Defining Tomorrow’s Medicine
As SingHealth celebrates 200 years of Medicine in Singapore in conjunction with Singapore General Hospital’s (SGH) bicentennial, we pay tribute to our Chairman, Mr Peter Seah, whose visionary leadership has been instrumental in guiding our transformational journey over the decade, and in charting the way forward for the development of healthcare for Singapore’s largest public healthcare cluster.
Academic Medicine: A quantum leap in healthcare transformation
Since Mr Seah’s appointment as Chairman of the SingHealth Board in 2009, SingHealth has made significant advances in realising our Academic Medicine aspirations.
“When I came on board, the term Academic Medical Centre, or AMC, was an acronym that I was not familiar with. But today, we are a very successful AMC and frankly, second to none in Singapore. We have brought a lot of value to the public healthcare system through research and education, and that is probably one of SingHealth’s biggest accomplishments,” he said.
Harnessing the strong partnership with Duke-NUS Medical School, the SingHealth Duke-NUS AMC has been single-minded in pursuing continuous improvement through research and education, with steadfast focus on a unified goal: to improve care for the patients we look after.
Within three years of Mr Seah’s chairmanship, the AMC established our first Academic Clinical Programmes (ACPs) in Medicine, Paediatrics, and Obstetrics and Gynaecology in 2011. This was the first of several key milestones in transforming the AMC ecosystem into one that thrives on the symbiotic relationships between clinical care, medical research and teaching. Fast forward 10 years, today, there are 15 ACPs in a spectrum of specialties that bring together specialists in their respective disciplines across different institutions in SingHealth to maximise the potential of shared knowledge, expertise and resources. This framework sets the foundation in fostering closer collaboration not just within each specialty, but across different disciplines to engender scientific and research breakthroughs.
Following the ACPs, the Academic Medicine partnership has also gone from strength to strength, with the establishment of 15 Joint Research Institutes that cut across specialties, such as health sciences and precision medicine, as well as Joint Institutes and Centres focusing on key areas like patient safety and quality, and global health.
<<He is well known for his support towards staff, often making sure to attend events celebrating our people and achievements.>>
During his tenure as Chairman, Mr Seah has steered SingHealth through changing and challenging times. His most memorable moments were working with the Board and the leadership team to introduce changes, raising the bar in healthcare standards, and handling each challenge with courage as it came.
“We have been through the hepatitis C crisis, the cybersecurity incident, and now we are confronted with managing the COVID-19 pandemic. These are times that test the resolve, commitment and passion of our people, and they always come through well. We have a team of very dedicated workforce; about 30,000 people across SingHealth. It’s amazing,” said Mr Seah.
Mr Seah credits everyone in the SingHealth family for their support; from the Board to leaders, clinicians, nurses, allied health professionals, administrators and auxiliary staff, each showing passion, commitment, courage and dedication to public healthcare through his respective area of work.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about the people. In 2019, SGH was ranked the third best hospital in the world by Newsweek. In fact, for three years in a row, we have been ranked top 10 in the world. It is not only a good recognition of the quality of our medical services, but also a great tribute to the quality of our people. You need good people; not just doctors but nurses and all other allied health staff as well as administrative and backend support. Together, they provide the standard and quality of services that earned us this recognition.”
For many in the SingHealth family, Mr Seah is best known for his personal touch and unstinting support for staff. He is no stranger to staff events that celebrate our people, including Nurses’ Day, Allied Health Day and Long Service Awards presentation ceremonies.
“Despite his busy schedule, he attends our Nurses’ Day celebrations every year, where he chats with the nurses to find out how they are doing, distributes flowers to them, and celebrates their achievements. It may be a small gesture on his part, but it makes a difference to our nurses to know that he genuinely cares and appreciates the hard work that they have put in. He is the ultimate cheerleader. I am very grateful for his unwavering support of nurses through both good and challenging times. I will never forget how he rallied behind our nurses during the hepatitis C crisis,” said Dr Tracy Carol Ayre, Group Chief Nurse, SingHealth.
Even when the annual Nurses’ Day celebrations were cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he joined the virtual festivities on Zoom to encourage and thank the nurses for their selflessness, sacrifices and hard work.
<<(From left) Group Chief Executive Officer Professor Ivy Ng, Minister Gan Kim Yong, Mr Peter Seah, and Group Chief Nurse Dr Tracy Carol Ayre at a previous Nurses’ Day celebratory event.>>
Building for the future
Over the last 12 years, Mr Seah has seen significant growth and developments in the healthcare landscape not only in SingHealth, but also across Singapore. He has played a pivotal role in leading SingHealth’s advancement through groundbreaking initiatives and organisational changes. Under his sterling leadership, SingHealth launched SGH Campus Master Plan in 2016, and opened three new hospitals (Sengkang General Hospital, Sengkang Community Hospital and Outram Community Hospital) in 2019, the new National Heart Centre Singapore in 2014, and the Academia, a purpose-built facility that catalyses advances in medicine, in 2013.
In 2018, Mr Seah also ably led the team through the reorganisation of Singapore’s public healthcare system into three integrated clusters, with the successful reintegration of Changi General Hospital (CGH) into the SingHealth family. On this reorganisation in 2018, he said, “The formation of the three clusters allows for better integration as we take full advantage of the synergies and strengths that SingHealth brings to the public healthcare system.”
Mr Seah looks forward to the opening of the Goh Cheng Liang Proton Therapy Centre that will be housed in the new National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS) building in the next couple of years. A project close to his heart, he hopes that the Centre, which aims to offer specialised and new treatments for cancer, will bring hope to more patients and put Singapore at the cutting edge of the global healthcare hub.
“Mr Seah has steered SingHealth steadily through some very exciting and challenging times, amidst increased demands and pressures that come with us being the largest public healthcare cluster that cares for more than half of Singapore’s population. We have benefited immensely from Mr Seah’s wealth of experience, visionary leadership and most of all, his unwavering belief and support in our common purpose of placing our patients at the heart of all we do,” said Professor Ivy Ng, Group Chief Executive Officer, SingHealth.
As Mr Seah looks back at his fulfilling journey with SingHealth over the last 12 years, he said, “This year, as we celebrate 200 years of Medicine in our nation, we take pride that despite having started from very humble beginnings in SGH’s earliest days, we have done Singapore proud in being able to provide the man on the street with a very high standard of medical care. It is a collective history and achievement that we, as Singaporeans, can all be very proud of. It leaves me only to say a very big ‘thank you’ to the team; I am very honoured to have been part of this big family.”
On behalf of SingHealth Board of Directors, senior leadership and staff, we thank Mr Seah for his years of dedication, wise counsel and guidance as we look back on the many milestones we have achieved during his tenure as SingHealth’s Chairman.
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