Skip to content


Awards winners and their families,


Colleagues, friends, guests, ladies and gentlemen,


     I am happy to join all of you at the 15th National Medical Excellence Awards (NMEA) ceremony today. This is the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) annual awards to recognise clinicians, clinician scientists and other healthcare professionals for your outstanding contributions and achievements in advancing healthcare.


Upholding a Culture of Innovation


2.     We have many healthcare professionals in our midst today – doctors, nurses, allied health professionals, researchers and administrators. All of you have spearheaded innovation and transformation in your respective fields.


3.     Tonight, we are recognising six individuals and one team who personify this spirit of excellence, innovation and dedication. I should emphasise that this is also possible because your organisation supports and encourages it, and provided an environment for everyone to excel, and I hope that the leaders of healthcare continue to foster this culture of excellence, dedication and innovation.


4.     You have seen in the video earlier about the awardees and their projects, which span different healthcare settings, from acute hospital care to nursing homes. Let me briefly highlight some of their key achievements.


Recognition of Excellence


5.     Starting with Professors William Hwang and Tan Huay Cheem who are the winners of this year’s National Outstanding Clinician Award.


6.     Prof Hwang is a locally and internationally recognised expert in haemato-oncology and stem cell transplantation. He leads the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS) and chairs various advisory workgroups involved in the development of national haematology research guidelines and regulations. He is a driving force in this field, and has been exploring new ways to grow blood stem cells and treat autoimmune diseases. We have a new NCCS to run now. All the best and congratulations!


7.     Prof Tan Huay Cheem was the Founding Director of the National University Heart Centre, Singapore, and is a renowned leader in the field of cardiology. His work has elevated cardiology services in Singapore and helped drive the development of new areas of cardiac care, enabling patients to receive better and excellent care.


8.     Next, Associate Professor Mahesh Choolani is the winner of the National Outstanding Clinician Scientist Award. His clinical work and research at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine led to the development of point-of-care diagnostics for precision healthcare for women. Now, pregnant women can check for certain foetal genetic irregularities with a non-invasive prenatal screening. I am sure he will continue his lifetime pursuit to revolutionise the obstetrics and gynaecology field. Congratulations Professor Choolani.


9.     We also have two winners of the National Outstanding Clinician Mentor Award this year. Associate Professor Brenda Ang mentors and trains clinicians in Infectious Diseases at Tan Tock Seng Hospital. With over 30 years of experience, she has contributed to the control of many emerging diseases. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she established and advocated for better infection control and training of healthcare workers on the frontline. This has provided a safer environment for both healthcare workers and patients at the height of the pandemic. She is going strong and I hope Professor Ang will work for many more years.


10.     Professor Julian Thumboo has trained and inspired many budding clinician scientists, researchers and doctors. Many of his mentees have gone on to hold key leadership roles in our healthcare system and are paying it forward by mentoring an even younger generation of doctors. Prof Thumboo has also initiated programmes to create clinical environments that facilitate mentoring and continue to nurture future leaders and professionals in this field. Congratulations Prof Thumboo.


11.     Associate Professor Nigel Tan has been awarded this year’s National Outstanding Clinician Educator Award. He holds roles in education at the National Neuroscience Institute and SingHealth. He led an inter-professional committee to develop for healthcare educators, a guiding framework that outlines roles, competencies and development opportunities of this important role. These are lasting contributions. Congratulations Prof Nigel.


12.     Finally, we have our National Clinical Excellence Team Award winner, EAGLEcare. The EAGLEcare programme was established by Changi General Hospital as a collaborative model between clinical care and social support for residents in nursing homes. Under the programme, nursing home staff are trained in palliative care and other customised care paths in line with the wishes of patients. Because of the programme, nursing homes have seen reductions in admissions and lengths of stay in hospitals for their residents. More importantly, I think the wishes of many more patients and residents have been fulfilled. Congratulations to the team.



Healthier Living, Ageing Well


13.     Tonight’s awards go out to healthcare professionals contributing across the healthcare services spectrum. For simplicity, I would say, in a typical year, the Awards recognise excellence in three main categories:


  • In laboratories – research and discovery of medical breakthroughs;


  • In clinical care settings – delivery of high-quality care, including the development of talent and enhancing work conditions and environment; and


  • In the community – by integrating care across settings, resulting in improvement at a systemic level.


14.     We should never let up in any of these areas, all of which are critical to uphold high standards of care in our health ecosystem and make Singapore’s healthcare world-class. For over five decades, healthcare has been centred around healthcare institutions like hospitals and clinics. It made sense when we were a young population and country. This is however no longer sustainable in the long term as our population ages, and as disease burden and patient load increase. If we over-rely on hospitals and clinics, the system can be overwhelmed.


15.     Hence the centre of gravity of healthcare must and has been shifting, towards care and preventive interventions in our communities and homes, while still being anchored by our healthcare institutions.


16.     Indeed, community and homes are where health is created and built up. For example, health habits are best inculcated from young, through families and teachers in schools. In an ageing society, seniors are the fittest, happiest and healthiest when they continue to be connected to their families and social circles in a familiar living environment that they are endeared to.


17.     This is why MOH worked with various agencies to launch the 2023 Action Plan for Successful Ageing; why we are making a bigger push in palliative care to fulfil the wishes of patients in their end of life journeys; why we embarked on Healthier SG to focus on preventive care; and why we are now working on Age Well SG as a specific preventive care strategy to enhance the wellbeing of seniors, and mitigate the risk of social isolation.


18.     We have therefore generated, a decisive and, I think, irreversible momentum to extend healthcare, specifically preventive care, in communities and homes. This is a challenging stage of evolution of our system– like fishes that first grew legs to walk on land. We will need an abundance of resourcefulness, innovation and boldness, to sustain this momentum and generate breakthroughs at the systemic level.


19.     For example, under Healthier SG, there are so many opportunities now for healthcare clusters to collaborate with GPs, the Health Promotion Board and People’s Association to encourage physical activities, better health habits and frequent health screening. Active Ageing Centres will need to evolve a new operating model, where they become magnets for seniors to stay active, socially connected and receive preventive care services in the community near their homes. We still need to find ways to reduce unnecessary visits to our Emergency Departments or polyclinics, by providing alternate ports of call, or supporting delivery of care via telemedicine. There are so many opportunities, once you learn how to swim and walk at the same time.


20.     We need to continue to focus and accord recognition on our traditional strengths in research and care delivery, while expanding our capabilities to deliver care in communities and homes. I think there is now a wider scope for demonstrating excellence in serving the healthcare needs of Singapore. I will suggest to the organising committee, that we should consider broadening our recognition awards, either through the NMEA or other equivalent awards, to recognise that healthcare is shifting to the home and community.




21.     In closing, let me extend my heartiest congratulations to all the award winners. I also thank their loved ones, families and the broader healthcare community, who have been supporting their journey along the way. I hope you all continue to support and spur one another on, to bring our healthcare system to greater heights together. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *