In January 2019, a new second Major in Health Economics and Management (HEM) offered by SMU in partnership with SingHealth will be available to students. The trailblazing collaboration is the first-of-its-kind in Singapore, and aims to nurture a pool of local graduates who are equipped with knowledge in healthcare administration.


Speaking at the information session and launch of HEM to students on 16 October 2018, SMU Vice-Provost (Undergraduate Matters), Prof Lim Kian Guan shared his perspective on a career in healthcare: “For every medical doctor who saves lives, there are 15 to 20 administrative staff who are helping to achieve that goal. If you should choose to enter the healthcare field, you’ll be among the professionals who are perhaps helping to speed up the process of collecting medicine; cutting queue times or using predictive analytics to expedite the logistics of patient bed arrangements. Such efforts contribute towards time saved for each patient waiting his turn for treatment. If your passion lies in helping to save lives, this is an honourable career in which you will find fruition.”


Highlighting the senior management team from SingHealth who had invested time to be present at the launch event held at SMU, Prof Lim encouraged students to raise any questions they had about working in the healthcare arena. Prof Lim underscored the fact that HEM will offer courses that emphasise experiential learning and which prepare them for real-life working experiences in the healthcare setting. Students would have opportunities to participate in projects which to help improve systems, and to interact with SingHealth C-suite as well as director-level professionals who will co-teach modules under HEM alongside SMU lecturers.



The HEM second major aims to meet a rising demand for specialised healthcare administrators. Hosted by SMU’s School of Economics, this interdisciplinary major will be open to Year 1 and Year 2 students across the university’s six Schools.


Associate Professor Tomoki Fujii, Associate Dean (Undergraduate Curriculum) at SMU School of Economics provided a programme overview of HEM, including course requirements and opportunities for experiential learning via SMU-X courses and internship/work-study opportunities with SingHealth.


With the healthcare industry being among the largest and fastest-growing both in Singapore and worldwide, Prof Fujii highlighted the strong demand for not only medical practitioners, but for healthcare administrators as well. Students who take up the HEM second major would benefit from:

  • Essential knowledge and skills for all high-level healthcare professionals
  • Application of knowledge and skills by solving real healthcare industry problems
  • Practical understanding developed through internship or work-study programme


Potential employers for students equipped with the HEM major would include organisations within the government, pharmaceuticals, hospitals, insurance and health enhancement services sectors.



Mr Sia Kheng Hong, SingHealth Group Chief Finance Officer, echoed Prof Fujii’s comments about the growth potential of Singapore’s healthcare industry. Elaborating with statistics and infographics, Mr Sia defined healthcare as a sunrise industry and shared why a career as a healthcare administrator is attractive and meaningful. With the multiple challenges of an ageing population, changing disease patterns, shortage of healthcare workers and rising costs, new sustainable models of healthcare delivery will need to be developed. This will require innovative thinking, the application of soft skills in navigating healthcare complexities, and a passion for meaningful transformation. 



In March 2018, in conjunction with Health Tech Day, which was organised by the Infocomm Media Development Authority and Integrated Health Information Systems (IHiS), SMU announced that the university would be offering a second major in health economics and management. This initiative is part of wider efforts to develop infocomm technology capabilities in the healthcare sector.


On 30 July 2018, close to 40 SMU students had the rare opportunity to take a behind-the-scenes peek at hospital operations in Singapore General Hospital. The students, comprising freshmen to final year students, were addressed by SingHealth Group Chief Operating Officer, Mr Tan Jack Thian. They then toured various SGH facilities including the Facilities Management Command Centre and the Warehouse, getting a first-hand experience of how the supporting functions in healthcare administration function.


On 14 August 2018, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between SingHealth and SMU at the Singapore Healthcare Management Congress, to incorporate practice-based learning within the new HEM second major. Students will learn about areas that are of increasing importance in the healthcare sector, including Health Systems and Policy, Applied Analytics in Healthcare Management, Operations and Supply Chain Management as well as Medical Sociology.



Three SMU students, who have expressed interest in the HEM second major, elaborate on why they plan to pursue careers in the healthcare sector:


Thurga D/o SINGARAJU is currently a second-year student at SMU’s School of Economics. She is majoring in Economics. Thurga said: “I’ve always been interested in learning more about how hospitals work behind the scenes and how they accommodate to a large group of patients as well as ensuring that no patients face any obstacles while undergoing their treatments. Singapore is continuously facing an increasing aging population and I feel there is an increasing need for innovative solutions to tackle this issue. Hence, I will like to contribute my part in this sector.”


Thurga’s mother is working in the healthcare sector as an Executive Assistant in NUH. According to Thurga, “My mother is my main motivation as to why I would like to join this industry. Hearing her stories inspired me.”


Tham Qian Yu is presently a second-year student at SMU’s School of Information Systems. His current major is in Information Systems.


“Given the increase in focus in healthcare in Singapore and our aging population, pursing a second major in Health Econs and Management would be a module that prepares me for this challenging environment. Being a student in Information Systems, I do not wish to simply be a specialist in business IT; rather, I would want to diversify and use this knowledge beyond IT and business sectors into expand into healthcare,” said Qian Yu.


Qian Yu is keen to pursue a career in the healthcare sector after graduation. He said: “My motivation lies in my interest in the public healthcare industry. Volunteering in Changi General Hospital for the past year, my interest has grown further, and I am deeply intrigued by how the hospital is managed and how different systems come together to work to provide for patients, service staffs and medical professionals. Moreover, the healthcare industry provides a very different working environment as compared to the commercial sector in general which is mainly more concerned about profits. In the public healthcare sector, the focus is more on managing a patient’s treatment journey rather than simply making money – this key factor motivates me to join this industry.”


Qian Yu’s volunteering activities at CGH include helping patients, nurses and doctors translate between English and Chinese and sometimes dialects at the A&E department. He also helps Service Ambassadors to address patients’ enquires in the A&E. Qian Yu’s cousins work in the healthcare sector as a pharmacist and a nurse.


Tan Ka Ling is currently a first-year student at SMU’s Lee Kong Chian School of Business: I personally believe that life should be seen and lived as more than just a series of mundane tasks. As such, my interest was piqued when I heard that SMU was going to offer a new health economics and management second major. Although I do not have family members who work in the healthcare sector, I know of friends who do, and I understand that healthcare administration plays a huge part in ensuring that the industry runs efficiently. This is becoming increasingly crucial given our ageing population.


As such, the launch of the new programme was to me a promising opportunity to do something meaningful for society with the skills that I will acquire through my course of study. The chance to be able to make a difference in the lives of people just by 'doing my job', particularly in healthcare, is something I value, and I'm glad that SMU would offer something like this."


For more information on the new second major in Health Economics and Management, please click here



[Featured photo: Faculty and staff from SingHealth and SMU School of Economics at the student information session on the new Health Economics and Management second major.]

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