ADMISSIONS BLOG

Admissions Blog

Deciding to pursue medicine as a career is not a decision anyone takes—or should take, for that matter—without careful consideration. This is especially true if you are considering diving into medicine as a post-graduate student (read: old[er] person). And, perhaps, this may be an even more difficult decision to make if you come from a non-traditional (i.e. non-premed) background. My name is Haikel, a second year medical student, and I hope to provide you with some insight into why, and how, I went from psychology to medicine, and how it has helped me so far, so that it may possibly help you make a more informed choice (too long?—skip to the last paragraph).

Curiosity Killed the Cat

haikel dance

My favourite co-curricular activity, pre-university, at least, was Indian Dance; it is now sleep.

haikel community service

My other favourite co-curricular activity was volunteering; one of the many projects we organised as High Five Youth was this roadshow to educate youth on dementia.

Year Two

After a year of TeamLEAD sessions in the classroom, the second year Dukies will be released into the real world. It might seem exciting to some and scary to others, but it is definitely an experience that is unique to the life of a medical student. One way to think about this experience might be to compare it with the concept in the olden days of an apprentice, where the young disciple learns first-hand from his master how things are done, and at times even tries his hand at some tasks.

Modern day learning is more structured. The ward learning experience is broadly divided into six specialties, each lasting four to eight weeks, called clerkships. The schedule differs slightly across different clerkships but generally speaking, the student attends and even participates in morning rounds, specialist clinics, and specialized procedures, if any. This is supplemented with specialised teaching sessions in the wards, like bedside tutorials. Through these, the student should be able to pick up skills in examining and communicating with a patient, to read signs and obtain necessary information to make diagnoses and plans for the patient.

Longitudinal Integrated Clerkships

chan wee lee

Having fun while learning

Tell us about your path to Duke-NUS.

I went up to Oxford in 2004 to read Biochemistry. While I was a student at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, I had several incredible tutors who were leaders in the fields of biophysics and structural biology. In my four years there, I was greatly influenced by their work and developed a strong interest in understanding the structures and functions of biological molecules. Upon graduation, I was keen to further my training in this field, and one of my tutors recommended me to a friend of hers, Professor Randy Read, at the Department of Haematology in Cambridge. It was in Professor Read’s laboratory that I pursued a PhD, where I learned to use X-ray crystallography to elucidate protein structures to angstrom resolution.

Medical Education Financial Aid

Financing a medical education can be challenging and is a huge factor that many MD applicants have to consider. Our school helps students tap on various resources to meet financial needs, including bursaries and merit scholarships. We interviewed an MD student from the Class of 2019, who shared how he finances his medical studies.

What sort of financial aid did you receive when you applied to Duke-NUS Medical School?

As a beneficiary of the School’s financial aid, I am extremely thankful for its generous support. In my first year, I received a Duke-NUS bursary that covered about 75% of my school fees. That helped to reduce the financial burden of attending medical school. I also took a Tuition Fee Loan (TFL) from a local bank that was made possible by MOE and NUS. The maximum TFL that can be taken is 90% of what a Singapore Citizen pays in tuition fees.

How did you finance the remainder of your fees?

In May this year, the 'Student Steps Challenge' was launched, spearheaded by Paik Kwan Woo from the Class of 2018. We speak with Kwan to find out more about how the challenge came about.

What is the Student Steps Challenge?

Kwan: So the Student Steps Challenge is a competition between the four colleges to see which college can amass the most steps within 8 weeks. The college that has the most steps overall will be awarded with a food party + bragging rights.

All the students were given a Mi Band at the beginning of the competition in May. They then had to key in their weekly steps at the end of each week into a google form. All the results are then collated into a graph that shows live updates. All this was made possible by the tech savvy (wizardry) of Elysia Su at Student Affairs. In addition to the grand prize for the college, we also have some individual prizes (e.g. ‘Most Steps’ each week, ‘Most Improved’, ‘Best Trash Talker’) to further encourage students to take a few extra steps every day.

MI Band

Mi band that each student received

What sparked this idea?

Duke-NUS Student at Everest Base Camp

One of my fondest memories - trekking to the Everest Base Camp

Tell us about your path to Duke-NUS.

Prior to entering Duke-NUS, I studied in NUS. There, I majored in Chemistry and minored in Life Science and Forensic Science. These subjects allowed me to be exposed to a wide variety of medical-related topics, from Biochemistry to Forensic Medicine. That got me interested in Medicine. In my second year during my undergraduate studies, I enrolled in the Pre-Medical Track, a programme that is designed to expose students to the translation of scientific discoveries at the bench to changes in the healthcare system at the bedside. I went through a seminar-styled module, modelled after the TeamLEAD learning method that Duke-NUS adopts. It was through this programme that I had opportunities to volunteer at local health screening events with Duke-NUS medical students, interact with various Duke-NUS faculty members, shadow a medical oncologist in the National Cancer Centre, and even go on a Student’s Exchange Programme in Duke University in Durham, North Carolina! Eventually, these opportunities strengthened my interest in Medicine and I decided to apply to Duke-NUS during the end of undergraduate third year. I have never wavered in my decision since.

The Cookie Project is a peer teaching initiative started in 2016 by the graduating Class of 2016, to help our junior classes be better equipped in their clinical skills - from bedside tutorials on targeted history taking, physical examination and oral presentation to didactic lectures on topics such as X-Ray and ECG interpretation. This became our final “farewell” gift to our school!

How the project came about 
The idea came about during the long and tedious process of preparing for CPX4, our final MD exam. We were fortunate to have good junior doctors (alumni from both Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine and Duke-NUS), and senior doctors who took time off their rest hours to give us bedside tutorials. We also had very nice patients who willingly let us examine them so that we could pass our exams and graduate as doctors.

After passing CPX4, I thought we should not let the good effort end there. We had a window period of about 2 months before graduation and this was a period where we were at our peak proficiency in our medical school journey. Instead of letting our clinical skills atrophy without further benefitting anyone, a group of us decided that we should pay it forward and organise small group teaching sessions for our juniors.

Project Dove, the Duke-NUS Overseas Volunteering Expedition, organized annually by Duke-NUS medical students, aims to improve health efforts in the surrounding regions. Last month, our team of students and faculty conducted a 3-day mobile clinic and health education program for the underserved in the town of Lembang, located in the province of West Bandung, Indonesia. With the help of local translators, they provided health screening and treated common medical problems to the townsfolk, and educated children and teachers at an orphanage on personal hygiene and basic first aid skills. Here are some pictures from our trip:

Duke-NUS Overseas Volunteering Expedition

Angela (Class of 2017) and Lianghe (Class of 2019) listen attentively to a patient's issues

 

Checking the Patient

Xueling (Class of 2017) listening to a patient's lungs and heart

 

Tell us about your path to Duke-NUS.

Before coming to Duke-NUS, I did my undergraduate studies in NUS and majored in Pharmacy. During my third year of studies, I did a 6-week hospital attachment and that experience shifted my sights to a possible medical career. After I graduated, I trained as a pre-registration pharmacist in National University Hospital (NUH) for 9 months and subsequently took some time off to develop my sporting interests before starting in Duke-NUS.

White Coat Ceremony Day

White coat ceremony day with my parents

What are some of your interests and hobbies?

I love playing sports. It’s all fun, friends and exercise wrapped into one. Most of the time, I play touch rugby and last year, I went to the Touch World Cup 2015 that was held in Australia. It was an awe-inspiring and humbling experience to play against the best teams in the world. Being active helps keep me balanced and sane so I still play in leagues games on Saturdays whenever I can.

Would you share a great experience or opportunity you’ve had at Duke-NUS?

A bit about me

Hi there! I'm Aaron, a first year student in the Duke-NUS MD programme. I graduated from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) with a Bachelor of Engineering (Chemical and Biomolecular) in 2015 and joined Duke-NUS right after.

An Engineer's Journey to Medicine

Graduating from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in 2015 with a Bachelor of Engineering

Since I was a kid, I had always been intrigued by the idea of being a doctor; a professional who is able to provide comfort, assurance and love for the sick. I decided on an engineering degree for my undergraduate studies because I did not know if I was ready to do Medicine then, and engineering had a good mix of my interest in the sciences and mathematics. I enjoyed what I studied in my undergraduate degree but the idea of Medicine always lingered at the back of my mind.

How I got interested in Medicine

There are a couple of reasons that led to my decision to do Medicine. During my undergraduate days, I enjoyed doing community work to help the needy and the sick. It was during those days when I realized how much joy I could give by interacting with the elderly, and saw the impact of forging connections with those in need of our time and help.

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