December 2014 | ISSUE 15
Celebrating innovations in medicine with lecture and book launch

On Monday, 15 December 2014, the lecture theatre at LKCMedicine’s Novena headquarters was abuzz with excitement. LKCMedicine students, faculty, staff and guests gathered for an unusual experience – a traditional lecture by none other than NTU President Professor Bertil Andersson.

Prof Andersson delivered the fourth Innovations in Medicine Lecture titled The Long and Winding Road to the Nobel Prize in Medicine to a packed lecture theatre. During the lecture, he talked about the history of the Nobel Prize as well as the struggles and challenges some of the greatest minds in medicine faced before they were rewarded the greatest recognition of them all – the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine.

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NTU President Prof Andersson delivering his Innovations in Medicine Lecture to a packed lecture theatre

Following the lecture, Prof Andersson was the Guest-of-Honour as the School launched its first coffee table book, 11 Mandalay Road. The book chronicles the history of LKCMedicine’s 90-year-old headquarters building.

The book, which is Prof Andersson’s brainchild, details the former medical hostel’s dramatic growth and transformation over the last 90 years as told through the personal stories of its former occupants, and the significant historical moments in Singapore’s medical and healthcare system, which are tied to the building.

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NTU President Prof Andersson launches 11 Mandalay Road, LKCMedicine's first coffee table book commemorating the rich and colourful history of the headquarters building; LKCMedicine Dean Prof Best presents the specially framed copy of the book to Prof Andersson as a token of appreciation on behalf of the School

Prof Andersson said, “It is very exciting that the building at 11 Mandalay Road is once again at the heart of medical education, reclaiming its rightful place as a vibrant hub of medical student life. This heritage building stands as an enduring reminder of the pioneering spirit of Singapore's founding fathers.

“With this commemorative book, 11 Mandalay Road, we hope to pay a fitting tribute to them and their legacy as well as the heritage and historical significance of this important piece of Singapore’s architectural history.”

Among the most dramatic episodes in the book was the aerial bombing by the Japanese during the World War II. Despite these air raids, classes went on at the King Edward VII College of Medicine and the students continued to stay at the hostel also known then as the Tan Tock Seng Hostel.

During the Japanese advance, nurses continued to stay at the hostel but male medical students were moved out to build their own makeshift air-raid and sleeping quarters in the zinc-roofed ward in the hospital compound. A student died from his injuries after the ward was shelled in the early morning of 14 February 1942. Tragically, another 10 medical and dental students were killed the same evening during intense shelling when they buried the first student casualty.

The book also features about 100 photographs, including rare photos of students at the hostel from the late 1940s, and the first group of licentiates of the Straits Medical School dated May 1910.

Constructed in the 1920s as a hostel for medical students and subsequently as residential quarters for nurses, the Palladian-style building at 11 Mandalay Road was transformed into the headquarters of LKCMedicine last year, restoring the vibrancy of its heyday after more than a decade of disuse.

LKCMedicine Dean Professor James Best said, “Like this building, which forms a cornerstone of Singapore’s colonial architectural history, we hope to create a legacy as an innovative medical school that trains doctors who advance the practice and science of medicine. Building on the traditions set by the building’s former occupants, we hope to continue to attract the brightest young minds and are very encouraged by the continued strong interest in the School.”

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From left: LKCMedicine Vice-Dean for Clinical Affairs Assoc Prof Pang Weng Sun, NTU Senior Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education Prof Kam Chan Hin, LKCMedicine Dean Prof Best, NTU President Prof Andersson, LKCMedicine Governing Board Member Prof Lee Eng Hin, Prof Chew Chin Hin, a former resident, LKCMedicine Assoc Prof Naomi Low-Beer and Ms Wong Mei Yee, another former resident

Today, the three-storey building is a stone’s throw from major healthcare facilities including Tan Tock Seng Hospital, the School’s primary teaching hospital, the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, National Skin Centre and the Communicable Disease Centre.

“Being near these healthcare institutions strongly benefits NTU’s medical undergraduates, as it ensures that they are closely integrated with the local healthcare system. The students, who already get the best of a dual learning environment at NTU’s main campus and the Novena campus will have access to the latest training facilities when the new Clinical Sciences Building at Mandalay Road and Experimental Medicine Building at NTU’s main campus are ready by 2016,” said Prof Andersson.

The School’s Novena campus consisting of the HQ building and the upcoming Clinical Sciences Building will be part of Singapore’s single largest healthcare complex, the Health City Novena which will be completed by 2030.