The Tahir Foundation Building, named in recognition of a $30 million gift to NUS by prominent Indonesian business leader and philanthropist Dato’ Sri Dr Tahir, was officially opened at NUS on 27 April.
Guest-of-Honour Minister for Education Mr Heng Swee Keat graced the occasion together with about 250 faculty, students and guests, who included Dr Tahir, NUS President Professor Tan Chorh Chuan, NUS Senior Vice President (Health Affairs) Professor John Eu-Li Wong, NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine (NUS Medicine) Dean Associate Professor Yeoh Khay Guan, NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health (SSHSPH) Dean Professor Chia Kee Seng and other senior administrators from both NUS and the National University Health System.
“I am heartened that NUS graduates from the medical faculty continue to devote themselves to improve the lives and health of people in Singapore and beyond. And they are now joined by a growing community of healthcare professionals, be it in the sciences, pharmacy or all the allied-health-related areas,” said Mr Heng in his opening speech.
After the opening ceremony, Mr Heng, Dr Tahir and other guests visited an NUS Medicine laboratory which conducts research on dementia and a Student House for medical students.
The 17-storey Tahir Foundation Building features new facilities such as research labs, teaching and learning spaces, as well as student activity areas of NUS Medicine. In addition to the School, it also houses the SSHSPH and the Faculty of Science’s Pharmacy and Chemistry programmes.
Dr Tahir’s gift enables NUS Medicine to progress in several areas of medical education and research.
One area is the development of a Virtual Reality Simulation (VRS) system for the training of medical and nursing students. It will be the first full-scale application of this technology in medical and nursing education.
NUS Medicine’s Centre for Healthcare Simulation and the Keio-NUS CUTE (Connective Ubiquitous Technology for Embodiments) Center will develop two new VRS projects: a Virtual Interactive Human Anatomy, a holographic three-dimensional human cadaver that will allow students to better learn the human anatomy; and a Virtual Interactive Simulation Environment that can create lifelike scenarios such as mass casualty situations, within which teams of students can train.
The gift will enable several programmes to progress such as studies on the use of Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Systems to improve muscle mass and function in patients with lower limb fractures. It also funds three other programmes jointly conducted by researchers from NUS Medicine and Cambridge University, and the annual NUS-Cambridge symposium that alternates between Singapore and the UK, the latter producing meaningful collaborations between the two universities.
Prof Tan said in his speech: “The educational innovations and improvements as well as the pioneering research…are examples of what we’re able to realise because of the vision and farsightedness of Dr Tahir. Dr Tahir who understands in a fundamental way the transformational power and ability of education and biomedical science to improve the lives of people here and in our region.”
The School will also be setting up the Global Health and Leadership (GoHelp) Initiative. This programme aims to equip students with the skills and knowledge required to run community improvement projects, such as mass health screening programmes for local residents as well as those in rural areas in neighbouring countries.
Students will also benefit from curriculum enhancements enabled by Dr Tahir’s gift. NUS Medicine, for example, is moving towards case-based and interactive teaching sessions, with greater emphasis on Inter-Professional Education by 2020. It has already developed four online learning prototypes and conducted trials, which has received very positive feedback, and started developing 20 case-based interactive online teaching sessions. Financially needy students will also have access to more scholarships and bursaries.
Dr Tahir believes that education plays an important role as an agent of social change and social development. “NUS, being a global leading university, is well positioned to contribute significantly to Singapore and the world,” he said. “I hope that this new building will bring together the best young minds in medicine and healthcare, and develop them as future leaders who will lead us on the path to greater discoveries and advances.”
This article was first published on 28 April 2015 in NUS News at http://http://news.nus.edu.sg/highlights/8908-new-building-acknowledges-major-gift