Admissions Blog

First of all, allow me to give some background about myself: I am a first year medical student at Duke-NUS with a Bachelor in Business Management from Singapore Management University (SMU). After being accepted into Duke-NUS, people have approached me throughout the past few months asking the same question, “Why the sudden change from business to medicine?” To be honest, answering the question with a brief, two minute summary usually doesn’t suffice to shed enough light onto my decision making process, and the conversation usually ends up revolving around salary, time foregone, and skillsets unutilised.

graduation rayson

Graduating from Singapore Management University (SMU) in 2014 with a Bachelor of Business Management

I’ve always loved medicine, or at least the image of being a doctor: the giver of life, comfort, and support for people that need your professional opinion or simply some emotional reassurance. But my interests didn’t stop there. I was interested in entrepreneurship, business models and development, science, language, nutrition and health, and the art of understanding the psychosocial aspects of human interaction. It was a struggle to really find what I wanted to do at an early age as a lot of things appealed to me. And doing these things in a spectrum of professions seemed to appeal to one of these aspects or another. I’m pretty sure that many people were in the same frame of mind as I was, and doing a professional degree at an early stage might seem a little daunting.

project espoir

Project Espoir: Giving English lessons to children in Chiang Mai

When I was younger and less informed about my career path, I chose to do business because of the wide skill set that it would give me. Medicine, it seemed, came at too big a risk with a hefty 10 – 15 year initial investment period. I was not ready to make the leap at that point of time. The big aha moment arose when I became more actively involved in community service during my undergraduate experience in SMU. There, we started a student group that aimed to inculcate good recycling habits and instill a mindset of conservation in children. To achieve this, we made lesson plans, video presentations, word puzzle games, and organized arts and crafts programs and reading activities. On another occasion, in the summer of 2011, I took part in Project Espoir, a student-led project to build a community library and give underprivileged children in Chiang Mai English lessons. Holding the opinion that contributing to society comes hand in hand with living meaningfully, it strengthened my conviction that medicine would be the career path for me because I wanted to touch people’s lives on a daily basis and incorporate civic contribution into my daily life.

reading program

Participating in a reading program to inculcate good recycling habits in children

To truly understand the setting of a medical institution, I did an attachment at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (something that I would recommend most prospective students to do) and followed a registrar as he went on call and handled multiple inter-department cases. Witnessing multiple treatments first-hand, I learnt how crucial it was to multitask and consider a plenitude of factors in caring for a patient. Not only is a medical history required, one had to spot the most intricate and negligible of physical details to detect distress before further investigations such as radiographs or blood tests. Doctors had to look after a whole host of patients and ensure that each of them was sufficiently looked after. Inter-department coordination was required, without which logistical problems could arise and disrupt schedules or deny other patients prompt treatment. The breathtaking meticulousness required of doctors, especially in the face of fatigue and long hours, impressed me deeply.

doctor for a day

Participating in the 'Doctor for a Day' program for children during my first year at Duke-NUS

After all this though, there was still the burning question, “Why not just donate money or do something you already have with your business degree, like participate in an NGO or something?”. This is where a good cost benefit analysis should be done, looking at the sacrifices involved, and whether or not I would be a good fit in the industry. Are you interested in the sciences? Are you interested in interacting with people in general? Are you interested in developing and growing the healthcare industry? Do you like working in teams? Are you of an empathetic personality? How does my business degree help me in this industry? Is the investment in time and resources worth it? Medicine tied in these elements and interests nicely for me. A common misconception is that having a non-Science background disadvantages you in this industry and that you will have less to offer. Now that I am pursuing medicine, I acknowledge the lapses in knowledge that I have compared to my peers, especially in areas like drug action and microbe knowledge. But the potential I have in the future far outweighs the diminished technical background that I may have.

As I move forward, the work will be harder, but I know that when I enter the wards, the business acumen and project experience developed will allow me to identify system incongruences and improve the patient experience before, during, and after treatment. I will strive to put my skills to good use, to create a medical system that better integrates its IT systems, inventory management, and financial system to provide a better patient experience.

By: Rayson Lee (Class of 2018)