Published: Apr. 14, 2005
Updated: Apr. 15, 2005
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By Duke Medicine News and Communications
DURHAM, N.C. -- At a ceremony in Singapore Thursday, officials from Duke University Medical Center and the National University of Singapore signed an agreement under which the two institutions will partner to establish a new medical school in Singapore.
The Singapore government will provide $310 million over seven years to establish the new school as part of a national strategy to become a leading center for medical research and education. The school, which will be called the National University of Singapore Graduate Medical School, will have a curriculum patterned after that of the Duke University School of Medicine. Duke is consistently ranked among the top American medical schools by U.S. News and World Report.
"I am tremendously impressed by Singapore's vision of leadership in science and medicine," said Victor J. Dzau, M.D., chancellor for health affairs at Duke University and president and chief executive officer of the Duke University Health System. "Singapore's education system is one of the best in the world, and the government has embarked on an aggressive strategy to become Asia's powerhouse in the biomedical sciences. I have no doubt they will succeed.
"Joining together as partners represents a valuable strategic opportunity for Duke to have a global presence in science, and to apply the very best science to the challenges of global health."
Last year, the Asian Wall Street Journal reported that the Singapore government plans to spend more than $3 billion over five years to accelerate development in the biomedical sciences. The government is offering incentives to lure companies, and it is funding research institutes devoted to genomics, bioinformatics, bioengineering, nanotechnology, molecular and cell biology, and cancer therapies. The government is also funding the construction of Biopolis, a $300-million city-within-a-city that will house academic research institutes, life science companies and pharmaceutical research labs.
In his remarks at the signing ceremony, Deputy Prime Minister Tony Tan said that the medical school "is established with the strategic intent to realize Singapore's vision to be a center of excellence in medical education, clinical research and health care delivery, and contribute to Singapore's continued growth." He noted that the government's heavy investment in these areas has contributed to the growth of the country's biomedical sciences industry's manufacturing output to $15.8 billion in 2004, a 33% increase from 2003.
Scientists from Duke will be encouraged to conduct research at the National University of Singapore Graduate Medical School, as well as to collaborate with academic and private research groups at Biopolis, Dzau said.
"The opportunity to form collaborations in this environment will help us accelerate our efforts in the area of translational research, which is a strategic priority for Duke," said Dzau. "The work of translating new discoveries into useful therapies is as important as the discoveries themselves. In order for us to reap the benefits of medical science for our society, we need to be adept at both discovery and translation. Collaboration and teamwork are essential to the process of translation."
R. Sanders Williams, M.D., dean of the Duke University School of Medicine, will serve as interim dean of the National University of Singapore Graduate Medical School. Williams will lead a committee that will develop a plan for establishing the school, focusing on tasks such as facilities planning, faculty recruitment and student admissions. The plan will include the construction of a new building to house the school, adjacent to Singapore General Hospital. Williams said the school would likely admit its first class of students in 2007 in interim facilities, while the permanent facility is under construction.
"Singapore has made a vast commitment to becoming a leader in biomedical research, and they also fund an enviable level of social support and health services for their population," Williams said. "The leadership of Duke and the Singapore government share many values, and we believe our partnership will lay the foundation for health advances that will have global impact."
The agreement signed Thursday formalizes a memorandum of understanding signed by officials from Duke and the Singapore government in 2003. The government of Singapore approached Duke about this initiative because of its medical center's reputation, distinctive educational program, research activities and faculty resources, according to the Singaporean Ministry of Education. It expects Duke's involvement to raise the profile of the new medical school and enhance the standing of Singapore as a regional center for medical education and research, the ministry said.
Singapore, with an economy and health system similar to nations like the United Kingdom and France, has a population of 4.2 million people. Singapore's health care delivery network consists of two systems. The National Health Group is made up of four hospitals and two research centers. Three hospitals and five research centers comprise SingHealth. Together, these two systems care for about 80 percent of the island residents. The National University of Singapore Graduate Medical School will be located adjacent to Singapore General Hospital, the tertiary and teaching hospital for SingHealth.