A Force of Change

Duke Dean smallestThe Dean of Singapore’s first graduate-entry medical school, Professor Thomas Coffman, shares his insight on the positive change the Duke-NUS Medical School (Duke-NUS) has engineered through inventive education and impactful research.

What lies in the brilliance of the NUS and Duke University collaboration?

Bringing the best of these two world-class institutions together creates a distinct force in Singapore’s medical education and research landscapes. Duke-NUS taps into an alternative talent pool, contributing to Singapore’s next generation of outstanding clinician leaders, meeting the nation’s future healthcare needs, while also supporting Singapore’s Biomedical Sciences initiative through our cutting edge research.

How has Duke-NUS grown since its inception?

Since 2005, the School has established itself as a key component of the biomedical landscape in Singapore. We have just graduated our eighth and largest group of MD graduates.  We have also established three PhD programmes, with about 10 per cent of our MD graduates participating in a combined MD-PhD training track.  On the research side, we have assembled a superb group of local and international scientists who have been very successful in carrying out transformative research with impact. Our successful partnership with SingHealth has also brought together research, education and clinical care to improve patients’ lives. 

How did the School inculcate a community of giving?

With compassion being one of the School’s core values, we have worked to cultivate an environment of altruism. Our students actively raise funds for initiatives such as Project Dove, an overseas expedition where Duke-NUS students volunteer to improve health efforts in the region, and Camp Simba, for children whose families are afflicted with cancer, while participating in community service projects around the region.

Why is philanthropy important to Duke-NUS?

The pathway for graduate-entry medical education is expensive and our most pressing need is to raise funds for student financial aid so that we can continue to attract the brightest students. Philanthropic gifts are also crucial to enable us to discover new cures for existing and emerging diseases and conditions, while nurturing a pipeline of outstanding clinicians to meet Singapore’s health care needs.

infographics visual

Over the last 14 years, Duke-NUS has distinguished itself through its education and research programmes.

group of drs smallTeamLEAD Programme
Duke-NUS was one of the first medical schools to adopt a flipped classroom, team-based learning approach to deliver the entire pre-clinical curriculum, where lectures are replaced by student-centred activities. This approach has now been adopted by medical schools around the world, including the Duke University School of Medicine in the US and the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine here in Singapore.  

DYNAMO joins the War on Diabetic Kidney Disease
A multi-institutional collaborative study led by Professor Thomas Coffman, a nephrologist and Dean of Duke-NUS, and investigators from all three medical schools in Singapore as well as local public health institutions, was awarded approximately S$25 million from the Open Fund-Large Collaborative Grant (OF-LCG) Programme, supported by the National Research Foundation Singapore and administered by the Singapore Ministry of Health’s National Medical Research Council (NMRC).

lab smallGlobal Impact on Cancer Research
Duke-NUS researchers are part of an Asian team of cancer researchers to win the prestigious American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Team Science Award for the first time. The award honours researchers for their global impact on cancer research. 

Human Protein Used to Grow New Skin for Burn Patients
For over four decades, skin keratinocytes – human skin cells used for the production of skin grafts – have been cultivated using a combined human-animal culture system that potentially exposes patients to the risk of infections and adverse immune reactions. A team of researchers from Duke-NUS and the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) has developed a breakthrough method to culture skin keratinocytes using a specific type of tissue-proteins known as laminins, found in the human body, to create a safer treatment for severe burns or other skin-related defects.