Singapore Medical Week 2017

Jo-Ann Teo, Sylvia Thay

Singapore Medical Week 2017 is SMA's first ever all-in-one event comprising multiple programmes such as FutureMed 2017, an international medical and technology conference and expo; the 47th SMA National Medical Convention; and the 1st SMA National Medical Students' Convention. The event took place from 24 to 26 August 2017 at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre. Focusing on international advancements in medical technology, the event saw more than 1,800 visitors including local and international speakers, exhibitors, medical professionals and medical students for three days of education, discussion and networking.

To kick-start the event, Day 1 began with a welcome reception where attendees gathered for the welcome address by A/Prof Nigel Tan, Chairman of FutureMed 2017, during which he shared how FutureMed 2017 was a pipe dream brought to reality. He attributed the realisation of this event to Singapore's reputation of being a health hub and a technology leader, as well as the strength of our healthcare and health technology professionals. Dr Wong Tien Hua, SMA President, also took to the stage to deliver his opening address, which highlighted that major technology advancements could eventually be a norm in future medical practice and patient interaction.

FutureMed 2017

As part of SMA's endeavour to highlight recent advancements in medical technology, a three-day exhibition space was set up with 15 exhibitors showcasing the latest products and innovations in the region, alongside the two-day conference presenting interesting and relevant topics by eminent guest speakers. Throughout the event, attendees had the chance to interact with the exhibitors and even try their hand at various smart products and devices.

Future of Healthcare

The first speaker to deliver his keynote on Day 1 of the conference was Dr Ogan Gurel, Visiting Distinguished Professor from Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology. In his talk, entitled "Technology Revolutions: Past, Present and Future", Dr Gurel delved into the ways healthcare has revolutionised over the years, and how the paradigm shifts and implications of technology revolutions have affected modern medical care.

Our second keynote speaker, Dr Paul Grundy, Chief Medical Officer, Global Director, Healthcare Transformation, IBM Healthcare and Life Sciences, spoke on "General Practice (Patient-Centred Medical Home) Foundation for Population Health Management that Works for Singapore". Dr Grundy gave attendees insights into the importance of patient-centrism in future healthcare transformations and how that can be achieved with data-driven, team-based strategies.

The morning session concluded with a lively panel discussion moderated by SMA Council Member, Dr Chong Yeh Woei, with the two keynote speakers making up the panel.

The afternoon sessions continued after a sumptuous buffet lunch. First, A/Prof Chew Ling, Director (Insights, Innovation and Planning), Health Promotion Board (HPB), spoke on "Using Technology for Better Health Choices". Next, Prof Russell Gruen, Director at Nanyang Institute of Technology in Health and Medicine, Nanyang Technological University, offered insights into "The Future Roles of Doctors". The final speaker for the day was Dr Zubin Daruwalla, Director and Healthcare Lead, PwC South East Asia Consulting, who presented on the topic "Global Healthcare Trends and the Transformative Future of the Industry".

The three speakers were then invited to be part of a panel discussion moderated by SMA Council Member, Dr Toh Choon Lai. Interesting questions were raised by members of the audience, especially with regard to what artificial intelligence (AI) really means and whether it could possibly replace doctors in the future.

Big Data and Health

The second day of the conference began with keynote speaker Ms Farhana Nakhooda, Director, Healthcare and Social Services, IBM Asia Pacific, who gave an eye-opening talk on "Cognitive Computing and Big Data Analysis". She touched on the differences between programmatic systems and cognitive systems, and how the latter is designed to augment clinical intelligence through the understanding of contexts. She also introduced Watson, an Al-based "question answering machine" developed by IBM.

The panel discussion that followed was moderated by SMA Council Member, Dr Anantham Devanand. From the volley of questions that came from the audience, such as the extent of Watson's capabilities and the legal responsibility of doctors should AI be used in clinical settings, it was evident that Ms Farhana's talk had piqued their interest and generated copious curiosity about Watson.

After a short morning tea break, Dr Ronald Ling, Co-Founder/Director of Galen Growth Asia, presented on the topic, "Could Asia's HealthTech Ecosystem be the Key to Improved Clinical Outcomes and Reduced Healthcare Costs?", following which A/Prof Low Cheng Ooi, Chief Clinical Informatics Officer of Integrated Health Information Systems and Chief Medical Informatics Officer of Ministry of Health (MOH), provided insights on "The Future Uses of Health Data". The third speaker, Dr Rishi Anand, Senior Manager, Cyber Security, PwC Consulting, looked into how to "Balance Security and Opportunity to Move Boldly Forward".

The panel discussion that followed the three talks focused mainly on the implications of data sharing, especially in the healthcare setting. Some concerns raised included the breach of patient confidentiality/privacy and cyber security issues.

The afternoon session, helmed by HPB representatives, comprised three talks that focused on harnessing the power of health technology on a national level. Dr Mathia Lee, Assistant Director of Analytics & Insights, introduced "The National Steps Challenge", while Ms Dzurina Zainal, Deputy Director of Digital Marketing, talked about "HealthHub: Your Personal Digital Health Companion". Ms Steffiana Wijaya, Manager at Student Health Centre, focused on how her team has been "Leveraging Technology to Modify Lifestyle Habits in Children and Youth". All three speakers then fielded a variety of questions from the floor.

To mark the end of the two-day conference, A/Prof Nigel Tan delivered his closing remarks, thanking all speakers and conference-goers for their participation. All attendees were ushered to the main exhibition hall for light refreshments and complimentary wine sampling, courtesy of The French Cellar.

When asked about how the conference topics would be helpful in daily practice, Dr Mark Chew, a family physician, commented, "They are informative and insightful, and have helped to keep me updated on the latest global trends in the healthcare industry." Another physician also commented, "As a doctor, besides knowing how technology helps in my practice, I also need to know what information has been given to my patients, and how I, as a GP, should act if my patients are on such programmes."

The soft launch of the SMA eMarket also took place over the first two days of the expo. More than 20 representatives from health device and medical consumable companies were in attendance. The launch provided interested parties with information on the portal's functions, how to sign up and market their products via the portal, as well as how to tap on the available funding to cover associated setup costs. The SMA eMarket is a portal designed exclusively for SMA Members to purchase medical products for their professional needs. Members are now able to access the portal using their SMA membership ID.

The third and final day of the Singapore Medical Week consisted of the 47th SMA National Medical Convention: Embracing the Future of Medicine, a full day packed with symposiums with both the public and the medical professional in mind; and the 1st SMA National Medical Students' Convention.

Public symposium

First up was the public symposium, which drew more than 200 members of the public on an early Saturday morning.

Dr Charles Tan, Chairman of the 47th SMA National Medical Convention, delivered the welcome address. Referencing the 1985 movie Back to the Future, Dr Tan drew attention to how much technology has advanced since Marty McFly (Michael J Fox) was transported to the year 2015. He quipped that many of the futuristic technologies seen in the film have now been realised, further underscoring the fact that the future is already here. He then introduced the topics that would be covered during the public symposium before handing the time to Dr Wong Tien Hua, who introduced the Singapore Medical Week, its programme, activities and objectives to the audience.

The Convention's keynote speaker, Dr Ogan Gurel, then took to the stage to speak on "The Logic of Medicine: How Doctors Think". Dr Gurel covered a few key points in his speech, which looked at the art of communication, how doctors start with a general study before specialising, the importance of history-taking, the dualities of thinking, the option of a medical or surgical route, and a final reminder that medicine is both a science and an art. Throughout his session, Dr Gurel used analogies and stories to illustrate his points and avoided medical jargon to keep the content simple for our public audience to digest. Following a tea break, the audience broke up into two groups to attend either the English or Mandarin talks.

Colorectal health and treatments

Dr Ng Chee Yung, a senior consultant colorectal surgeon from Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, and Dr Lai Jiunn Herng, a general surgeon from Lai Endoscopy & Colorectal Surgery, covered the topic of colorectal health in English and Mandarin, respectively.

They explained how technology has allowed much advancement in colorectal surgery, and showcased real-life scope videos on how such minimally invasive surgeries are performed nowadays – through both non-robot- and robot-assisted methods. Cancer prevention was also briefly touched on and it was stressed that having relevant knowledge on colorectal health, maintaining a healthy diet and going for regular colonoscopies are the best means of prevention and early detection.

Cancer treatment and advances

Cancer is an illness feared by many and some people may even regard it as an untreatable disease. For the second session, Dr Shang Yeap, a specialist in medical oncology at Novena Cancer Centre and Dr See Hui Ti, a medical oncologist at Parkway Cancer Centre, were the English and Mandarin speakers, respectively.

Both doctors touched on the currently available methods of treatment, such as chemotherapy, immunotherapy and targeted therapy – with immunotherapy being the backbone of future cancer treatments. Specifics of the Human Genome Project and Next Generation Sequencing, as well as the innovation of liquid biopsy where cancer could possibly be detected early via blood tests, were also discussed. Finally, the speakers urged the public to monitor their personal sugar intake, weight and exercise, to ensure that they do what they can against preventable cancers.

Cardiology – coming soon to a clinic near you

Unlike cancer, heart diseases are slow-moving conditions, and treatment does not take place only upon a heart attack. Instead, the treatment could be a long-term process. Dr Ong Yean Yee, a senior consultant cardiologist at Cardiac Solutions Medical Centre and Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre, and Dr Chuang Hsuan-Hung, a consultant cardiologist and intensivist at Gleneagles Hospital and Mount Elizabeth Hospital, were our third English and Mandarin speakers, respectively, for this topic.

The speakers spoke about the demographic trends that are directly related to the intake of food products that are high in cholesterol and also elaborated on treatment methods, such as stenting, stem cell therapy and heart transplants, with an emphasis on the importance of harnessing these technological advances without abusing and misusing them. Various challenges of alternative methods of cardiology care, such as the lack of heart donors, the high costs of mechanical transplants, and the ethical challenges of xenotransplants, were also brought up.

Bright eyes, clear vision

The final session for the public symposium placed emphasis on eye care, and it was delivered in English by consultant ophthalmologist, Dr Por Yong Ming from Eye Surgeons at Novena, and in Mandarin by eye specialist, Dr Loh Boon Kwang from My Eye Specialist & Retina Surgeon.

Some of the topics covered by the speakers included issues with lenses and cataract, such as the various kinds of inlays; an introduction to macular degeneration and its treatment methods; and the causes and treatment options of various eye diseases, including cataract and glaucoma. The speakers employed interesting analogies, such as comparing the retina to wallpaper when explaining the condition of retinal detachment, to help participants better grasp the medical concepts. The sessions ended with the simple reminder that the best way to care for our eyes is through taking care of our health.

The respective sessions' speakers were then invited on stage and the participants had the opportunity to ask them questions relevant to their specialties and presentations. Many queries came pouring in on topics such as the benefits of consuming probiotics, the risks of using robotics in surgery and the likelihood of technical failure, and the risks associated with prolonged use of eye drops. The speakers addressed each query with care and patience, ensuring that their responses were simple yet comprehensive for laypersons.

It was evident that the attendees took home valuable insights that would allow them to be more aware of their personal health and well-being. Mr Ng Ah Leong, a retiree who attended the English track of the public symposium, commented: "The members of the audience were quite involved in the programme and the speakers were very professional. Their illustrations were also direct and detailed."

Lunch symposium

The lunch symposium saw Ms Kuah Boon Theng, one of SMA's legal advisers, take the stage to discuss a topic relevant to every practising doctor – "Informed Consent and Advice".

She began her session by providing an overview of the three aspects of medical care – diagnosis, advice and treatment – before elaborating on the implementation of the new modified Montgomery test used in court. Ms Kuah also enlightened the participants on the stages of the Montgomery test and provided tips on what doctors should look out for during consultations. Her final advice to the participants was to be conscientious in note-taking, to practise robust documentation, and to consider recording their consultations. The lunch symposium concluded with a question and answer segment, where several doctors raised queries and requested clarifications on the recording of consultations by both patients and doctors.

Medical symposium

The final segment of the Convention, the medical symposium, commenced shortly after lunch, with three speakers lined up: Dr Charles Tan who spoke on "Advances in General Surgery", Dr Jacob Cheng who looked at the "Advances in Ophthalmology", and Dr John Chia who discussed the "Convergence in Ovarian Cancer Rx – Genomics and Immunotherapy".

Dr Charles Tan, a general surgeon with 20 years of clinical experience, talked about the conveniences that advancement in surgical techniques have brought to both doctors and patients. In his presentation, he highlighted several techniques/treatments that had seen major advancements in recent times, and emphasised the need for practitioners to "re-learn" anatomy in order to tie up with technology, listing keyhole surgery for the treatment of hernia as an example. Despite the many advantages, Dr Tan also mentioned that not all advancements are for the best, and it is thus crucial for doctors to decide on the best and most helpful option for the patient they are treating.

Dr Jacob Cheng, consultant surgeon in cataract and comprehensive ophthalmology, was our next speaker. Using cataract treatment as an example, he explained how surgeries in the past involved making big incisions and cuts going up to ten millimetres, leaving patients with big wounds, stitches and delayed recovery. However, with modern technology, smaller incisions (2.65 to 2.75 mm) can now be made, resulting in the ability to conduct day surgeries. Aside from surgical treatments, Dr Cheng also highlighted advancements in lenses, eyesight correction methods and non-invasive treatment techniques, such as LASIK.

The final speaker for the afternoon, Dr John Chia, consultant medical oncologist at Onocare Cancer Centre, began his segment with the question: "Is ovarian cancer one, five or a million diseases?" After giving the participants some time to ponder over it, Dr Chia offered his personal opinion that ovarian cancer is probably between 15 to 20 diseases due to mutations. He then proceeded to look at the pathway of ovarian cancer and the various studies conducted on the condition, elaborating on relevant topics such as preventive measures against gene mutation, genomic tests, platinum resistance and immunotherapy drugs.

After the delivery of the three topics, participants raised queries pertaining to the three topics and a fruitful discussion ensued. One of the participants expressed his appreciation for the symposium: "Thank you to all the speakers for the very interesting topics. I benefitted a lot from them."

1st SMA National Medical Students' Convention

The inaugural SMA National Medical Students' Convention took place on the third day of the Singapore Medical Week, concurrently with the Medical Symposium, with over 100 medical students in attendance. Jointly organised by SMA and the Tri-Medsoc Charter, the students' convention brought together students from all three local medical schools under one roof, to share an afternoon of networking and collegiality.

The convention began upon the arrival of Guest-of-Honour A/Prof Benjamin Ong, Director of Medical Services, MOH. Mr Ivan Low, Chairperson of this edition of the students' convention and president of the National University of Singapore's (NUS) Medical Society, took to the stage to deliver his welcome address. He thanked all for their attendance and reminded his fellow medical students of the importance of creating a medical community that sticks through thick and thin, and a culture of collaboration and sharing of medical knowledge. Dr Wong Tien Hua then delivered his opening remarks, stressing on how collegiality is essential as doctors are now required to work in teams. He reminded everyone that collegiality needs to begin in medical school and that the students "may be from different medical schools, but from the same medical profession".

A/Prof Benjamin Ong then proceeded to deliver his keynote titled "The Future of Singapore Healthcare and What It Means to Medical Students Today", where he compared the healthcare system of the past and present. He also touched on some of Singapore's healthcare challenges, as well as key shifts for a future-ready healthcare system.

Next, Prof Low Cheng Hock gave a talk on "Good Patient Care – What Roles Medical Students Play", where he discussed the needs and wants of patients, and how it is essential to keep professionalism and ethical principles alive in this changing world of business.

The final speaker, Dr Kumaran Rasappan, indulged the student attendees with stories of his mountain climbing endeavours and his goals of giving back to the Nepalese Sherpa community. He shared anecdotes of his experiences in making a difference in the lives of Sherpas (eg, education and medical attention), and highlighted some of the many difficulties that they have yet to overcome. Dr Rasappan ended with words of encouragement for the students, reminding them to press on even in the face of adversity.

This was followed by a question and answer session with panellists Prof Low, Dr Rasappan, and medical students Wharton Chan, Goh Xin Rong and Tan Xin Yang, and moderated by A/Prof Jason Yap, associate professor at Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health. The panel and medical students engaged in a lively discussion on AI and its capabilities, the legal responsibility involved in the use of technology, and the importance of the human touch in patient care.

The students' convention came to a close after president of Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine's Medical Society, Mr Richard Chan, delivered his closing remarks, in which he espoused the need for medical students to work together as one, and thanked everyone present for making the inaugural medical students' convention a success.


Both doctors and medical student participants proceeded to network over some refreshments and wine sampling after the respective conventions. After three fulfilling days, the Singapore Medical Week 2017 came to a successful close with 90% of the feedback received expressing positive reviews of the event.

The SMA and the organising committees would like to thank all our speakers, guests and participants for taking time off from their busy schedules to contribute to our inaugural Singapore Medical Week's programme. Special thanks to all our sponsors and partners who made this event possible: Health Promotion Board, Tote Board, Duke-NUS Medical School, Lee Foundation, Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, Pocari Sweat, Advagen Pte Ltd, EP Plus Group (S) Pte Ltd, Mundipharma Pte Ltd, Pharmline Marketing Pte Ltd, Servier (S) Pte Ltd, Steward Cross Pte Ltd, Association of Medical Device Industry, Asian Hospital & Healthcare Management, Pharma China Online and PharmaAsia.