as the SingHealth Nurturing Clinician Researcher Scheme, benefitting more than those he mentored personally over the years.

The successes of his mentees is a reflection of Prof Thumboo's passion in helping and guiding individuals to fulfil their greatest potential. He believes that there is no success without a successor, and mentoring juniors helps mentors leave behind a legacy.

One of his mentees is SGH's Associate Professor Low Lian Leng, who took over as Director of SingHealth's Centre for Population Health Research and Implementation this year from Prof Thumboo, and is a recipient of the National Medical Research Council Health Promotion, Preventive Health, Population Health and Health Services Research Clinician Scientist Award. A/Prof Low describes Prof Thumboo as a dedicated, nurturing, and gentle mentor who devotes time to developing his mentees. By observing how Prof Thumboo conducted himself as a researcher and managed a large research centre and his collaborative leadership, A/Prof Low has learnt immensely and is now not only an independent researcher, but a clinician leader too. 

Prof Thumboo's passion for mentoring has been recognised by the accolades he has received. Some of his recent awards include the National Day Award – Public Administration Medal (Bronze), SingHealth Excellence Award for Distinguished Mentor, and Duke-NUS Medical School Master Academic Clinician.

Prof Thumboo is also a keen researcher, having published more than 330 papers in peer-reviewed journals, and receiving several million dollars in individual grant funding. He also helped to secure $20 million in grant funding for SGH, and $21 million for the SingHealth Regional Health System in his role as Research Director of these organisaitons. His research interests are in population health, patient reported outcome measures, systemic lupus erythematosus and osteoarthritis.

For his outstanding contributions in guiding and mentoring clinicians and researchers, imparting knowledge and instilling compassion, commitment, integrity, and a passion to learn, Professor Julian Thumboo is awarded the National Outstanding Clinician Mentor Award 2023.

National Outstanding Clinician Educator Award 2023

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Assoc Prof Nigel Tan
Senior Consultant, Department of Neurology, NNI
Group Director Education (Undergraduate), SingHealth
Associate Dean, MD Programme, Duke-NUS Medical School

Associate Professor Nigel Tan is an epilepsy neurologist, whose diverse contributions to medical education have impacted individuals and organisations at the institutional, cluster, national and international levels.

A/Prof Tan is a natural teacher who is known for his infectious enthusiasm and for creating effective learning environments in clinical or classroom settings. His interest in medical education started as a neurology registrar and he continues to teach medical students from all three medical schools in Singapore and residents from SingHealth and National Healthcare Group in the wards and clinics. He has promoted active learning through effective teaching methods, fair assessment, and by providing actionable feedback.

A/Prof Tan was appointed Education Director of the National Neuroscience Institute (NNI) from 2011 to 2018. Recognising the need for formal training of education leaders, he led by example and graduated with a Master of Health Professions Education in 2013. A/Prof Tan has consistently applied his educational training to the creation of education programmes, strengthening of education systems to improve quality, and the development of fellow educators from all health professions. He also continues to mentor junior educators.

As Group Director of Education (Undergraduate) for SingHealth since 2018, A/Prof Tan led an interprofessional committee to conceptualise the Educator Development Framework. This interprofessional framework provides guidance for all healthcare educators across the SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre (AMC) to grow and develop as educators, specifying roles, competencies and development opportunities. With Professor Fernando Bello from Duke-NUS Medical School, he also co-developed a Certificate in Technology-Enhanced Learning in 2021 for SingHealth Duke-NUS AMC, when such learning became important during the COVID-19 pandemic as a means of quickly upskilling faculty in technology-enhanced learning.

At the national level, A/Prof Tan served on the Neurology Residency Advisory Committee (RAC) from 2013 to 2018. As RAC Examination Chair, he initiated and led an evidence-based overhaul of the national Neurology Exit Examination, successfully implementing the new examination format in 2015. With the introduction of the important concept of Entrustable Professional Activities (EPA) by the MOH in 2018, A/Prof Tan then led a national workgroup that successfully designed, piloted, and implemented neurology EPAs for neurology senior residencies in Singapore. These initiatives required significant education and change management expertise, a testament to A/Prof Tan's knowledge and leadership skills.

Internationally, A/Prof Tan co-leads the Genetic Literacy Taskforce of the International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE), which is the global organisation for epilepsy neurologists. He conceptualised the ILAE Genetic Literacy Series, aimed at educating fellow neurologists about epilepsy genetics, using evidence-based techniques to enhance learning. By coordinating content and writing with international teams of authors, his efforts have led to nine publications in the series that have been well-received, with international readership and global impact.

As a believer of a scholarly approach to education, A/Prof Tan has 22 education publications, focusing on assessment, clinical reasoning and interprofessional education, and collaboration. These publications were co-authored with broad groups of authors across the three healthcare clusters, MOH, the three medical schools, and with international co-authors, attesting to his ability to collaborate with diverse groups in the pursuit of education scholarship. He has also received four awards for his education research, as well as awards in Singapore and internationally for his teaching.

A/Prof Tan is also a respected clinician and epilepsy neurologist, continuing to care for epilepsy and neurology patients. He has served on the council of the Singapore Medical Association and continues to serve on committees of the ILAE to advance patient care. He continues to actively publish as a clinician, having another 42 neurology or medicine biomedical research publications.

For his tireless dedication and leadership in advancing the education and training of clinicians in Singapore and internationally, Associate Professor Nigel Tan is awarded the National Outstanding Clinician Educator Award 2023.

National Clinical Excellence Team Award 2023

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EAGLEcare Team

The Enhancing Advance Care Planning, Geriatric care and End of Life care in Nursing Homes in the East (EAGLEcare) programme by Changi General Hospital (CGH) was established in 2015 to provide coordinated health and social support for residents in nursing homes through a collaborative model of care delivery and training so that nursing home residents may receive the care that matters most to them and their families towards their end of life.

The EAGLEcare programme equips nursing home staff to provide quality geriatric and end-of-life care to their residents in partnership with acute and community hospitals and General Practitioners (GPs). More than 460 staff have been equipped with Advance Care Planning (ACP) facilitation as well as geriatric and end-of-life skills, guided by customised care paths to respond to common geriatric and end-of-life conditions. These activities are complemented by bedside teaching and case discussions at regular multidisciplinary meetings with the EAGLEcare team.

With strengthened knowledge and professional care capabilities, nursing home staff engage residents and their families or appointed representatives on ACP conversations throughout their care journey. Such conversations can be difficult and emotional but are important in explaining the underlying disease processes and clarifying goals, priorities, and preferences. Staff are also able to regularly and systematically identify and manage EOL residents through a digital screening assessment tool developed by the EAGLEcare team. Suitable residents who express a preference for comfort measures or limited interventions in their Preferred Plan of Care (PPC) are enrolled into the EAGLEcare programme.

Enrolled residents are cared for by their regular GPs and a core EAGLEcare team, comprising physicians and community nurses from CGH who are trained in geriatric and palliative care. They are complemented by clinical support from St. Andrew's Community Hospital (SACH), which also provides the Violet Programme on-call palliative team service after office hours. This collaborative and synergised model of care delivery provides access to 24/7 clinical care and establishes regular psychosocial support in identifying and managing symptomatic care of residents at the end of life. This builds confidence and enables a mindset shift for the nursing home staff, residents and their families that quality palliative care can be received in the homes.

The programme's effectiveness is anchored on the close partnerships between the CGH EAGLEcare team, SACH, GPs, and nursing home staff, as they co-manage residents according to their PPC wishes. To date, some 1,500 nursing home residents have been screened by the EAGLEcare-trained staff, and more than 500 residents have been identified and enrolled into the EAGLEcare programme to receive end-of-life care, support, and resources such as ACP and tele-geriatric consultations. From 2019 to 2021, the nursing homes saw a reduction in hospital admissions in their residents, including Emergency Department admissions, inpatient admissions, and Specialist Outpatient Clinic visits, as well as shorter lengths of stay in the hospital.

The decrease in avoidable hospital admissions also improved residents' quality of life at the end of life by allowing them to be comfortably cared for at the homes. From 2020 to 2022, the EAGLEcare programme honoured 99% of enrolled residents' wishes in terms of treatment preferences, and 91% in terms of preferred place of death, at nursing homes.

Two other nursing homes – Lions Home for the Elders (Bedok) and Apex Harmony Lodge – have come onboard the programme, and there are plans to reach out to 12 more nursing homes in the East. The EAGLEcare programme has also been identified for implementation across SingHealth institutions such as Singapore General Hospital and Sengkang General Hospital.

For their outstanding commitment in establishing a collaborative model of care with nursing home partners to enable meaningful and quality care to nursing home residents and their families towards their end of life, the EAGLEcare team is awarded the National Clinical Excellence Team Award 2023.