Admissions Blog

As part of our "4 Years at Duke-NUS" series, we have invited a group of students to share their respective reflections as the curriculum year comes to an end and they move into the next academic year. Our next contributor is Anu, a current MS3 student. Read on as he shares her experience in the 3rd year of medical school.

As the start of our final year at Duke-NUS fast approaches, I was asked to reflect upon my third year experience, and to share some ‘pearls of wisdom’ with the ingoing 3rd years. These reflect my personal views however, and I would advice you to speak with other seniors as well!

The process started with Research week sometime early in our second year, where meetings were scheduled with various clinical departments as well as the research programs within Duke-NUS. Our seniors presented their research projects to us, and that probably helped some of us identify areas of interest as well as research mentors. I didn’t have a clear idea of what I wanted to do – I only knew I wanted to do clinical research. So for the next couple of months I contacted and met with a number of mentors to get an idea about some of the research projects available, and also to get a sense for the support I would have. My current mentor did advise me to work with a department I was interested in applying to residency to, but I figured research skills would be applicable wherever. Looking back, and this is admittedly not new advice:

#1: Third year is an opportune time to let the department you want to apply to get to know you better, and this is really quite a unique opportunity. So if you have a clear idea of what you want to do, you should work with that department.

I met with my mentor a couple of times before third year started to develop the idea for my project, but there was already an existing IRB in place. If given the opportunity, I think writing up your own research protocol will help give you a clearer picture of your research question, and therefore:

#2: It would be a good learning experience to write up your own IRB, or at least learn about the process. That said, IRB approval can take quite a bit of time, and you should start as early as possible. Also find out if there are other forms you have to fill to collect your data etc. and try and get those settled as well.

The other piece of advice I have for picking a research mentor is this:

#3: Ask yourself how much guidance you’ll need from your research mentor – if you think you might need a little bit more guidance, you may want to choose a mentor who isn’t as busy. If you know your mentor is busy, you may want to schedule monthly meetings with his/her secretary early on; it shouldn’t hurt to show a little initiative on your part.

The start of MS3 was very unsettling for me, mainly because I went from having a pre-determined schedule everyday, to having no schedule at all. If you are the sort who needs some form of schedule to work with, you may want to sit down and draw up your own at the start.

The weekly Friday sessions are also a good opportunity for you to start presenting your work, and I felt that I did get constructive feedback from those sessions; it was also very interesting to learn about the projects my classmates were working on:

#4: Attend the Friday sessions, they can be useful. If you are having problems with your project, the faculty is also there to help.

The other unique thing about third year is having the opportunity to attend an overseas conference, and learning about some of the amazing research other people are doing:

#5: Attend a conference!

Apart from doing research and fulfilling the Family Medicine requirements, third year provides you with the opportunity to take a breather from the hectic clinical schedule, and to go back to exploring other areas of interest. I finally had the time to accompany my family GP on a medical mission trip she has been telling me about and also worked with the DOVE team to plan and organize this year’s trip. I was also fortunate enough to participate in the Batam Pediatrics health screening.

My final piece of advice to you would be this:

#6: Take the effort to keep up with your clinical skills.

Third year can be a challenging year, but if approached with the right attitude, it can also be a year of self-discovery and a myriad of learning opportunities. I wish you guys all the best!

By Anu Pandey , Class of 2015