Admissions Blog

Mervyn Chan (MD-PhD Student)

Tell us about your path to Duke-NUS.

I was in the pioneer batch of my undergraduate course - Sport Science and Management which started in 2009. Exercise was my hobby and the thought of being able to learn more about a field I loved prompted me to join the course. It was there that I learnt about basic human anatomy, exercise physiology and biomechanics which provided a foundation for the first year of medical school curriculum. Not that I knew I was going to pursue medicine at that point in time. It was a great 4 years spent doing the things I loved. However, 4th year came and it was time to face reality again.

My final year in the course was when I really thought hard about what I wanted to do post-graduation. Did I want to go into sport science research? Did I want to pursue public health? Did I want to do something in allied health? It was during my 4th year internship stint at Health Promotion Board, where I spent 6 months learning about health policy and public health, when I knew I wanted to work in healthcare instead of elite sports.

Funnily enough, I hadn’t heard of Duke-NUS until the day I went to the houseman canteen for lunch. I saw the tall brown building and became curious about it, so I googled and found that it was actually a post-graduate medical school. As I read more about the school and thought about what being a medical doctor meant, the more I wanted to pursue medicine. I knew that in reality, doctors could not cure every sickness and disease, but I was drawn to the thought of helping people and alleviating them from their disease states. After graduation, I worked for a year as a Research Assistant before applying and enrolling in Duke-NUS Medical School.

project dove mervyn

Enjoying the breeze in Cambodia during Project DOVE 2015

The first two years of medical school were nothing short of life-changing. Life-changing in terms of the challenges faced but also because of the strong friendships that formed between our classmates that made studying and ward rotations fun and interesting. In the third year, Duke-NUS students embark on a research project, and I decided to take up the MD-PhD track. The main reason I pursued this is because I believe that research is important to further medicine; I wanted formal academic training so that I would be able to produce good research in the future. There are other reasons that pushed me to do it now rather than later but I shall spare you the details.

mervyn class md

Food keeps us happy!

What do you hope to achieve in your career as an MD-PhD?

My hopes are that I would be able to answer clinically relevant questions through good quality research that will improve the lives of people. I think probably the same reason for many MD-PhDs out there!

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

TOO MANY! But if I had to pick one I would say it was the faculty appreciation that the Class of 2018 organised. We had a flash mob that year and we practiced in the LEAD room after class, it was truly memorable. The student committee actually came up with a great video and the whole class chipped in on this mega production. All these were done during the hectic year 1 curriculum. It was probably THE best faculty appreciation the school had ever seen.

Anything to say to prospective students?

1) Don’t be daunted by the application process! You only need to go on to the Duke-Nus Youtube channel to hear all the challenges shared by previous students before getting admission into the programme. I definitely spent a lot of time there getting inspired and motivated when I felt the odds were stacked against me.

2) Think hard about whether life as a medical doctor is what you want. It is true when they say that your life will be changed. Getting into medical school is just the start to your lifelong medical journey. Think past the 4 years, talk to people in the industry to find out what life is like after medical school and find out for yourself if it is the right career for you.

Still want to know more? Contact Mervyn at