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.

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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.

I chose to study Neuroscience as it appeared to be an exciting major that was relevant to medicine. I gradually developed a passion for Neuroscience through my experiences learning from some of the greatest specialists in the field, both in Shanghai and in New York.

When I started thinking about medical school, I knew I wanted a US-style education, but at the same time because of the great experience I had in China, I also wanted to stay in Asia. When I first found out about Duke-NUS, I couldn’t believe such a perfect match for me actually existed. Despite being far away from home, pursuing medicine in Singapore would align with my life philosophy of experiencing other cultures and immersing myself in other societies. I had not been to Singapore before, so when I found out about PrEP through a newsletter, I applied right away.

What impression of Singapore and healthcare here did you have before you joined PrEP?

I knew Singapore was a well-developed city-state with high quality healthcare. I also read up on its history and learnt about the rich ethnic mix, and watched all the timelapse videos there were. I expected I would love the weather there (I actually love the heat).

What interested you about PrEP that made you apply?

The possibility of visiting Singapore for the first time and meeting people from the school, including administrators, faculty, and of course, the students. I wanted to gain a better understanding of the Duke-NUS and what it was like to study of medicine there, from an insider’s perspective. Choosing to pursue an MD degree, especially in a foreign country and with a 4-5 year service bond after graduation is a serious commitment, so participating in such program at Duke-NUS seemed like a sound idea. Furthermore, I was also curious to see if the experience would shed further light on medical practice from a more direct, hands-on perspective.

clinical skills

Hands on basic clinical skills workshop during PrEP

Were there things that surprised you while you went through PrEP?

Ever since the 9th grade when I decided I wanted to become a doctor, I never questioned my choice and for years took this path for granted. But, at some point during the PrEP I felt compelled to question myself. I believe that one of the programme’s objectives is to challenge you to reflect on your desire to become a doctor. Do you REALLY know what it’s about? Are you READY for this commitment? Those questions might seem a bit intimidating at first, but in the end left me feeling more confident that the path I chose is the right one.

Did PrEP give you a better understanding of what it would be like to study and practice medicine here in Singapore?

Definitely. I didn’t know much about medical practice in Singapore before. One of the activities in PrEP was a polyclinic tour where we could observe patient consultation. I was able to talk to practicing doctors and experience their daily routines from a close perspective. Duke-NUS MD students were also present at all times ready for a chat about anything I wanted to ask.

PrEP participants on a polyclinic tour

Is it useful for potential applicants to attend PrEP if they are considering medicine?

It is a great opportunity for internationals who haven’t been here before, especially if they haven’t experienced living in Singapore, or Asia in general. For Singaporeans specifically, I think it is a chance to understand what a US-style graduate-entry medical school is like, as I suppose this differs from local undergraduate medical schools.

For both Singaporeans and internationals potential applicants it is a wonderful chance to get a better sense of what being a doctor actually means and the commitment involved. PrEP covers areas that reveal aspects of practicing medicine beyond what we usually see on the surface, areas such as the importance of communication, empathy, and the physician’s role in the context of social health. Attending this programme will definitely help you reflect on your chosen vocation and determine whether it is the right path for you.

prep 2017

Tomasz (extreme left) and his teammates during their final presentation

We’re looking forward to having you join our MD class this year! What are you doing in the meantime?

I am currently working as a Research Assistant in a Neuroscience Lab at NYU Shanghai, where we investigate the mechanisms of economic decision making in rodent models. Apart from that, I am about to join a soccer team as the weather in Shanghai is getting warmer. I am also enjoying my last few months of relative freedom before enrolling in the MD programme!

Still want to know more? Contact Tomasz at