They say Rome wasn’t built in a day. It’s not exactly Rome, but the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine (LKCMedicine) is working on a mammoth task of setting up a campus that’s not just built to last, but aimed to leave a legacy on Singapore’s medical education landscape.
A hallmark of the LKCMedicine programme is collaborative learning. Here at Singapore’s newest medical school, lectures will be few and far between. Instead, students will be taught by a distinguished faculty in a medical learning environment that focuses on team-based learning (TBL), simulations and extensive use of technology. To help them learn their curriculum wherever they are, the students may access eLearning materials through their iPads anywhere, at any time.
The future of learning may very well be here, says LKCMedicine Director of Infrastructure and Resources Chan Wei Chuen, who leads the campus development work. “We want to design facilities that will meet the training needs of future doctors and researchers. The learning spaces are designed around the School’s innovative medical programme and carefully constructed to promote interdisciplinary synergies. It will drive our teaching methodology that uses small and large group interactive seminars, team-based learning, eLearning, clinical simulations and practical laboratories for hands-on experience.
From left to right: Interim Library, HQ Lobby at 11, Mandalay
“These pedagogical strategies require learning spaces that move away from the traditional, large lecture theatres to spaces which enable and encourage small and large group interactions. The teaching facilities are designed flexibly to meet the present and future pedagogical and curriculum needs,” explains Chan.
When school starts on 5 August, the students and faculty will have first-rate facilities to work in at LKCMedicine’s dual campus - one sited in Novena at 11, Mandalay Road, and another within NTU’s Yunnan Garden campus. The facilities at Yunnan Garden, comprising a 60-seater new-style seminar room, practical labs and research labs, will be housed at NTU’s Research Techno Plaza (RTP). The practical labs at RTP, unusual for a medical school, are co-located next to the School’s research labs so that the students see scientists at work each day. These practical labs will be the venue for anatomy learning using the School’s recently acquired plastinated human specimens, a first in Singapore.
From left to right: Seminar Room, Teaching at Practical Lab
Over at Novena, the learning facilities are located within the new education wing of the School’s headquarters, a conserved 1900s building that has been newly-restored. Expected to be ready
by June this year, the education wing will house a 180-seater auditorium, 60-seater seminar room and interim medical library. It will be named the Toh Kian Chui Annex in recognition of a $20-million gift to the School by the Toh Kian Chui Foundation. Aside from the administrative offices and learning
spaces, a student lounge is also being provided at this venue.
By 2015, the dual campus will receive a boost with the completion of a seven-storey Experimental Medicine Building at Yunnan Garden and a 19-storey Clinical Sciences Building at Novena, in time for higher student intakes. Within these will be bigger capacity venues such as the 150-seater Learning Studio, Alcove Clusters, a Clinical Skills and Communication Centre and a new double-storey medical library, among others.
Chief Operating Officer Dr Lionel Lee says, “We are committed to ensuring world-class facilities for staff and students. We can remain cost-conscious yet ensure that the learning and work environment foster a great working and studying experience. No effort is spared to build student-centric facilities
both in the interim facilities and in the two new main buildings. Our research laboratories are designed to engender a collaborative spirit. It is a joy to be a part of the development team.”
Senior Vice-Dean Professor Martyn Partridge is pleased with the design of the dual campus.
“The facilities are unique, designed to our specification and a synthesis of ideas gleaned from elsewhere, including Imperial. This is an exciting time to be starting a new medical school and not
only is medicine being redefined, but we are developing a new learning experience to ensure that LKCMedicine doctors are in a position to transform healthcare. Our campus has been designed to fulfil
this vision,” says Professor Partridge.
Facilities at both sites will have a signature uniform look for visual consistency that will foster a better
sense of belonging among faculty and students. The LKCMedicine corporate colours - purple and grey - are used in many parts of the School such as the auditorium seats and building material finishes. In fact, the visual consistency even extends to some NHG polyclinics where LKCMedicine students will be taught. For example, Bukit Batok Polyclinic will be fitted with a similarly-designed seminar room, a clinical skills lab and five teaching-friendly consultation rooms carrying the School’s corporate colours and design feel.
“In addition, the glass façade of the Toh Kian Chui Annex and the CSB at the Novena Campus, along with the EMB at Yunnan Garden, strengthens the sense of LKCMedicine identity through its visual consistency,” says Chan.
He is quick to add that even though the School’s HQ is a conserved 1900s building, its contemporary interior design blends seamlessly with the rest of LKCMedicine’s facilities while retaining
its original pre-war architectural features.
Restoring the Grand Old Dame Block 107
Managing Director Look Boon Gee of LOOK Architects, which was appointed to restore and design the HQ building, shares that the design process was a challenge as his team had to ensure their design ideas meet LKCMedicine’s modern educational and corporate needs while maintaining the HQ’s classic look.
Look says, “As the original design was not suitable for LKCMedicine’s learning pedagogy due to the existing columns that threatened to constrain the learning spaces, my team proposed building
a three-storey annex glass to house LKCMedicine’s learning facilities so as not to hide the beautiful HQ architecture while still giving a modern vibe. The rectilinear nature of the annex pays homage to the horizontal arrangement of the HQ building’s pre-war architecture, and its minimalist design further enhances the HQ as the centrepiece of the Novena Campus.”
Extensive efforts have also been made to not just preserve and restore the historical architecture of the HQ but also to highlight those features. A controlled pallet of materials and colour were deliberately chosen to enhance the beauty of the original features such as the lattice windows and doors while creating an interior infused with natural light. Since the building is a pre-war structure, LOOK Architects had to ensure that basic features such as fire safety exits and toilets meet today’s standards.
Going online from Day ONE
One of LKCMedicine’s distinguishing features is its extensive use of eLearning to support and enhance students’ learning experience. The dual campus therefore is fitted with cutting-edge IT access and state-of-the-art audio and video technology.
Director of E-Learning & IT Services Paul Gagnon says, “We are using the latest classroom and online learning technologies to ensure that students have ‘just-in-time’, uninterrupted, and targeted access to their learning resources and associated learning activities, whether they are on campus or traveling to healthcare sites for their lessons.”
He adds that the combination of these technologies is designed to enhance and support the delivery of content which enables both an interactive set of preclass, self-directed learning activities, as well as rigorous and engaging TBL classroom experiences.
On the ground, Learning Technologist Desmond Ho has been busy at work with his team to ensure students and faculty are able to go online from the get-go come 5 August. He says, “We are working hard to ensure that the IT infrastructure is up and running in time for the first intake as LKCMedicine’s pedagogy makes heavy use of IT. We have completely fitted LKCMedicine’s interim facilities at RTP with IT capabilities. Our Seminar Room is aligned with NTU’s newly constructed tutorial rooms (TR+) in campus, and we provide the analog and digital platforms for devices like the iPad. In the TBL sessions, students from each table can share the ideas on their iPads with the class just by the push of a single button on each table. The buttons trigger the projection of their work onto the LED screens in the room. Even our mircoscopes are fitted with wifi cameras.”
Ho adds that IT enhancement extends beyond the teaching facilities. For example, staff and faculty are trained to use the CISCO Immersive Telepresence system located in LKCMedicine meeting
rooms. The system allows them to ‘meet’ partners across the globe at a convenient time to discuss the best curriculum materials for LKCMedicine’s incoming students.
Redefining the future of Medicine
The faculty of LKCMedicine has given the campus design the thumbs up. Lead for Anatomy Assistant Professor Dinesh Kumar Srinivasan says, “We have excellent facilities for anatomy learning
in our upcoming campus such as the alcove clusters and learning studios.
The brand-new practical labs in RTP alone are more than equipped to teach anatomy. On top of these, the students are fortunate that they will be the first in Singapore to handle plastinated
specimens,” says Professor Srinivasan.
Vice-Dean for Clinical Affairs Professor Pang Weng Sun explains that LKCMedicine’s clinical facilities will
provide students an environment where they can talk to patients, examine them and discuss findings with their tutors.
Additionally, the upcoming simulation rooms will provide students the opportunity to learn and practise skills in a standardised setting before they encounter real patients. These may be procedural skills like inserting of tubes and catheters, surgical skills, or communication skills such as explaining an illness to a patient.
“Traditionally, the bulk of medical student teaching has been conducted in hospitals, where students see a wide range of complex illnesses in various specialties and learn about the state-of-the-art in medicine. This is important in providing them a strong foundation in clinical medicine. However, the majority of patients with chronic illnesses are seen in primary care clinics – Polyclinics and GP clinics. So it is important for our students to learn how to diagnose, investigate, treat and manage such patients in the community,” says Professor Pang.
The dual campus set up, according to Assistant Dean Professor Michael Ferenczi, adds to the realism of medicine. He states that the Novena Campus provides an additional valuable research resource as it is in close proximity to acute care hospitals which will allow for better access to patient data.
While waiting for the CSB to be ready, Professor Ferenczi believes that the laboratories at RTP provide a good starting point for researchers to embark on ground-breaking work.
“We provide an environment that is conducive to developing new research ideas and inter-disciplinary
collaborations such as with the engineering schools in NTU. We are open for business!” declares Professor Ferenczi.