This year, SNEC celebrates its 25th anniversary. Professor Wong Tien Yin, Medical Director of SNEC and Adjunct Associate Professor Lee Shu Yen, Deputy Head and Senior Consultant, Surgical Retina Department, Retina Centre, SNEC, discuss SNEC’s role in spearheading ophthalmology capabilities through education and research efforts with involvement from the community. Based on the late Professor Arthur Lim’s vision for the future of eye care in Singapore, SNEC has grown from humble beginnings with a team of nine to its present strength of over 700 medical, nursing, paramedical and administrative staff. Today, Prof Wong steers SNEC with an eye on the central role it plays to the community.
“Our first and foremost aim is to provide eye care for the Singaporean population. Everybody who needs treatment should be able to get it at SNEC, and we’re always exploring better ways of delivering costeffective and efficient eye care,” Prof Wong said.
To deal with emerging healthcare problems, care delivery extends beyond the centre with an integrated network. Primary Eyecare Clinics (PECs) have been established to later to patients with stable and well-controlled eye conditions such as diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma or mild cataract, which do not require immediate surgery or a visit to SNEC.“Our first and foremost aim in the past, present and future is to provide eye care for the Singaporean population." The right siting of patients and cost-effective eye care with reduced waiting time will support SNEC’s sustainability and growth even as eye conditions become more prevalent in an ageing population.
Community support is also important when it comes to finding the next possible cure. SNEC works to identify gaps in existing clinical solutions, and Academic Medicine plays a pivotal role in the centre’s endeavours.
“We need to have community support to run trials and studies. Education, research and philanthropy can raise awareness of how the community can help in making SNEC a global pioneer for eye care breakthroughs,” elaborated Prof Wong.
Of the centre’s many achievements, ultralow dose atropine is a major breakthrough that has translated successfully from clinical research to patients. To deal with future healthcare problems, SNEC seeks to support continuous clinical research activities with fund-raising efforts and public education.
Prof Lee, Chair of the Development and Philanthropy Committee at the SingHealth Duke-NUS Ophthalmology Academic Clinical Programme, echoed the need to build a relationship with the community to support research in ophthalmology, "SNEC's efforts at philanthropy outreach extend beyond fund-raising so that the general public can understand the importance of participation in research.”To that end, SNEC staff have been learning to communicate with the public to built greater awareness. Researchers are given opportunities to step out of their labs and help the community understand their work. This helps overcome the stigma of human trials.
Prof Lee thinks that philanthropy at SNEC is a continuous cycle that begins and ends at the patient.
“As a national centre, many of our research and education efforts have direct impact on our local community. These are two-way relationships we are building: to educate the public on the fragility of the eye and built eye care awareness, and to allow them to contribute funds or time for the future of eye care.”The Vision FundSNEC aims to raise $25 million over the next five years, through its new Vision Fund to support research in ophthalmic health sciences, medical technology, retinal diseases and myopia.
The Fund will also support of needy patients, raising public awareness of eye care through events and the development of more subspecialists in fields such as paediatric retina and ophthalmic oncology.
To meet its funding goal, SNEC seeks organisations and individuals to participate in the annual Vision Fund fundraising dinner, The Eye Ball, and through other activities that create lasting positive impact and improve eye care in the local community.
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