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A Patient First Approach

As anyone who’s walking the path would attest, a career in Academic Medicine is not for the faint-hearted. Balancing clinical services, research and education is an intense juggling act.

But such is a journey that passionate medical professionals like Associate Professor Sng Ban Leong has chosen to take. The Academic Vice Chair of Research at the SingHealth Duke-NUS Anaesthesiology and Perioperative Sciences Academic Clinical Programme (ACP) started his research journey as part of specialist training.

He underwent Masters in Clinical Investigation training and had continued mentoring under the Khoo Scholars programme from Duke-NUS Medical School. He later received his first national grant through the National Medical Research Council Transition Award to investigate pain and the psychological vulnerability of post-surgical pain.

Today, Assoc Prof Sng keeps up his research endeavours while balancing the priorities of the ACP, and it isn’t always easy. “Our challenges include finding protected time for research and securing funding,” he shares, adding, “At the same time, we have to establish a research and academic culture in a traditional clinical setting.”

His solution: start by thinking about what’s best for patients. “We need to step back and look at what is needed to improve outcomes for patients. Then we work out the most strategic steps, whether it is providing better training for residents, auditing processes or conducting research to advance patient care,” he explains.

AM-ETHOS Gives a Leg Up

The AM-ETHOS Academic Mentor Development Fellowship in 2017 came right at the time Assoc Prof Sng needed it the most. “The Anaesthesiology and Perioperative Sciences ACP was in its infancy then. Working with my mentor David Warner who was the Vice Chair (Research) and Professor of Anaesthesiology at Duke Health helped sharpen some of the academic goals and objectives of the ACP,” he says.

Together, the pair discussed ways to set up research platforms, define domains of excellence, monitor and establish accountability methods for research investments and develop research talent development programmes for junior specialists, residents and students.

“David provided good personal advice as well, and reminded me that at the end of the day, we are advancing Academic Medicine for our patients. As anaesthesiologists, we may not be the primary physicians. But we are not just service providers; we are delivering patient care,” he says.

For the love of mentoring

Prof Warner’s generosity in time and knowledge mirrors Assoc Prof Sng’s dedication to nurturing the next generation of Academic Medicine practitioners. He is a research mentor for the Duke-NUS Medical Student Fellowship and the Clinician-Scientist Residency Track in the SingHealth Anaesthesiology Residency Program (SHARP).

Though a seasoned mentor and an anaesthesiologist, Assoc Prof Sng remains humble, deriving motivation and ideas from everyone he meets. “I often draw inspiration from people around me –clinicians, educators and researchers – who are experts in their own domains. The Duke-NUS medical students who are in their research year also challenge my thinking on how to improve research ideas,” he says.

While gratifications come in many forms, Academic Medicine is nonetheless a tough marathon, sometimes fraught with obstacles. This explains why Assoc Prof Sng has made it a point to always appreciate the wins. “Celebrating successes, whether big or small, in Academic Medicine with those who have contributed goes a long way in advancing patient care and patient experience,” he says.

​About our awardee

Associate Professor Sng Ban Leong
Academic Vice Chair, Research, SingHealth Duke-NUS Anaesthesiology and Perioperative Sciences Academic Clinical Programme
Head and Senior Consultant, Department of Women’s Anaesthesia, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital
Academic Mentor
Professor David Warner
Professor of Anaesthesiology, Duke Health