Doctor helping to shape healthcare in Singapore

A longtime U-M doctor specializing in gerontology is now helping to improve elder care programs in Southeast Asia, where he has been appointed a visiting professor at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine at the National University of Singapore.

Former UMMS Chief of Geriatric Medicine recently began his visiting professorship at National University of Singapore. He is shown here on the Singapore Marina Barrage.

Jeffrey Halter, MD, the former UMMS Chief of Geriatric Medicine and a Professor Emeritus since September, recently returned to Ann Arbor from a two-month visit to Singapore – the first of many planned visits during his minimum two-year appointment.

“Part of my academic life’s mission has been to move the field of geriatric medicine forward, and the opportunity to help mold and shape an exciting new program at a peer institution in a very different setting is exciting,” he said. “I get to learn a lot, and it takes advantage of some of my professional experience, which is nice.”

Dr. Halter’s appointment follows a delegation visit last year in which more than 20 doctors and health education leaders from National University of Singapore (NUS) visited Ann Arbor, a trip organized through Global REACH. NUS and its affiliated teaching hospitals have recently been charged by the government with improving health in Singapore’s western region, an area with a large and rapidly growing senior population. The NUS team was particularly interested in U-M’s work successfully piloting Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), in which community physicians, hospitals and other care providers team up to better coordinate care for Medicare patients in the area.

“U-M has been doing a great deal at the community level to develop integrated, continuous care programs for patients and families – ideas that preceded and helped pave the way for the ACO,” said Dr. Halter. “In Singapore, they are trying emulate the kind of successes we’ve had, and a big part of their national program is to develop more comprehensive, coordinated geriatric care.”

Advisory in nature, Dr. Halter’s appointment will involve several visits to Singapore in the coming years as NUS establishes a structure for its program. The university recently acquired a second hospital and has plans to open a number of community clinics in the surrounding area, Dr. Halter said.

While Dr. Halter’s initial work is consultative, there are many possibilities for greater collaboration involving many more colleagues. Singapore recently adopted the widely recognized international model for residency and fellowship accreditation, opening the door to potential exchange opportunities. NUS also wants to expand their existing research programs.

“They are looking at developing an aging research center at their new campus. As home to one of the leading academic geriatric research centers in the U.S., I think the University of Michigan has a lot to offer,” Dr. Halter said. “There are colleagues from U-M who I am suggesting for research collaboration with NUS faculty.”

And the learning cuts both ways. The greater the collaboration, the greater the potential benefit to both institutions.

“It’s not as if we have this whole thing figured out. One of the benefits of international partnerships is that you have colleagues internationally trying to solve the same problems that we’re working on here,” Dr. Halter said. “There are a lot of smart people out there, and engaging with them will ultimately help us as well.”