New institute set up to foster regional healthcare collaboration

Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan speaking at the SingHealth Duke-NUS Scientific Congress launching the SingHealth Duke-NUS Global Health Institute.
Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan speaking at the SingHealth Duke-NUS Scientific Congress launching the SingHealth Duke-NUS Global Health Institute.PHOTO: FACEBOOK/SINGHEALTH

SINGAPORE - A new institute to tackle regional and global health issues such as the spread of infectious diseases was launched on Friday (Sept 21).

The SingHealth Duke-NUS Global Health Institute will foster collaboration with governments and scientists overseas in areas such as research, policy development and education.

It is hoped that the partnership could help better insulate countries from global pandemics, and increase opportunities for joint research studies across countries.

"Solutions to health challenges do not always come from our own backyard," said Professor Ivy Ng, who is group chief executive of SingHealth.

"By working with regional collaborators, our healthcare professionals will gain valuable insights to hone their clinical skills and research expertise to address emerging health challenges and disease threats."

The institute was launched by Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan at the SingHealth Duke-NUS Scientific Congress.

It will be helmed by Professor Michael Merson, former vice-provost for global affairs at Duke University and founder of the university's Duke Global Health Institute. He has also served in advisory roles for several international organisations including the World Health Organisation and World Bank.

"One area of research where we will continue to work is in emerging infectious diseases," Prof Merson said. The institute will also ramp up the study of non-communicable diseases in the region, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, he added.

For example, some researchers at Duke-NUS Medical School are working with the Cambodian authorities on a plan to prevent and manage non-communicable diseases in the country. The programme focuses on four conditions: Hypertension, diabetes, chronic respiratory pulmonary disease and cervical cancer.

At Friday's conference, private healthcare group Parkway Pantai donated $2 million to the SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre to establish a new scholarship for medical students.

Money from the Mount Elizabeth-Gleneagles Graduate Scholarship Fund will be given to needy Duke-NUS medical students. It will also fund talent development awards, which will allow students from all three local medical schools to present the results of outstanding projects at international conferences.

The fund will support around 10 scholarships and eight talent development awards each year.