Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Building Clinical Strength Through Research

It was what one could say, “love at first trial”. Associate Professor Goh Bee Tin, Academic Vice Chair of Research at the SingHealth Duke-NUS Oral Health Academic Clinical Programme was inducted to the world of research as a registrar when a consultant sought her help in a clinical study.

That was when she realised just how much she enjoyed discovering new knowledge. “As you find answers to one question, more questions pop up,” she says.

Assoc Prof Goh later had the opportunity to do a PhD – engaged with a research mentor from the University of Hong Kong – which gave her further training in research. The esteemed oral and maxillofacial surgeon since went on to publish countless peer-reviewed papers, and in the process, snagged multiple accolades including the SingHealth GCEO Outstanding Clinician Researcher Award in 2014 and “Osteopore Innovation Award” for Clinical Tissue Engineering in 2008.

Her passion for research was mirrored by her mentor on the AM-ETHOS Academic Mentor Development Fellowship, Prof William Maixner, Vice Chair for Research at the Department of Anaesthesiology and Co-Director for Center for Translational Pain Medicine at Duke Health. The duo holds the belief that research and clinical work are complementary.

“Being a researcher makes you a better clinician, and being a clinician makes you a better researcher,” she says, explaining, “Having clinical experience, you can appreciate the problems. This sparks off research questions. And being a researcher with new knowledge puts you at the forefront of your craft, which results in better clinical skills.”

Her fervour isn’t just witnessed by colleagues, but also postgraduate students who she teaches and trains. “We must pass on our research and clinical skills to the next generation, and see that they do even better,” she states.


Big dreams for Academic Medicine

More than reaffirming her career choices, the AM-ETHOS Fellowship has given Assoc Prof Goh a head start in realising big plans. As the Director and Vice-Chair of Research, she is constantly looking to broaden the expertise of the National Dental Centre Singapore through developing new programmes.

Somewhere at the top of her to-do list is to set up a multidisciplinary orofacial pain programme that integrates research, education and clinical care.

“Someone with jaw pain may have underlying issues with the nerves, which requires a neurologist’s consult. So the idea is to provide holistic care for the patient who only needs to visit one centre,” she explains.

The concept is similar to Duke Health’s multi-disciplinary care programme for pain management. Healthcare providers from different fields – dental pain specialists, neurologists, anaesthetists, psychologists, allied health professionals and even TCM practitioners – come together under one roof to co-manage patients.

Another gargantuan undertaking that Assoc Prof Goh has started is a “health learning system” that is also carried out at Duke; it is a live and ever-growing dataset that allows clinicians to improve patient care over time.

Patients at Duke Health are triaged using an online questionnaire, and are given the option to provide their information and biological samples. Periodic analyses of the data help draw associations that can make accurate outcome predictions and trigger timely interventions.

Looking at Academic Medicine with fresh eyes

During her visit to Duke Health, Assoc Prof Goh was left inspired by the well-steeped culture of Academic Medicine and the tight integration of the university and hospital.

“It’s nothing like being there to appreciate how the system works. It’s not about whether we should do Academic Medicine, or whether we should do research. The culture is already deeply entrenched,” she says.

Putting Singapore front and centre

Partnerships are also underway as a result of the Fellowship. Being a renowned researcher in pain, Prof Maixner has proposed to establish an international consortium for pain, shares Assoc Prof Goh. The international nodes will include Canada, the US, the UK and Singapore.

In addition, the two professors and a representative from Singapore General Hospital’s anaesthesia department are jointly putting up a grant proposal for further research in pain management.

“We want to be a leader in research and education in the region and eventually even globally. More specifically, research that will translate into clinical practice with real impact to people and to society,” she says of her goal as a leader in Academic Medicine.

She adds, “I think AM-ETHOS has made me more determined to push Academic Medicine and make it more pervasive in our organisation. Research is not just limited to a small group of people. We hope every member of our healthcare organisation can have an inquisitive mind to want to learn and improve care, right from clinicians and management to healthcare attendants.”

About our awardee

Associate Professor Goh Bee Tin
Academic Vice Chair, Research, SingHealth Duke-NUS Oral Health Academic Clinical Programme
Senior Consultant, Department of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery, National Dental Centre Singapore

Academic Mentor
Professor William Maixner
Professor of Anaesthesiology
Vice Chair, Research, Duke Anaesthesiology
Co-Director of the Center for Translational Pain Medicine, Duke Health