Prof (Dr) Gerald Koh Choon Huat Image

Prof (Dr) Gerald Koh Choon Huat

Head & Clinical Director (Future Primary Care) MOH Office for Healthcare Transformation

Professor (Dr) Gerald Koh is Head and Clinical Director of the Future Primary Care programme in Singapore’s Ministry of Health (MOH) Office of Healthcare Transformation (MOHT) where his area of focus is primary care transformation using tele-health, novel technologies and new models of care. He works with stakeholders including public polyclinics and private general practitioners to ensure that solutions which empower patients and providers to improve quality of care can be rapidly prototyped, evaluated, scaled and mainstreamed (e.g. Primary Technology Enhanced Care and Healthier SG). He is also Professor at the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health (SSHSPH) and Joint Professor, Dean's Office and Department of Medicine, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore (NUS); and Honorary Senior Consultant, Department of Medicine, National University Hospital. A family physician, he obtained his Masters in Medicine (Family Medicine) (NUS) in 2000, Fellowship in Family Medicine (College of Family Physicians Singapore) in 2003, Masters in Gerontology from University of Malta under a United Nations International Institute of Ageing (UN INIA) Fellowship in 2008, and PhD in Family Medicine from Western University (Canada) under both a Schulich Graduate Scholarship and a National Medical Research Council (NMRC) Research Fellowship in 2012. Prior to joining MOHT in 2018, he was Head of the Health Systems and Behavioural Sciences Domain in SSHSPH and received the NUS Outstanding Educator Award in 2016. His research interests include tele-health, primary care, post-stroke rehabilitation, community geriatrics, health services research and medical education through service. In 2021, he was recognised as among the Top 2% of Scientists Worldwide based on a study by Meta-Research Innovation Center at Stanford (METRICS) University. He is currently Principal Investigator of the NMRC-funded National University Health System (NUHS) Research Centre Grant’s Telehealth Core.

PHOM 2024 Talk details

The Future of Primary Care in Population Health (& Vice-Versa): Insights from a Personal Journey

Since medical school, I always thought Family Medicine and Primary Care were intimately bound with Public and Population Health. This was because both disciplines were within the same department then, and it was named Community, Occupational and Family Medicine (COFM). The two disciplines had many commonalities: they were both anchored in the community (as opposed to being hospital-based), generalist in nature (as opposed to specialist care) and bio-psycho-social in approach (as opposed to biomedicine). Unsurprisingly, both disciplines professionalised (i.e. family, occupational and preventive medicine formed their own clinical specializations) and public health grew to encompass epidemiology, biostatistics, modelling, health services research and health economics (with these sub-areas progressively led by non-clinicians). This evolution was worldwide and Singapore was no exception: the Family Medicine part of COFM joined the NUH Department of Medicine and COFM was renamed Department of Epidemiology and Public Health (EPH) in 2009, and EPH became the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health (SSHSPH) in 2011. I witnessed these changes firsthand as a family physician who joined COFM in 2005 till now as a Professor in SSHSPH. Throughout these past almost 30 years, I have juggled being a family physician, community geriatrician (yes, I also went into community geriatrics and gerontology) and public health professional, in research, teaching and service. I “returned to my Family Medicine roots” in 2018 when I was seconded to MOH Office of Healthcare Transformation to be Clinical Director (and later Head as well) of the Future Primary Care (FPC) team there. I refreshed my relationships with my polyclinic and GP colleagues, built telemedicine in primary care and implemented Healthier SG which seeks to shift the centre of gravity of Singapore’s healthcare towards primary and preventive care. In this lecture, I will share how, despite the divergence of primary care from public health, I never ceased to see these two disciplines as intimately bound, and why and how I foresee these two disciplines will remain intimately bound in the future.