December 2017 | Issue 33
New Imperial Faculty of Medicine Dean eyes LKCMedicine approach in curriculum review

Editor mug shot.jpgBy Nicole Lim, Senior Assistant Director, Communications & External Relations

Imperial is seizing the opportunity offered by its regular curriculum review process to adopt and adapt some of the innovative curriculum delivery methods pioneered by LKCMedicine in Singapore.

The School’s innovative approach has not only caught the attention of the medical faculty but the College as a whole, says the newly appointed acting Dean of the Faculty of Medicine Professor Jonathan Weber.

Jonathan Weber (Custom).jpg
Prof Weber, who helms Imperial's Faculty of Medicine, hopes to see research ties flourish between the two schools 
(Photo courtesy of
Imperial College London)

“What has impressed me is the way that the medical school and the university have embraced new opportunities, put up new buildings and created a structure which is really of global quality and something to be very proud of,” said Prof Weber, who took over at the helm of one of the world’s leading medical schools in October.

Imperial’s curriculum review comes against a backdrop all too familiar: a need for more doctors, and in particular doctors who choose generalist fields such as family medicine and primary care.

While graduates from Imperial have gone on to pursue careers across the spectrum of medical fields, “the course at Imperial has traditionally been seen to favour specialists over generalists,” said Prof Weber. “And we will need to look much more creatively at how we interact with primary care providers across London in terms of our student interaction.”

The delivery of the pre-clinical curriculum is also being reviewed, and it is here that LKCMedicine’s innovative approach has attracted attention.

Imperial is increasing its current cohort size from 325 to 350 students next year, playing its part to deliver a 25 per cent jump in medical school places nationally by 2020. “And we’re planning potentially to go higher,” added Prof Weber.

To ensure the student experience is maintained, Imperial is keen to move away from the traditional lecture-based course delivery format. Educators at Imperial are looking at LKCMedicine’s technology-enhanced Team-Based Learning and the effectiveness and engagement achieved by this kind of small group learning. Integrating technology into its curriculum to create a conducive and supportive learning environment is another aim.

“This has been done very successfully at LKCMedicine and is informing a wider trend at Imperial to address how we deliver our undergraduate curriculum,” said Prof Weber, who added that the Faculty is also considering some “quite radical” ideas, which will be unveiled in due course.

But it is not just on the education and student experience front that the two sister schools can benefit from their unique partnership. Growing ties in research are also being eyed. The two schools already work on a number of collaborations in the fields of public health, neuroscience and neuropathology, phenomics and non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

“With the inaugural cohort graduating next year, it is timely to consider how the research strengths of Imperial can be best used in conjunction with LKCMedicine as it develops its own research culture and identity,” said Prof Weber. “And this is the most important strategic goal for the relationship with LKCMedicine over the next five years for me.”

The partnership between Imperial and LKCMedicine offers some unique opportunities. For example, aligning resources from UK and Singapore funding agencies allows the two schools to develop highly integrated research programmes that tackle an area of unmet need, setting these joint programmes above the rest. One successful large-scale programme that uses this approach is LKCMedicine Professor of Cardiovascular Epidemiology John Chambers’ research into diabetes.

Another area where Prof Weber hopes to develop more ties in is infectious diseases, which is his own area of specialisation. The HIV expert, who is embarking on a field trial studying the efficacy of a novel HIV vaccine in East and Southern Africa next year, believes that in coming together the two schools could address some of the major pathogens that threaten the region.

The Imperial-LKCMedicine-NTU partnership has also brought benefits to their primary clinical training partners. The medical schools’ partner hospitals, for example, are in talks to develop a framework that enables junior doctors to rotate between the two countries. This not only provides newly minted doctors with invaluable experiences in a different healthcare system but also sows the seeds for new collaborations and partnerships.

With visits from NTU’s new leadership team to Imperial underway, Prof Weber aims to strengthen existing ties and forge new relationships.

“I see the links between NTU, LKCMedicine to be extremely important and from my perspective, I’m eager to see them grow in new directions over the next five years,” said Prof Weber.