Admissions Blog

Tomasz Jakub Merta, a Polish graduate from New York University Shanghai, attended our inaugural run of the Prehealth Experiential Programme (PrEP) last year, eventually applied to the Duke-NUS MD programme, and will join our class this year. We interview him to learn more about his PrEP experience.

Visit to learn more and apply.

Tomasz (2nd from left) and his groupmate during a TeamLEAD session in PrEP

Tell us about your background and how you ended up in Singapore, coming from Poland and then China. 

I decided to become a doctor instead of a soccer player at the end of junior high school. The idea of studying abroad arose in my mind as an opportunity to explore the world, especially since I hadn’t been able to travel much before. Even then, I never expected that I would come to Asia. I was applying to universities in the US, New York University in particular, when I learnt about the newly-established NYU campus in Shanghai. I decided to apply, and ended up receiving an offer. Following the admitted students’ weekend in Shanghai I fell in love with the city and knew I had to stay.


Clinicians of the future will not only need to practice medicine, but also play a role in improving the practice of medicine. As a graduate-entry medical school, Duke-NUS trains clinicians who come to medical school with a foundation in an undergraduate discipline such as science, engineering and social sciences. This adds valuable diversity into medical practice in Singapore, and introduces fresh perspectives on overcoming challenges in healthcare.

Second year Duke-NUS medical student, Sabina Sayeed, is one example of a future clinician who is a keen educator. Even before joining Duke-NUS, Sabina took up numerous teaching and advisory positions at her alma mater, Wellesley College, where she mentored peers in her residential hall, provided career advice to other students, and served as a supplemental instructor in an introductory biology course. Outside of school, she also participated in community health initiatives at Boston Healthcare for the Homeless, and the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts. We interview her to learn more.

Tell us about your background. What led you to pursue Medicine? 

We speak to a group of MD students to learn more about a health screen they conducted last year.

By: Jonathan Caleb Quek, Bhavya Allena, Patrisha C. Lazatin and Aditya Subramaniam

screening migrant workers duke-nus

Screening migrant workers

Tell us more about the health screen your college is involved in.

Mediserve is a health screen for migrant workers held on 13 May 2017 in Tai Seng Community Centre. We, then first year medical students from Benjamin Sheares College, organised the screen in partnership with HealthServe and Paya Lebar Methodist Church. Our seniors guided us in the planning process and oversaw the consultations that we had with the patients.

Apart from the help from our college masters, Prof Paul Michael Yen and Dr Yong Wei Sean, we were also fortunate enough to work with the HealthServe team and two volunteer doctors from Paya Lebar Methodist Church, Dr Yvonne Loh, a regular volunteer doctor at the HealthServe Geylang clinic, and Dr Tang Choon Leong - who incidentally used to be a Benjamin Sheares College master.

Why serve migrant workers?

Clinicians of the future will not only need to practice medicine, but also play a role in improving the practice of medicine. As a graduate-entry medical school, Duke-NUS trains clinicians who come to medical school with a foundation in an undergraduate discipline such as engineering and social sciences. This adds valuable diversity into medical practice in Singapore, and introduces fresh perspectives on overcoming challenges in healthcare.

Third year Duke-NUS medical student, Anthony Li, is one example of a future clinician who is constantly exploring innovation in medicine and medical education. Apart from being the current head of the MedTECH Student Interest Group at Duke-NUS Medical School, he also explores app development in his spare time and has created an online app that allows his peers to post and share their reflections during their clerkships year. We interview him to learn more.

You studied Electrical Engineering in university. What led you to pursue Medicine?

I graduated from NUS Electrical Engineering in 2013. After working at A*STAR and MOE for 2 years in grant administration and software engineering roles, I decided to pursue my ambition of becoming a doctor.

Yan Xiaoxi, Entering Class of 2017, PhD in Integrated Biostatistics and Bioinformatics (IBB)

Tell us about your path to Duke-NUS.

Hello, I am Xiaoxi from Duke-NUS PhD Entering Class of 2017, under the PhD in Integrated Biostatistics and Bioinformatics (Biostatistics concentration) programme. Prior to joining Duke-NUS, I spend 6 years in the UK studying and working. I completed an undergraduate degree in Biomedical Sciences and Medical Physics at University College London (UCL), during which I had the opportunity to do a biostatistics internship at UCL Institute of Child Health. The internship allowed me to work on epidemiological data where I experienced first-hand the importance and wide application of statistics in the health and biomedical field. That was when my interest in statistics deepened and I went on to do a Master’s degree in Statistics at UCL.

After graduating, I worked as a statistician in the R&D unit of a London-based health tech start-up company, where I delved into the digital health industry, initiated and led a large-scale research project. I then decided to apply to a PhD programme in order to improve and gain more skills in statistics research.

How did you come to know about the Duke-NUS PhD IBB programme and what made you apply?

On average, our students enter the MD programme at age 25, with just 5.5% of them already holding a PhD. Ong Lay See, 31, from the MD Class of 2021, took a path less travelled to medicine. Before joining the Duke-NUS MD programme, she completed a bachelor’s degree in Economics and Psychology, and a PhD degree in Psychology.

The path to medicine is seldom easy, and familial support can play a huge role in one's journey. Lay See was fortunate to have her parents' and husband's full support in her pursuit of medicine. At her white coat ceremony, we spoke to her family members to learn more about their perspectives.

duke-nus admissions blog

Lay See (5th from left) with her family

Admissions: How do you feel about your daughter pursuing Medicine now?

Lay See’s Mum: We are extremely happy and proud of her. We’ve never pressured her to study any particular subject as we’ve always believed in allowing our children freedom of choice. She did well at university and we’re very happy that she is now pursuing her deep interest in medicine and fulfilling her aspirations. Coming from a social science background, it was not easy for her and she had to sacrifice time to gain exposure in medically-related fields.

Katherine Nay Yaung, Entering class of 2016, MD-PhD

katherine nay yaung

with family

Tell us about your path to Duke-NUS.

Before starting school at Duke-NUS, I graduated from NUS with a BSc (Honours) in Life Sciences (Specialisation in Biomedical Science). I started to toy with the idea of doing medicine in secondary school when I was first exposed to scientific research. Since then, I’ve dabbled in many areas such as microbiology, infectious diseases and neurobiology. Throughout the years, I’ve had many nurturing mentors and colleagues who have inspired me to continue pursuing research. Along the way, I had a few volunteering stints with various organizations, which piqued my interest in healthcare. I came to the realization that medicine would be a perfect blend of these various interests and I’m glad to be able to pursue it.

Have your medical interests changed since becoming a student at Duke-NUS?

Medical students in Duke-NUS Medical School have been taking charge of the learning of Singapore’s local lingo for a few years now. A student-run course called LINGO was started in 2014, where they learn health-related terms and phrases in languages and dialects that are commonly understood by patients in Singapore.

We interviewed Ivy Lau, a final year medical student who is a co-organiser of LINGO for this year.

Who runs LINGO?

Ivy: LINGO was initiated by our senior and now alumni from the Class of 2015 – Dr Petty Chen. The LINGO programme has been running for four years and this year’s course was organised by my classmates, Tan Yu Bin, Goh Kian Leong, and me. Each year, the project is handed over to the 3rd year class council.

Why was LINGO started?

Ivy: LINGO was started to improve communication in the wards so that Duke-NUS medical students, who will go on to become doctors, can better understand their patients’ conditions and ultimately improve health outcomes.

While there are interpreters in the ward to help with language barriers, they are not always available. Nurses try to help too but they are usually extremely busy with nursing tasks alone. As such, we try to be as self-sufficient as we can, by learning phrases in different languages, and learning from our peers who are better-versed in the languages we encounter.

How do you decide whether to sit for the MCAT or GAMSAT? These are two different tests that medical schools use in their admissions process. If you are applying to Duke-NUS Medical School, you have the option of taking either, as we accept both for applications to the MD and MD-PhD. Here are 10 things you should know before deciding on the MCAT or GAMSAT.

1. Both are standardized medical school entrance tests, except they are used predominantly in different regions of the world.

The MCAT is developed by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and used mainly by medical schools in the US and Canada, while the GAMSAT is developed by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) in conjunction with the Consortium of Graduate Medical Schools and used mainly by graduate-entry medical schools in Australia, Ireland and the UK. Duke-NUS Medical School accepts both tests for applications to the MD and MD-PhD.

2. The MCAT is held more frequently throughout the year, and at more countries, compared to the GAMSAT.

You should start planning to sit for either of these tests at least a year before you intend to apply to medical school, as seats are limited.

Mengge Yu (PhD Entering 2016 Class)

mengge phd

Tell us about your path to Duke-NUS.

I graduated from the 7-year programme of Capital Medical University in 2016 with a Bachelor of Medicine (MBBS) and Master of Medicine (MMed) in Clinical Medicine (Paediatrics). Following my internship in Beijing Xuan Wu Hospital, I came to work with my thesis mentor, Prof. Zheng Huyong, on the immune reconstitution after chemotherapy for paediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), during a 2-year residency in Beijing Children’s Hospital. While working at the bedside of patients, I recognized the current limitations of medical care and saw the urgent need for a change in therapeutic strategies. I realized that this change could only be achieved through medical research, which is why I decided to pursue a PhD at Duke-NUS Medical School, in order to formally train myself to contribute to change.

How did you come to know about Duke-NUS?

I heard about Duke-NUS from my high-school friends who were studying in Singapore at the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University when we were talking about graduate schools.

Did you consider applying to other PhD programmes? How did you eventually decide on Duke-NUS?