By Amanda Lee, Senior Assistant Manager (Media), Communications and Outreach
When he was studying for his JC1 promotional examinations, Ernest Ong noticed that his right knee began
swelling and he was unable to move much. The sudden swelling was caused by loose pieces of cartilage in his knee, leading to synovitis — a condition when a joint becomes inflamed.
Recalling his ordeal, the sportsman who was then 17 said, “Not only did it dash my dreams of breaking the triple jump record in the following years, but I worried that I was going to have constant knee pain throughout my life.”
Ernest sought medical attention and later underwent a surgery to fix his knee. The former Hwa Chong Junior College (HCJC) student underwent three months of physiotherapy.
“While I did not break the A-division record of the National Schools Track and Field Championships last year, I experienced how my doctor has not only helped me medically, but also motivated me. This proves the power that doctors and medicine have on people’s lives. That for me, was the defining moment to study medicine,” he added.
Ernest is not the only one who felt the caring touch of doctors. His classmate, Ho Wan Xi, also had a similar experience when she was seven. As a young primary school student then, Wan Xi sustained a wound on her face after a fall.
"At that time, everyone including myself was not confident that my wound would heal without scarring. However, with treatment over time, it eventually healed without a trace," said the Victoria Junior College graduate.
"Having seen how healthcare could greatly impact and change someone's life, it made me want to help others too. So I decided to become a doctor," she added.
The Class of 2024 is the largest cohort so far, with 150 students
Hoping to be like the doctors they encountered, the pair decided to pursue medicine and study at LKCMedicine. They were accepted in the Class of 2024 after a rigorous admission process that included a BioMedical Admissions Test and Multiple Mini Interviews.
Answering the calling
Securing a spot at LKCMedicine is no easy feat for the students. More than 900 applications were received for the School's seventh cohort, but only 150 students were accepted. Many were drawn to LKCMedicine, due to its unique school culture, curriculum, and connection to Imperial College London.
For Raffles Junior College (RJC) alumnus Chong Wei Ming who had offers from two undergraduate medical school in Singapore, LKCMedicine left an impression on her after a talk in her school last year. "From the talk, I felt a sense of community. That, and having a large, dependable family to support me during my upcoming journey in medicine convinced me to choose LKCMedicine, where batchmates, seniors, and professors truly care for one another," said Wei Ming, who has been awarded a Toh Kian Chui Scholarship.
Some, such as Koh Tingyuan, chose to read medicine at LKCMedicine as the curriculum features early patient contact opportunities.
"Given the importance of patient-doctor relationships, I believe that learning how to interact with patients from the start will build effective communication skills," said the HCJC graduate. "Especially when the integrated use of technology will enable students to develop relevant skills needed by society, since we are going through the Fourth Industrial Revolution."
The Class of 2024 at the Welcome Reception 2019
Meanwhile, her classmate, Abu Bakar Shakran Bin Mahmood signed on the offer by LKCMedicine as its curriculum is drawn extensively from Imperial, while leveraging NTU's strengths in engineering, technology, and innovation, and the National Healthcare Group's strengths in public healthcare.
"This means I can just study here in Singapore and gain quality academic experience and training, better than or similar to studying abroad," said the RJC graduate.
For Nanyang Scholarship awardee Isaac Tan who rejected an offer to study at University of Oxford's A100 Medicine course, LKCMedicine's TBL approach attracted him. "I actually applied for a few medical schools, but LKCMedicine stands out for me as a school with innovative pedagogy as opposed to other medical schools with traditional teaching methods," said the HCJC alumnus. "I feel that LKCMedicine suits my learning style best."
Sharing his sentiments, Mahima Loomba who was offered a place to study medicine at Imperial College London and Queen Mary University of London said the LKCMedicine unique teaching style really appealed to her.
"Since I am quite an independent learner, I prefer more time being allocated for self-study, such that students can come to class prepared to apply their knowledge, which is exactly what LKCMedicine's TBL approach allows for," said the former RJC student.
Purjita Kiruparan is one of many who is attracted to the school's patient-centred curriculum. "I was particularly drawn to LKCMedicine for its constant focus on celebrating the human aspect of medicine and ethics," said Purjita who studied at RI. "To serve patients wholeheartedly and to become doctors who keep patients at medicine's core is LKCMedicine's goal, and this aligns with my own ambitions as well."
Caring for the community
Hoping to make a difference in society, many students signed up as volunteers in organisations, hospitals and grassroots activities. From their first-hand experiences, they learnt how they can listen and care for people, a trait of a caring doctor.
Rohit Natarajan, a National Junior College (NJC) graduate, volunteers at the mobile library programme at Singapore Red Cross. As a volunteer at TransportAid, Rohit helps disadvantaged patients commute to their healthcare service facilities.
“My experiences at TransportAid highlighted the increasing need for community-based healthcare in Singapore. I also witnessed the suffering that patients with chronic illnesses go through and this definitely solidified my passion to help alleviate their suffering," said Rohit.
Another regular volunteer is Shermaine Loh, who volunteers twice or thrice a month at the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled (MINDS) Youth Group. “My experience with intellectually disabled children motivated me to pursue medicine,” said the RI alumnus. “Volunteering there convinced me that I am capable of making a difference in the lives of others, and also strengthened my resolve.”
The newly-inducted students participated in an activity during the Freshmen Orientation
Others who have previously volunteered also shared their experiences, confident that this will benefit their studies at LKCMedicine.
As a volunteer previously at soup kitchen Willing Hearts, RI alumnus Tan Shane packed and sorted food packets before delivering them to beneficiaries. “It has certainly given me a first-hand perspective on the degree of social work that is carried out in Singapore. I believe the empathy it has bred will serve me well in my pursuit of medical studies,” said Shane, a Lee Kong Chian Scholar.
Jiang Haowen who volunteered at the Meet The People Sessions in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC shared, “Through listening to residents’ stories and interacting with them, I realised how much I would want others to help me as well if I were in their situation. I learned never to take anything for granted and this reinforced my desire to help them,” said the former Eunoia Junior College (EJC) student.
Stepping into the real world
With a strong interest in medicine, many students among this Class of 2024 had enrolled in clinical attachments to get a glimpse of how doctors work. This helped in confirming that a career in
medicine is the right path for them.
After completing his ‘A’ levels at Temasek Junior College, Nicholas Ong did a three-day clinical attachment at Marine Parade Polyclinic. Keen to learn more on-the-job, Nicholas attended three more clinical attachments, two at Mount Elizabeth Hospital and another, at the National University Hospital.
“During my clinical attachments, I mostly observed how the doctor interacted with the patients. I observed how the doctor asked the patient questions to arrive at a diagnosis as well as the doctor’s manner of convincing stubborn patients to accept treatment,” said Nicholas
“What I gleaned the most during the clinical attachments were not merely the doctors’ expertise, but more importantly their kindness and patience when interacting with patients and their families. This helped me to appreciate the importance of good communication skills and bedside manners,” he said.
Everyone in the Class of 2024 is given one of five Houses to belong to, where they can be supported by seniors and tutors, as well as look out for one another
Interested to know what to expect as a doctor, Justin Chou who was studying for his 'A' levels at the INTO University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, shadowed doctors for about a week. At the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, he had the chance to observe a cardiologist perform coronary angiogram on two patients.
"It was really interesting to see how swiftly and accurately information about what had happened to the patient including the dosage and nature of the drugs administered to the patient were communicated across from the paramedics to the team, which allowed the cardiologist to make an informed decision," he said.
For the next five years, these students will acquire medical knowledge, participate in hands-on practical lessons and be posted to hospitals and polyclinics for immersion. Tingyuan added that she is keen on pursuing research later in her career.
"I believe that research is an invaluable part of medicine because it helps to prove old theories wrong as well as lead to new breakthroughs. In such a dynamic field like medicine, the possibilities are endless and research ensures that we are constantly making progress," she added.
The Class of 2024 is the largest cohort thus far, with 150 students
While entering medical school is just the first step on their medical journey, many already have high hopes for the future.
"I would like to understand the intricacies of the practice of medicine, as well as gain basic clinical skills that will form the foundation for my future work a doctor and possibly as a specialist. I also hope to learn how to work with patients effectively to ensure not just the best clinical outcomes but also comfort and assurance," said former RI student Timothy Soepadmo.
EJC alumnus Melissa Wong added, "As a doctor, I wish to be able to serve those who really need help, not only those who can afford it. I wish to be able to use what I learn and my skills to be a blessing to those around me, to be able to do what I can, when I can."