NTU medical school sets up new lecture series backed by anonymous donor and Government

Professor James Best, former dean of the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, gave the first distinguished lecture on March 19, 2022. ST PHOTO: SAMUEL ANG

SINGAPORE - A Nobel Prize laureate will be sharing insights in medicine as part of a new biannual distinguished lecture series at the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine at Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

Professor Barry Marshall, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine together with pathologist J. Robin Warren in 2005 for discovering a bacterium that causes stomach ulcers, will deliver his lecture in August.

The school's former dean, Professor James Best, gave the first distinguished lecture on Saturday (March 19).

Prof Best will also share his expertise with students, faculty and the wider community for a week as a distinguished visitor to the school.

In his talk at the school's campus in Novena, Prof Best said that even amid ground-breaking innovations in medicine, such as artificial intelligence-enabled diagnostics, medical schools need to continue to impart an empathetic, patient-centred attitude in students.

"A key challenge... to the practice of medicine is how we maintain the humanity of medicine when it will be easier to be remote from our patients, either physically through telemedicine or emotionally through the focus on technology," he told the audience.

In a pre-recorded message played at the launch of the series, NTU president Subra Suresh said the distinguished visitors will address thought-provoking issues beyond medicine as well.

He added of the lecture series named after Prof Best: "The James Best Distinguished Lecture Series is aligned with the NTU 2025 strategic plan to address a variety of transformative initiatives that include learning, research, innovation, community building, as well as addressing humanity's grand challenges.

"The Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine is set to play a major role in this regard, particularly in the areas of healthy living and ageing."

The distinguished visitors programme, which the distinguished lecture series is part of, will be funded by a Singaporean in the finance industry. The Singaporean, who wishes to remain anonymous, donated $500,000, with the Government matching his donation for a total of $1 million.

Prof Best, who relinquished his appointment as dean last year but remains a visiting professor, told The Straits Times that the school has taught students to pay attention to the emotional state of patients, and not just focus on curing their physical ailments.

He added: "(Telemedicine) may be good for following up with patients... but that's only after they've met the doctor in person, have that initial engagement and know each other."

The donor, who attended the talk titled Preserving The Art And Furthering The Science Of Medicine on Saturday, said the gift is in support of the medical school's mission to transform medical education and advance healthcare research in Singapore.

The total sum of $1 million will fund the visitors programme over the next five years.

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