Johns Hopkins Singapore

Johns Hopkins Medicine is a renowned American medical enterprise that combines research, teaching and medical services.1 In 1998, Johns Hopkins Medicine and the Singapore National Science and Technology Board (NSTB) established Johns Hopkins Singapore (JHS), which comprised separate clinical and research units.2 The research arm, known as the Division of Johns Hopkins in Singapore, wound down in 2006.3 The clinical unit, named the Johns Hopkins Singapore International Medical Centre (JHS IMC), has grown and performed well over the years. Located at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH), the centre is the first Johns Hopkins clinical healthcare facility outside the United States.4

In the United States, Johns Hopkins Health System (which is the parent of Johns Hopkins Hospital) and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine form the core of Johns Hopkins Medicine. The hospital was established in 1889 in Baltimore, Maryland, while the school of medicine was formed in 1893.5 Together, they make up an integrated health enterprise that combines and draws on the expertise of doctors, scientists and health professionals from both the university and hospital, tapping on the organisational capability and infrastructure of the latter.6

In the late 1980s, Singapore’s Ministry of Health and the Economic Development Board began promoting Singapore as a hub for medical services. In 1987, the ministry approached the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic, both based in the United States, to link up with Singapore hospitals or to set up clinics here. Against this backdrop, discussions about a possible tie-up took place in 1987 between Donald Tilghman of Johns Hopkins and Kwa Soon Bee, then Permanent Secretary for Health and Director of Medical Services.7

In 1998, Johns Hopkins Medicine and the NSTB agreed to set up JHS, with the NSTB providing S$54 million over five years and JHS raising an additional S$23 million.8 JHS comprised a clinical unit and a research arm that operated separately.9 The clinical arm, Johns Hopkins Singapore International Medical Centre, is a joint venture between Johns Hopkins Medicine International and the National Healthcare Group (NHG), with the latter as the majority owner.10

Johns Hopkins Singapore International Medical Centre
Opened in October 2000, the Johns Hopkins Singapore International Medical Centre (JHS IMC) was initially called the Johns Hopkins-NUH International Medical Centre (JHS-NUH IMC) located at the National University Hospital (NUH), where it occupied a 14-bed ward.11 In 2004, the centre became the first private hospital in Singapore to be awarded Joint Commission International accreditation.12 In May 2005, JHS-NUH IMC moved to its current and bigger premises at TTSH as part of a medical services hub located in the Novena area, and was renamed the JHS IMC.13

The JHS IMC engages in medical research and education, in addition to patient care. Specialising in cancer treatment, the centre is licensed to provide full inpatient and outpatient care, chemotherapy as well as health screenings. It treats a variety of cancers, such as breast, ovarian, colon and liver.14 As TTSH does not have a cancer department, the JHS oncology specialists help to fill this gap in the hospital’s services.15 With 30 A-class rooms in TTSH, the centre was envisaged to treat up to 750 new private patients a year.16 There were also plans to expand its services into critical and respiratory care, and increase the number of patients seen.17

JHS IMC is the first private healthcare group to be allowed to treat subsidised patients.18 The centre has also attracted patients from Malaysia, Indonesia, China, Japan and the Middle East; 85 percent of all patients from the United Arab Emirates who sought overseas medical treatment in 2006 were estimated to have done so at the JHS IMC.19

Division of Johns Hopkins in Singapore
After the establishment of JHS in 1998, a review in 2001 showed that JHS was unable to meet some of its initial targets. In 2003, JHS was restructured and a new agreement was signed between Johns Hopkins University (JHU) and the successor of NSTB, the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), to establish the Division of Johns Hopkins in Singapore (DJHS).20 This was a biomedical research and education arm independent of the JHS clinical unit.21 The agreement included rigorous oversight criteria, a mid-cycle review and mutually agreed key performance indicators.22

DJHS began operations at Biopolis, Buona Vista, on 1 February 2004 with a budget of S$75 million over five years.23 The unit was formed with the aims of attracting top medical scientists to take up full-time appointments at DJHS, establishing a reputable centre of immunology and cancer research, and providing PhD training.24

Following a mid-cycle review in late 2005 and early 2006, the A*STAR Grant Review Committee and DJHS Scientific Advisory Committee submitted their findings to A*STAR chairman Philip Yeo and JHU president William Brody in February 2006. A*STAR subsequently judged that the DJHS had not achieved its aims and took the decision in May the same year to terminate the DJHS.25

A*STAR offered local scholarships to two of the four PhD students who lost DJHS funding as a result of the termination, and also assisted DJHS with the relocation of its staff to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore and placement of those remaining in Singapore.26


Faizah bte Zakaria & Joanna HS Tan

1. “Fast Facts: John Hopkins Medicine,” John Hopkins Medicine, accessed 8 August 2016.
2. “Key Dates,” Straits Times, 25 July 2006, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
3. “Johns Hopkins ‘Respects’ A*Star’s Decision,” Today, August 2006, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
4. “Johns Hopkins Hospital in Singapore,” Straits Times, 5 November 1998, 36; Salma Khalik, “Johns Hopkins Clinical Unit Going Strong Here,” Straits Times, 28 July 2006, H9. (From NewspaperSG)
5. “Excellence and Discovery: An Overview,” John Hopkins, 3, accessed 30 June 2016.
6. “About John Hopkins Medicine,” The John Hopkins University, accessed 7 August 2016.
7. Gillian Pow Chong, “Top US Hospitals Asked to Set Up Links in Singapore,” Straits Times, 19 December 1987, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
8. “Key Dates.”
9. “Johns Hopkins Hospital in Singapore.”
10. Khalik, “Johns Hopkins Clinical Unit Going Strong Here”; “John Hopkins Singapore,” “John Hopkins Singapore,” Tan Tock Seng Hospital, accessed 8 August 2016.
11. Vivien Ng, “Johns Hopkins Drops Hospital Plan, Settles for NUH Ward,” Business Times, 7 October 2000, 7. (From NewspaperSG)
12. Salma Khalik, “International Stamp of Approval for S’pore Hospital,” Straits Times, 20 September 2004, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
13. Khalik, “Johns Hopkins Clinical Unit Going Strong Here.”
14. “Johns Hopkins Singapore International Medical Centre,” National Healthcare Group, accessed 8 August 2016.
15. Khalik, “Johns Hopkins Clinical Unit Going Strong Here”; Salma Khalik, “Top Docs for All TTSH Cancer Patients,” Straits Times, 1 June 2005, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
16. Salma Khalik, “Johns Hopkins to Take Subsidised Patients,” Straits Times, 8 November 2004, 4; “What It Should Have Been,” Straits Times, 1 October 2005, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
17. Tan Hui Leng, “Johns Hopkins Medical Expansion Plans,” Today, 30 September 2005, 12. (From NewspaperSG)
18. Khalik, “Johns Hopkins Clinical Unit Going Strong Here.”
19. Khalik, “Johns Hopkins to Take Subsidised Patients”; Salma Khalik, “Foreigners Flocking to S’pore Hospitals,” Straits Times, 29 March 2006, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
20. Chang Ai-Lien and Daryl Loo, “How a ‘Perfect Marriage’ Fell Apart,” Straits Times, 13 August 2006, 25; “Key Dates.”
21. Liaw Wy-Cin, “Johns Hopkins Retracts Allegations against A*Star,” Straits Times, 4 August 2006, 3; Khalik, “Johns Hopkins Clinical Unit Going Strong Here.”
22. Andre Wan, “We Have Kept Our End of the Deal: A*Star,” Today, 25 July 2006, 17; “Key Dates.”
23. “Key Dates.”  
24. Wan, “We Have Kept Our End of the Deal: A*Star.”
25. “Key Dates”;  Wan, “We Have Kept Our End of the Deal: A*Star.”
26. Tan Hui Leng, “The Experiment That Failed,” Today, 25 July 2006, 2. (From NewspaperSG)

The information in this article is valid as at 2011 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.


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