February 2018 | Issue 34

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A celebration of young scientific minds


Bringing medical students away from the bedside and into the laboratory, the Class of 2019 LKCMedicine students showed off innovative and inspiring Scholarly Projects and a greater appreciation for research at the Scholarly Project Celebration on 10 January in the Clinical Sciences Building's Auditorium.

More than 40 students, staff and faculty attended the celebrations, interested in learning more about what these aspiring researchers were working on during their six-week stint alongside various faculty members and clinician scientists from the School.

"The Scholarly Project takes you out of your comfort zone and puts you in an environment you know little about," said Vice-Dean for Faculty Affairs and Lead for Scholarly Projects Professor Michael Ferenczi, who gave the welcome address. "Even though there was a lot of pressure, it is really wonderful to see that you've come through it very well."

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Prof Ferenczi commends the efforts of the Year 4s during the intensive six-week Scholarly Projects

Following his welcome, the prize winners of the four project categories, Gerald Ho, Melvin Lim, Darren Wong and Aliza Wong, presented the data of their Scholarly Projects, which covered a range of topics from medical education to clinical research.

Beginning with the winner of the Laboratory & Translational Research Category, Gerald Ho talked about his work on whether the gene blaOXA-23 in Acinetobacter baumannii (A. baumannii), a harmful bacterium that is commonly found in and out of hospitals, is resistant to first-line antibiotics like carbapenems.

Under the supervision of Associate Professor of Human and Microbial Genetics Eric Yap, Gerald used a low-cost Ultra-Rapid Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) device, and found imminent resistance in the blaOXA-23 gene to carbapenems. This proved that alternative first-line antibiotics should be considered in treating A.baumanii in hospitals, thus saving lives.

Gerald said, "Due to the low cost of making the PCR machine, we can proceed to use this method of detecting antibiotic resistance in less developed countries."

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Gerald Ho (left) and Melvin Lim (right) present their award-winning Scholarly Projects

Melvin Lim who topped the Medical Education Category, stepped up next. His project explored first-year pre-clinical medical students' views and takeaways from Early Clinical Exposure (ECE) in medical education. Perusing through 198 reflective write-ups from first year students on ECE, Melvin found that reflection supports students' professional development and creates deeper learning from these early experiences.

"It is interesting to note that a lot of students realise that care should not be dictatorial, but should be individualised and contextualised for the patient," said Melvin, who was under the supervision of Assistant Dean for Year 5 Associate Professor Tham Kum Ying.

After Melvin's insightful presentation on ECE, Darren explored how the macular-centred Foveal Avascular Zone (FAZ) and global retinal Vessel Density (VD) parameters of an Optical Coherence Tomography Angiography (OCTA) can determine the severity of diabetic retinopathy in Asian populations.

Under the guidance of Senior Consultant Ophthalmologist at Tan Tock Seng Hospital and Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology Colin Tan, Darren concluded that OCTA-derived parameters such as FAZ and VD are accurate and reproducible metrics in diagnosing the severity of diabetic retinopathy in Asian populations, providing a non-invasive and efficient method for patients. This finding clinched him the top spot in the Medical Practice Category.

YM 5 (Custom).jpgYM 6 (Custom).jpg Darren Wong (left) and Aliza Wong (right) both present their Scholarly Projects, talking about how their projects can have a positive​ impact on medicine

Last but not least, winner of the Medicine & Society Category Aliza Wong looked into whether physical frailty contributes to cognitive impairment through pathways beyond neurodegenera​tion.

Mentored by the Director of the Geriatric Centre and Senior Consultant at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital Associate Professor Philip Yap, Aliza compared older and younger people to determine the severity of cognitive impairment in relation to their physical frailty. Her study suggests that greater cognitive impairment in the physically frail is caused by mechanisms beyond neurodegeneration.

The four winners received certificates and a $50 book voucher from LKCMedicine Dean Professor James Best. Nine other students received a certificate for their Highly Commended projects too.

Prof Best commended the cohort for their amazing work during the Scholarly Project.

"Medical knowledge is now doubling about every year, and unless you understand the research process and evaluate yourself, you'll be stuck with medical knowledge that you only learn when you're in school. Thus, research is a very important aspect to remain current in your career," said Prof Best.

At the end of the presentations, the audience made its way to the Foyer for the opportunity to vote for the Best Poster Presentation. The six winners who received a $50 book voucher from Prof Ferenczi were:​

  • Candice Ang, supervised by Nanyang Assistant Professor Guan Xue Li: "Elucidating the Impact of Host Metabolic Status on Inflammatory Lipid Production during Mycobacterium Infections" under the Most Novel Idea category

  • Ho Ying Na, supervised by Assistant Professor of Developmental Biology Tom Carney: "Investigating the Factors Influencing H2O2 Production in hai1a Zebrafish Mutants" under the Best Poster Design category

  • Sundheep Subramani, supervised by Assoc Prof Eric Yap: "Point-of-Care Ultra-Fast Nucleic Acid Detection of Zika, Chikungunya and Dengue Viruses" under the Best Developmental Potential category

  • Melvin Lim, supervised by Assoc Prof Tham Kum Ying: "Holistic Learning in Early Clinical Exposure: A Qualitative Analysis of Reflective Writings" under the Most Thought-Provoking Project category

  • Darren Wong, supervised by Assoc Prof Colin Tan: "Quantitative Analysis of OCTA Parameters in Diabetic Retinopathy" under the Most Impactful Project category

  • Berwyn Tan, supervised by Visiting Associate Professor and Acting Director of the Medical Education Research & Scholarship Unit Assoc Prof Nabil Zary and Dr Adam Chee from Binary HealthCare: "Setting Priorities to Encourage Innovation in Healthcare Organisations in Singapore" under the Most Impactful Project category