Musings of an LKCMedicine pioneer

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By Professor Lionel Lee, Executive Vice-Dean


I started work as the Chief Operating Officer, later Executive Vice-Dean, of the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine (LKCMedicine) on 6 May 2011. I felt a great sense of exhilaration. I was eager to get on with the task, willing to face any challenge, overcome any obstacle to get the job done and achieve outstanding success. The challenge to start a medical school, build up its organisation and structures from scratch is a rare opportunity. The last time an undergraduate medical school was started in Singapore was in 1905.

In 2010, LKCMedicine was born; and our founding Dean was Stephen Smith, who concurrently served as Principal of Imperial’s Faculty of Medicine and was based in London. On the ground, Martyn Partridge as Senior Vice-Dean and I as Executive Vice-Dean, one from London representing Imperial College London and the other from Singapore representing Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, got to work quickly. It was a joy to work with Martyn; both of us passionate and committed, working tirelessly, and it seemed endlessly, to achieve a mission which offered no room for failure.

Now, only six years later, I am glad to report that with the help of all who count themselves as LKCMedicine pioneer staff, we have been largely successful:

  • We built an effective team of faculty, researchers and administrative staff, united in our purpose and mission to succeed; all working in a collegiate and congenial manner. From a team of six individuals – Martyn, Chan Wei Chuen, Paul Gagnon, Janet Teo, Lydia Tan and I – the School now boasts a team of 364 full-time faculty, researchers and administrators and 324 adjunct and joint academic appointees, headed by our Dean, James Best.
  • Pushing towards academic excellence, we established our innovative MBBS and PhD curricula, transformative research capability and synergistic partnerships with top medical schools and research institutions in Singapore and around the world. A large part of the MBBS education effort came from LKCMedicine’s London Office led by Jenny Higham, Naomi Low-Beer, Mike Barrett, John Laycock and Paul Ratcliffe.
  • With assistance from the National Healthcare Group leadership, Chee Yam Cheng, Philip Choo and Lim Tock Han, and the effort of our clinician Vice and Assistant Deans, Naomi, Pang Weng Sun, Tham Kum Ying, Chin Jing Jih and Wong Teck Yee, we quickly established very good relationships with all the government-linked hospitals enlisting them in our education mission. Today, we have 274 adjunct clinical academic appointees from various hospitals teaching our medical students.
  • We started with the first MBBS intake of 54 students in August 2013, and less than two weeks ago, we matriculated our fifth cohort of 120 medical students; while in January 2016, we started taking in our first cohort of LKCMedicine PhD students.
  • From two interim offices at the N2 building in NTU’s North Spine and Research Techno Plaza, we now have four buildings: the HQ, a restored iconic 1924 building; the Toh Kian Chui Annex; the Clinical Sciences Building; and the Experimental Medicine Building. We have provided state-of-the-art teaching, learning and research spaces.

There is much personal satisfaction, but most of all I feel very blessed and thankful for:

  • My superiors, James, Dermot Kelleher, Stephen, Martyn, Jenny, NTU President Bertil Andersson and Provost Freddy Boey who have not only been extremely supportive and collegial but have worked hard to deliver a first-class medical school.
  • The LKCMedicine Governing Board led by Chairman Lim Chuan Poh who have been behind the project 100 per cent and immersed themselves wholeheartedly and selflessly in the affairs of the School.
  • My colleagues, Naomi, Weng Sun, Tanya Tierney, Mike Ferenczi, Russell Gruen, Phil Ingham, Balázs Gulyás, Annelies Wilder-Smith, Wei Chuen, Janet, Siti Rohanah Koid, Ruth Choe, Paul, Tan Hee Kiang, Lydia, Andrew Ang and Suzanne Lim who worked as a tireless and effective team. We always kept the mission in mind and for us, failure was not an option.

What LKCMedicine has achieved should make the pioneer and current team justifiably proud. We are officially opening the School today and this is just the beginning. With everyone pushing the frontier, expanding the boundary; LKCMedicine will have many more good years to come.