SingHealth Duke-NUS Congress Highlights Fight against Heart Disease

Many would have known that Sukanto Tanoto, chairman and founder of RGE group of companies once had a dream to become a doctor when he was young. Being someone who feels strongly for others, Sukanto Tanoto hoped to be able to offer first hand help especially to the sick. However, financial difficulties faced by young Sukanto Tanoto’s family has prevented him from becoming a doctor. Nevertheless, he has not lost interest in the medical world and is still deeply concerned over scientific developments in Asia and other parts of the world.

In September 2014, Singapore’s president Tony Tan launched the SingHealth Duke-NUS Scientific Congress. The biennial event, a project of the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School in partnership with Singapore Health Services, demonstrates the strength of that collaboration and of the country’s emerging medical services infrastructure. Among the noteworthy announcements at the congress, Indonesian businessman and philanthropist Sukanto Tanoto unveiled his Tanoto Foundation’s S$3 million gift to the National Heart Research Institute Singapore, a new initiative dedicated to advancing research into cardiovascular conditions. The NHRIS will use the funding to investigate genetic factors in heart conditions and to create innovative diagnostic methodologies.

Appropriately, the theme of the 2014 congress was “Academic Medicine – Transforming Vision Into Reality.” Presenters, including leading physicians and scholars in their fields from Singapore and other nations, shared information on research, education, and health care issues across a wide range of disciplines. The congress’s focus on current trends and breakthroughs, as well as practical issues of clinical care, offered attendees a comprehensive look at the state of medicine in Southeast Asia and beyond.

The launch of the NHRIS, the highlight of the congress, emphasized the collaboration between Duke-NUS and the National Heart Centre Singapore. Under the direction of renowned researcher Professor Stuart Cook, the NHRIS places genetics-based research at the forefront of its mission. The gift from the Tanoto Foundation will fund the NHRIS’ Tanoto Foundation Professorship in Cardiovascular Medicine and its Tanoto Foundation Initiative for Genetics and Stem Cell Research. Sukanto Tanoto personally presented President Tony Tan with the check during the congress.

Heart disease, according to Singapore’s Ministry of Health, is the country’s third-most-common cause of death, after cancer and pneumonia. As a rapidly developing nation, Singapore has increasingly encountered health problems similar to those of Western countries, such as the United States. The World Health Organization has called heart disease a “global epidemic,” thus making the work of the 2014 SingHealth Duke-NUS Congress even more vital.

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