By Sean Firoz, Senior Executive, Communications & External Relations
From no office, not even a pencil, to an impressive dual campus of bespoke-built learning and research facilities. From having a single cohort of 54 students to five student cohorts of up to 120 students each, studying across all years of its innovative curriculum, LKCMedicine has blossomed. On 28 August 2017, almost seven years to the exact day when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong first announced the formation of this new medical school in his National Day Rally Speech, the School celebrates its Official Opening.
The young, but no longer new, School marks this latest milestone with a celebration of its pioneering moments and people: staff, faculty and students; key decisions captured in early documents; leaders from its parent institutions, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU) and Imperial College London (Imperial) and primary healthcare partner the National Healthcare Group (NHG); and the many individuals who have contributed or inspired the creation of LKCMedicine. Their commitment to the vision of redefining medicine and transforming healthcare has propelled LKCMedicine to successfully instil a new DNA in medical education and research into Singapore’s landscape.
How did that vision turn into a reality in just seven years?
A partnership like no other
When the decision was made to expand medical education in Singapore, everyone was clear that something other than ‘more of the same’ was needed. NTU took up the challenge. With NTU and Imperial as academic partners and NHG as primary clinical partner, the School’s Governing Board, senior management, staff and faculty worked on a vision to build a world-class medical school that would offer students a modern curriculum built on active learning experiences, integrated themes and new perspectives from across different disciplines.
Recalling that time, NTU President Professor Bertil Andersson said in his Making of a Medical School interview, “A growing and ageing Singapore population poses an increasing number of challenges that cannot be adequately addressed within the confines of medicine alone.”
Guests-of-Honour Minister for Health and then-Minister for Education join LKCMedicine, NTU, Imperial and NHG leaders to mark the Ground-breaking Ceremony of the School on 28 May 2012
Working with Imperial was not new to NTU. The two institutions already collaborated on a joint PhD programme in Bioengineering, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. And so, just 14 months after the initial meeting between the Ministry of Education (MOE), NTU and Imperial, a comprehensive Memorandum of Understanding was signed and the new partnership was officially announced by Prime Minister Mr Lee on 29 August 2010.
Of the partnership Imperial President Professor Alice Gast said previously, “It’s a great honour for Imperial to be collaborating with NTU on Singapore’s newest medical school. Imperial and NTU are world-class universities that share a common vision that bringing together science, engineering and medicine will produce tremendous discoveries.”
Specially designed plate commemorates Official Opening of LKCMedicine
A commemorative plate celebrates the Official Opening of the School on 28 August 2017. Inspired by the beautiful dual campus of the medical school, LKCMedicine Class of 2021 student Jaryl Gan’s design of the School’s main buildings – the Clinical Sciences Building and heritage Headquarters at the Novena campus and the Experimental Medicine Building at the NTU main campus – signifies the integration of the three buildings as one, illustrating that no matter where you are in LKCMedicine, you will always find a home.
The third stakeholder and primary clinical partner, NHG, is renowned for its teaching excellence. Discussing NHG’s passion for teaching in an earlier interview, NHG Group Chief Executive Officer Professor Philip Choo said, “We’ve got a lot of people who are interested in teaching and have ideas about what are better ways to teach. This was a wonderful opportunity and we had a lot of people who were prepared to come forward to do that.”
With the partnership between NTU, Imperial and NHG revving up, it was time to turn this blueprint idea into a reality – from curriculum to infrastructure and from policies to branding – with not a moment to lose.
LKCMedicine Governing Board Chairman Mr Lim Chuan Poh recalled the fast-moving events during an oral history project for the School, saying, “The timeline that MOE set was very ambitious. Of course, we believed we could rise to the challenge.”
And that’s exactly what the LKCMedicine team of pioneers did. They developed an integrated innovative curriculum that replaces lectures with technology-enhanced Team-Based Learning (TBL), introduces patient contact within the first month of the curriculum and focuses on longitudinal courses that draw heavily on simulation to build key skills in communication, clinical practice and professionalism.
These efforts were validated earlier this year when the School completed the quality assurance process required of any new programme at Imperial to confirm that the academic standards achieved by students and quality of education meet the expectations of the parent institutions.
United under two roofs
The rule of thumb for every successful piece of real estate is location. In order for LKCMedicine students to gain easy access to both NTU’s and Tan Tock Seng Hospital’s facilities, the School decided to invest in a dual campus – one within NTU’s main campus and the other at the heart of HealthCity Novena.
Construction of the two state-of-the-art buildings, which started with a ground-breaking ceremony in 2012, was completed at the end of 2016, when LKCMedicine celebrated the much-anticipated move into the 20-storey Clinical Sciences Building (CSB). The CSB will eventually integrate the School physically via a sky bridge to Tan Tock Seng Hospital; while the seven-storey Experimental Medicine Building (EMB) on NTU’s main campus anchors the medical school in the academic environment, where it is connected via an 11-metre wide linkway to the Life Sciences Cluster, fostering collaboration between engineering, the sciences, humanities and medicine. Having a building strategically located in both areas allows students to study with the best of both worlds, and for researchers to bring clinical problems to the lab bench and solutions from the labs back to patients’ bedside.
President of the Republic of Singapore Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam pushes the lever to lay the Foundation Stones at the School’s dual campus on 8 January 2015
“The design of the EMB and CSB aims to inspire a new generation of medical students and facilitate medical discoveries and innovations. By housing state-of-the-art educational and research facilities in these buildings, we want to promote collaboration between students and faculty using multidisciplinary and interactive spaces,” said LKCMedicine Dean Professor James Best at the EMB move-in ceremony.
Shooting for the stars
Over the years, the medical school team worked hard to establish LKCMedicine as a School that teaches and nurtures medical students to become the doctors you and I would like caring for us. The School had to put its best foot forward to attract Singapore’s brightest students through a series of interactive and immersive outreach activities.
The student body, too, collectively built a reputation among juniors and the healthcare fraternity of a close-knit community with a pioneering spirit. As well as earning praises on the wards for their communication skills, the students have been busy infusing a vibrancy into the many student facilities the School has provided and developing a full calendar of events that caters to all students’ interests.
The hard work paid off as LKCMedicine received a record number of over 1,000 applications this year, with some 350 candidates shortlisted to go through the Multiple Mini Interviews in April.
LKCMedicine's inaugural cohort recites the Declaration of a New Medical Student during the School's first White Coat Ceremony on 15 August 2013
When asked why they chose LKCMedicine, many students list TBL, which helps them understand concepts and absorb knowledge better than the traditional lecture approach, as a top reason. Early patient contact is another feature that attracts many who are keen to become patient-centred doctors. Other attractive features are the School’s faculty, and its distinctive learning facilities.
LKCMedicine is also home to world-class and award-winning researchers who are at the frontiers of medical research. Nobel laureate Professor Barry Marshall, who identified the stomach cancer-causing bacteria
Helicobacter pylori, recently joined the School as Nanyang Visiting Professor, while LKCMedicine Professor of Cardiovascular Epidemiology John Chambers became the School’s first Singapore Translational Research Investigator Award winner in March. They are just two of the over 400 full-time and adjunct faculty who have made LKCMedicine their home.
Together, this stellar cast of LKCMedicine research faculty has won a total of over $50 million in competitive research funding from both NTU and external grant making bodies, and industry. At the same time, their ground-breaking work has resulted in more than 250 scientific papers that rank among Thomson Reuters’ top 10 per cent based on citations by category, year, and document type.
A new whole greater than the sum of its parts
While LKCMedicine is making a name for itself in Singapore and around the world, its parent institutions – NTU and Imperial – have also benefitted from the collaboration.
Newly installed sculpture celebrates LKCMedicine's vision
Untitled (‘Points of View’ Series), a 2003 stainless steel sculpture by Turner Prize-winning sculptor Tony Cragg, stands tall at the entrance lobby of the Clinical Sciences Building (CSB). On loan to LKCMedicine by private collector Mr Kwee Liong Seen, this three-metre tall sculpture showcases the evolving relationship between the stainless steel, ambient light and the reflection of its surroundings in the CSB’s mirrored ceiling. Seemingly in a constant dialogue with the viewer, the sculpture questions every movement, yet resists definition. Amidst the ever-changing landscape of medical education and practice, the dynamics of LKCMedicine are challenged by changing patient care and demographics, driving innovation and the exploration of new points of view. Thus, the fluid nature of the sculpture symbolises the aspirations of our medical school to be at the forefront of medical education and research - Redefining Medicine, Transforming Healthcare.
A vibrant student exchange between Imperial and LKCMedicine has developed since the first batch of students arrived at the School. In Year 2, for example, LKCMedicine students have the opportunity to travel to Imperial as part of an exchange programme designed to enhance links between the two medical schools.
In addition, from this academic year, Year 5 students enjoy tailored electives at Imperial, and about half the inaugural cohort is seizing this unique opportunity. Under the same programme, Imperial students visit Singapore.
In the classroom, TBL has made such a mark that Imperial and NTU have also begun to adopt the flipped-classroom approach in their respective schools. The NTU Renaissance Engineering Programme adopted TBL into their pedagogy back in 2014, allowing students to learn in small groups and a paperless environment.
Over at Imperial, the Faculty of Medicine has also started testing the TBL approach and use of mobile technology, in a move to create a more dynamic learning experience.
What the future brings
The opening of LKCMedicine is a landmark on the School’s journey towards something greater. The LKCMedicine community is eagerly awaiting the graduation of its inaugural cohort of students who will enter the healthcare workforce in May 2018; while new discoveries and breakthroughs in medicine and biological sciences will transform our understanding of health and disease as the School’s faculty continues to tackle major health concerns such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and dengue.
LKCMedicine celebrates its fifth anniversary with NTU, Imperial and benefactors on 1 December 2015
The pioneers who have made the LKCMedicine vision a reality are all united in their belief that many more exciting and uplifting milestones are in store for the dynamic School. Just as the saying goes 'There is no I in team', LKCMedicine would never have reached this level of success without the efforts of the School’s patrons; from staff to teaching faculty, from researchers to students.
Being interviewed for the Celebrating The Pioneering Spirit commemorative booklet, Executive Vice-Dean Professor Lionel Lee, who joined the School as one of its earliest employees, said, “This sense of teamwork is quite instinctive; it’s like we have created a living organisation, where people somehow ‘click’; they have an inner sense of where the mission is and their place in it.”
As the School celebrates this major milestone in its history, the community looks forward to making more memories with their fellow colleagues and classmates.
With the future looking bright, Mr Lim said at LKCMedicine’s fifth anniversary celebrations, “The journey ahead will be an exciting one filled with discovery and learning for our students, faculty and staff.
“What we have achieved thus far has left many across the world inspired, and wanting to know what secret ingredients go into the making of this medical school.”
Deputy Prime Minister Mr Teo Chee Hean, who is the Guest-of-Honour at today’s official Opening, poses for a 360 degree shot with NTU and LKCMedicine leadership, staff and students during a working visit on 27 February 2017