By Wahida Hussain and Sufian Suderman
At the heart of LKCMedicine is a powerful mission to nurture students to become the doctors you and I would like to have caring for us. It requires a vision that fuses intellect, passion and ideas to boldly shape the future of medicine in Singapore. For the 54 offered admissions to the School, 5 August 2013 will mark their first day as matriculated students, ready to embark on a journey to become tomorrow’s practitioners, innovators, and leaders in medicine and healthcare.
But with the rapidly changing face of modern medicine, thriving in such an intellectually and emotionally demanding field requires support on various levels. As a student-centric school, LKCMedicine strives to foster a supportive, engaging and cohesive environment for its undergraduates.
Associate Professor Pang Weng Sun, Vice-Dean of Clinical Affairs and member of the Student Welfare Committee notes that medical education is intensive and the subjects can be demanding as there are many concepts and knowledge frameworks the student needs to learn.
“Working with patients and their families requires a lot of communication and relationship skills. Students have to cope with their own emotions when relating to people who are suffering. All these have to be learnt in a busy environment and hectic schedule,” he explains, aware of the challenges undergraduates face as they make the transition from adolescence to young adulthood.
Professor Pang adds, “It is essential that we have a good support system to guide them through this difficult journey. This system must be relevant to them, and seen from their perspectives.”
LKCMedicine House System
Often students' academic and non-academic issues and concerns are inter-related and overlap. To provide a more holistic approach to the support and guidance provided to students and to pick up on early alerts that a student may need added support and/or intervention, the School has put in a place a comprehensive House Support System that allocates personal Tutors to individual students. This System aims to provide a combination support structure that is an amalgamation of the traditional welfare and academic tutor system.
Each house has one senior House Tutor and in the first instance, two House Tutors to support the students. At the start of their studies, students are assigned to one of five Houses where they will meet their Tutors regularly as a group and in one-on-one meetings.
“The House System is important because it gives our students a sense of community, belonging and being valued within the larger student body,” says Renay Taylor, Senior Assistant Director of Student Life and Services.
The LKCMedicine House System comprises five different Houses. To inspire the medical students for their chosen profession, the five LKCMedicine Houses are named after historical figures who have impacted the history and profession of Medicine.
Aims of the House System
House Tutors are LKCMedicine faculty who are committed to helping students succeed in the MBBS programme. Students can discuss their well-being and academic progress as well as build relationships with fellow students in the same House.
The Tutors are also trained to guide students with regards to Academic Progress, Mitigating Circumstances, Professional Development, Pastoral Care and monitoring for Early Alerts. A House Tutor's role in academic and welfare support is a major factor in students' understanding of higher education, the curriculum, the demands of the medical profession and the satisfaction of achieveing their academic, personal and professional goals.
The purpose of the House System is to provide all students with at least one member of staff who gets to know them as individuals, who keeps an eye on their overall academic progress and who is concerned for their general welfare.
“The House System will give students the support they need during the times they are needed,” says Dr Tanya Tierney, Assistant Dean and Head of Student Welfare.
Dr Tierney adds, “It is part of the professional duty as a medical student if they are not at their best and to seek help. The House Tutors will act as the first point-of-contact if students need advice regarding anything.”
Students’ academic progress will be monitored closely as a way to check their well-being. For example, if a student’s grades start to fall, it may be an indication that something is preventing the student from dedicating time towards their studies.
Dynamic Learning Environment
To further support and complement the School’s ethos, adequate physical infrastructure will be in place to create a vibrant learning atmosphere for the students. The interim facilities at the Yunnan Garden campus now houses practical and research laboratories and a 66-seat new-style seminar room. The Novena campus, which for now comprises the newly-restored heritage building-turned-LKCMedicine headquarters and a new Education Wing, is equipped with a 180-seat auditorium, 66-seat seminar room, and an interim medical library. Both campuses have been designed to support the School’s pedagogy and facilitate peer-to-peer learning opportunities.
“When finally ready in 2015, the dual campus will offer a bigger and wider array of student-centred facilities for students to learn not only from our distinguished faculty but from one another,” says Professor Lionel Lee, Executive Vice-Dean.
Learning from LKCMedicine's Distinguished Faculty
Professor Lee adds that the facilities will also attend to the social needs of students. Amenities available include a student lounge and rooftop garden and by 2015, a gymnasium, a multi-purpose hall for sporting activities and individual house rooms as well as a café. Additionally, the One-Stop Student Services Hub at the Novena campus will act as a point of contact for students to surface any concerns and needs.
“We are indeed committed to nurture tomorrow’s doctors, and systems are in place to ensure that we are able to support our students on various levels,” says Professor Lee.
LKCMedicine's Technology-Enhanced Learning
The School also affirms the University’s commitment to a needs-blind, merit based admissions policy. In addition to the scholarships and bursaries offered by NTU Office of Admissions and Financial Aid, LKCMedicine offers its own scholarships and bursaries to assist students with financial difficulties.
The all-new LKCMedicine Scholarship and Toh Kian Chui Scholarship will fund tuition fees, living and book allowances, each tenable for five years. The School also offers a generous number of bursaries for students experiencing financial difficulties, thanks to the kind donations of the Lee Foundation and the E I Parrish Trust.
“We are cognisant of the rising costs of medical education and we are committed to ensure that no deserving student is denied an education due to financial hardship. Cost must not be a deterrent for students to apply to LKCMedicine,” says Suzanne Lim, Senior Assistant Director of Alumni, Development and Endowment Services.
Associate Professor Wong Teck Yee, Assistant Dean of Family Medicine and Deputy Head of Student Welfare, believes that the School’s deliberate approach to facilitate a student-centric culture is essential to the whole learning experience at LKCMedicine.
“Educating the next generation of physicians and scientists means responding to the changes in the way students live and learn. We need to look at using innovative methodologies and new technologies to enhance the process of teaching and learning,” he says.
He also notes doctors should give the best medical attention to patients. As such, he says it is important that medical students learn to identify early any factors which may affect their performance.
In addition, the establishment of LKCMedicine Students’ Medical Society (LKCMedSoc) will enhance the university experience for LKCMedicine students. LKCMedSoc will form an integral part of the student life at LKCMedicine and aims to promote the students’ co-curricular, interests, support and welfare needs. Students of LKCMedicine are also entitled to associate membership of Imperial College Students’ Union which enables them to utilise the Union facilities should they visit Imperial in London.
The School’s emphasis on strong student support, team-based learning, use of technology, low student to staff ratio, push for synergistic partnerships and inter-disciplinary approach will foster a spirit that is supportive and responsive of the challenges that students face in 21st century medical education.
“These are bright students – they will learn and adapt. Our role is to be a signpost to point them in the right direction, provide the right environment to help them find solutions for themselves and grow in the process,” stresses Professor Pang.