By Sean Firoz
Senior Executive, Communications & External Relations
Welcoming the Class of 2021
Admitted to hospital for a bout of food poisoning that was so severe, then-eight-year-old Damian Chong’s life lay in the balance. He was hooked up to an IV drip and told to wait out the night.
Damian, now 19 and a national swimmer, said, “I was terrified, fearing not necessarily for my life, but never being able to enjoy the little things I loved the most: swimming, singing in the shower, talking to friends.”
Throughout the night, the doctor in charge stayed with Damian and his parents, offering comfort to the family. It was this act of compassion that sparked Damian’s interest in medicine, leading him to enrol at LKCMedicine.
Damian said, “The experience of being threatened with death served two purposes in my life; the first was that I decided life was too short and I would never waste a moment of it. And the second was that I was inspired to become a doctor, where I can help others like the doctors had helped me.”
Today, Damian, along with his new batch mates of the Class of 2021, realised his dream of studying medicine by donning the medical student’s white coat, the first step on his journey to becoming a doctor.
Incoming Class of 2021 students meet up for orientation
While a personal brush with death was Damian’s inspiration, for others like Nadia Nasuha Binte Mohammad Nazri, the inspiration to study medicine came from a different sort of hardship. Both Nadia’s father and grandfather were diagnosed with cancer when she was young. Witnessing their battles, something stirred within her.
“During my experiences caring for my father and grandfather, their sheer willpower stood out,” said Nadia. “Their determination to be healthy again drove their resilience to withstand the discomfort during treatment. I will strive to reflect these qualities, and fight as hard for my patients as they fight for themselves.”
Her classmate Audrey Ng experienced something similar. Seeing the benefits palliative care can offer a patient and his family, she too felt inspired to pursue a career in medicine.
The Hwa Chong Institution alumnus said, “I believe that medicine is meaningful as it affords me an unparallelled opportunity to interact with patients and their families and make a positive impact on their lives.”
Extending a caring hand
With their strong desire to help others, it comes as little surprise that many took on volunteer roles before entering medical school. From local non-profit organisations to Overseas Community Involvement Projects (OCIP), the Class of 2021 has an expansive resume of volunteering experience that helped prepare them for their chosen profession.
Nanyang scholar Jonathan Loke, for example, accompanied a group of doctors on overseas medical missions to Nepal and Sikkim, India.
“I helped out in triage and the pharmacy, and managed to spend a few days helping the doctors in our makeshift operating theatre,” said Jonathan. “It was definitely an eye-opening experience.”
Inspired by this, Jonathan took on an internship at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Geneva, Switzerland, after his National Service.
Freshies get to know each other
Others volunteer in their own backyard like Leow Zhi Yun, who volunteers regularly at Ren Ci Community Hospital, assisting physiotherapists and occupational therapists during rehabilitation sessions for stroke patients.
The ASEAN scholar said, “I have witnessed how a stroke or dementia can impact one’s quality of life. I hope that being a doctor will put me in a position to improve the lives of these patients.”
Choosing the right fit
Clear that medicine is the career for them, these students were among the more than 800 applicants who competed for a place in LKCMedicine’s fourth cohort of 108 students.
For many, including Ngee Ann Polytechnic graduate Zenneth Lim and Raffles Institution alumnus Abraham Lee, LKCMedicine’s flipped classroom, and independent and flexible learning are attractive.
Zenneth said, "I’m looking forward to TBL. Being able to delve deep into the content, discussing it with my peers, and having our burning questions answered directly by the content experts is indeed a more engaging style of learning."
Having received offers from two medical schools, Abraham, who joins his sister Rebekah, an LKCMedicine Class of 2019 student, feels that the School’s sophisticated and novel pedagogy complements his learning ability and style.
He said, “Team-Based Learning sessions and the available online materials encourage medical students to be independent in their learning. Although this system is undoubtedly rigorous, I believe that this type of teaching will be invaluable in our clinical practice in the future.”
Another draw is the early contact with patients. This nurtures empathy and provides students with a better understanding of the hardships patients endure.
Audrey said, “I like how LKCMedicine students are given many opportunities to interact with patients from the first year, which I believe will be useful in helping us interact with our patients when we become doctors.”
Another factor that attracted students is the close-knit community they join. Toh Kian Chui scholar Goh Xin Rong, who had offers from local and international universities, said, “I was attracted to the tight-knit community at LKCMedicine, among students and faculty alike. I feel that having such a strong and supportive community will be very important during medical school.”
Seniors and freshies get ready to save mankind
Even the School’s Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) process impressed students and helped them decide whether LKCMedicine is the right fit for them.
Damian said, “It made me feel like the School was going to be a vibrant and happy place to be, and made me that much more excited to study here.”
As the students embark on their journey to become fully fledged doctors, many of LKCMedicine’s fourth cohort have big ambitions.
Koh Han Jie, a national softball player from Raffles Institution, said, “On top of becoming a doctor with good clinical skills, I hope to be remembered as a compassionate professional who gives nothing but the best for his patients.”
Nadia’s goal, too, is to be a doctor who is caring, dedicated and whom patients look forward to seeing. “I would like to do more community outreach, to reach out to the Malay community especially regarding healthier lifestyles,” added Nadia.
For Xin Rong, her aspiration is to follow in the footsteps of renowned forensic pathologist Professor Chao Tzee Cheng, who solved several notorious crimes and raised Singapore’s level of professionalism in the area of forensics.
Xin Rong said, “I feel that forensic pathology is about the living, giving them closure so that they can be free to grieve for their loved ones.”
The Class of 2021 united in their big dreams
Others, like Jonathan and Zhi Yun, feel that their passion draws them further afield. Zhi Yun’s biggest childhood dream is to be able to volunteer in conflict zones and less developed nations, extending healthcare to those who need it most; while Jonathan aspires to join a humanitarian aid organisation.
Jonathan said, “My internship at the ICRC gave me the opportunity to meet doctors who have had years of experience working in conflict-affected regions. Their stories have been inspiring and being able to do that would be a dream for me.”
Before it is time to knuckle down, the Class of 2021 was treated to a slew of bonding activities to get to know the cohorts, old and new. On 28 July, the annual freshmen orientation camp, IntroDOCtion: Vitae kicked off. Seniors and freshmen gathered at NTU for four days of fun-filled activities that saw them travel to different locations to complete challenges in the race to save mankind.
With the next five years of their lives dedicated to the study of medicine, the Class of 2021 is all set to realise their dreams of becoming better doctors for coming generations and forming new friendships.
Zhi Yun said, “I am looking forward to the lasting friendships that we will forge during the time spent together at LKCMedicine.”