Duke-National University of Singapore Graduate Medical School

In recognition of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month this May, the Medical Center Archives is highlighting our materials related to the Duke-National University of Singapore (Duke-NUS) Graduate Medical School.  This institution combines Duke’s research-focused medical curriculum with Singapore’s heavy investment in the biomedical sciences. The history of Duke-NUS reflects long-lasting collaboration between Asian, American, and Asian American  education professionals, stretching back to the 1980s.

The first White Coat Ceremony of Duke-NUS, for the Class of 2011.

The story of Duke-NUS begins with Duke University’s Asian and Pacific Studies Institute (APSI), an interdisciplinary research and educational department founded in 1981. During the 1980s and 1990s, the APSI hosted year-round events exploring questions of international identity, politics and history. Examples of the APSI’s variety of events during this time include: UCLA’s Yuji Ichioka’s talk “Louis Adamic and the Question of Ethnicity: The Case of Japanese-Americans”; a Balinese shadow play; and a house course exploring the experiences of contemporary Asian-American women . The APSI received support from William G. Anlyan, former Dean and Chancellor of the Duke University Medical Center (DUMC) from 1964 to 1990 and former Chancellor of Duke University from 1990 to 1995. In addition to providing the APSI administrative advice, Anlyan, on behalf of the Institute, hosted representatives from the Republic of China’s Coordination Council for North American Affairs, who met with Chinese and Taiwanese faculty and students at Duke. In the 1980s and 1990s, the APSI encouraged increased collaboration between Duke and countries in East and Southeast Asia; today, the institute continues its traditions of academic and cultural exchange with this region of the world.

Bolstered by his work with Duke University’s APSI, Anlyan initiated connections between the university and the business sectors of East and Southeast Asia. During his time as University Chancellor from 1990 to 1995, he both hosted and traveled to meet representatives of private and public institutions located in Asia such as Taiwan’s National Investment Trust Co.; Microelectronics Technology, Inc.; and Hosei University. One of the most significant of these meetings occurred in 1991, when Duke University faced off with Clemson at the annual Coca-Cola  Classic in Tokyo, Japan. During the few days surrounding this event, Anlyan met with the chairman of the Di-Ichi-Kangyo Bank, which, at the time, was the largest bank in the world. Their meeting, as revealed in later correspondence from Anlyan, “encourage[d] stronger American University ties with the Japanese business community”.

Duke-NUS students teach about dental hygiene at the Asrama Santa Theresia School, as part of their community service in Rempang, Indonesia.

This information about the APSI and former Chancellor Anlyan’s initiatives in Asia comes from the William G. Anlyan papers, linked below in “Additional Resources.” We know about these planned events because we find evidence of their occurrence, such as correspondence, schedules and programs, in Anlyan’s materials. Evidence of Duke University’s increasing outreach to Asian and Asian American professionals allows us to infer institutional interest in these communities. These actions by the university fostered a favorable environment for proposing the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School, founded in Singapore in the early 2000s.

A decade after Anlyan’s visit to Tokyo, Duke University and the National University of Singapore agreed to jointly establish Singapore’s first M.D. model medical school. By August 2007, the 26 students of Duke-NUS’s first cohort began their classes, taught by faculty from both institutions. With students hailing from Singapore, Malaysia, China, the Philippines, and the United States, as well as a Governing Board of Asian, American, and Asian American professionals, Duke-NUS encouraged its students to learn from “the diverse backgrounds and qualifications” of its campus, local, and regional communities. The school sponsored student-led public health community initiatives around Southeast Asia and connected students to research opportunities at national facilities like SingHealth, Singapore’s largest network of healthcare sites. Duke-NUS also sponsored faculty and student travel to the United States, to encourage medical collaboration between Duke campuses.

The second White Coat Ceremony of Duke-NUS, for the Class of 2012.

Duke-NUS was founded in 2005 to “improve quality of life for patients and the community in Singapore and the region.” Today, its faculty and students have proved its success in this goal. The school’s top residency specialties include family, pediatric, and emergency medicine. Its current academic community, hailing from over 32 countries, has earned 70 Clinician Scientist Awards and 17 Singapore Translational Research Investigator Awards, both given by Singapore’s National Medial Research Council. And during the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers at Duke-NUS conducted tests across Singapore to create a tailored vaccine for its most vulnerable. The incredible collaborative work within Duke-NUS brings together scientists and professionals of Asian, American, and Asian American identities to support local and international health.

Additional Resources:

The Medical Center Archives has issues of Vital Science, a Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School publication, in both the Publications Collection and on MEDSpace, our institutional repository.

William G. Anlyan Papers document Anlyan's career at the Duke University School of Medicine. Materials include correspondence, grant information, Anlyan's memberships, School of Medicine materials, committee records, meeting materials, reports, artifacts, photographic materials, administrative and subject files, and conference materials. The materials date from 1930 to 2015.

For any additional questions, contact the Medical Center Archives staff.


“About APSI,” Duke University Asian/Pacific Studies Institute, https://asianpacific.duke.edu/about-apsi/ 
“The Duke-NUS Story,” Duke-NUS Medical School, https://www.duke-nus.edu.sg/about/about-duke-nus/the-duke-nus-story  
“Facts and Figures,” Duke-NUS Medical School, https://www.duke-nus.edu.sg/about/achievements/corporate-factsheet  
“Leaving the Pandemic,” Duke-NUS Medical School, https://www.duke-nus.edu.sg/covid19stories  
Subject File: Duke-NUS First Report (2008) 
William G. Anlyan papers, Box 109

This blog post was contributed by Medical Center Archives Intern Emma Eubank.