Admissions Blog

Sophie Zhou, MD Class of 2018 

sophie student spotlight

Sophie (front on the right) and her Team 10 buddies

Tell us about your background.

I completed my undergraduate degree back in China, Sichuan University, majoring in biomedical science. During my final year research project, I was mentored by a renowned clinician scientist who was a hematologist by training. He was an excellent and nurturing mentor who taught me to pursue scientific questions which could bring impact to patients’ lives. With years of experience in clinical practice and patient care, he frequently provided constructive input to my work, giving me his unique perspective on the clinical relevance of my research. With his encouragement and recommendation, I went on to do a PhD thesis on the pathogenesis of asthma in Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine at National University of Singapore.

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

I came to know about the Duke-NUS MD programme when a friend of mine who was interested in medicine asked me to join her for the mini open house. I came to the realization that this programme, with its unique focus on research, was a wonderful opportunity to realize my dream of having a career that marries both research and medicine. I embarked on a journey to pursue my calling and never looked back since.

Would you tell us about how your day/week is like?

I just completed and passed CPX4 (our final MD exam) one week ago, so right now I am doing an elective posting in the Acute Medical Unit at National University Hospital.

We start the day at around 6.30am in the morning with pre-rounding by clerking patients who are admitted overnight, tracing the progress and changes of existing patients and preparing for the consultant to round at about 8:30 am. The morning rounds normally end at about 12pm, but can go all the way to 1-2pm if we have a lot of new admissions.

In the afternoon, we work to ensure that decisions made during morning rounds are effectively executed. These include things like blood investigations, imaging, scope procedures, referrals for specialist consultations as well as inpatient rehabilitation such as occupational therapy and physiology therapy. We also have to prepare a discharge summary and ensure that patients have received all their medications and made follow-up arrangements made.

At around 4-5pm, we carry out exit rounds, which involves reviewing patients’ progress throughout the day with senior residents or the consultant in charge. Our day finishes only after we’ve handed over critical patients to the on-call team.

What are some of the key lessons you learnt from your experience in the clinics or wards?

During my second year patient-centered-care clerkship, I paid frequent home-visits to two elderly patients over the period of a year – this long-term contact with the patients brought me immense satisfaction and taught me many things. I saw the importance of home safety inspection, preventive measures against caregiver burnout and regular pharmacist-guided medication reconciliation (to ensure that the various medication that a patient takes is safe).

I also saw that depression in elderly patients with chronic diseases can often be underestimated and detected late. Fear and frustration from becoming a burden to their loved ones is very common. These experiences reinforced my belief that patient care involves not just physical health, but also involves patients’ emotional, cultural, and spiritual well-being.

What are your career goals?

During my time at Duke-NUS, I had the opportunity to rotate through various medical disciplines. In order to decide on a specialty, I kept an open mind and asked myself which clerkships I enjoyed most, which mentors I had the best interactions with and what patient populations I felt most comfortable with. The answer to all these questions pointed to Family Medicine. It is important to me to maintain a sufficiently holistic view of medicine and avoid too much compartmentalization. I strive to become a doctor who is people-oriented, professional, and empathetic – a good listener and a loyal confidant. Through this, I hope to achieve success in multiple aspects of patient care, whether it is diagnosis, treatment, emotional care, or interacting with families.

What advice would you give international students considering an MD at Duke-NUS in Singapore?

If you have already figured out medicine is your calling, Duke-NUS provides one of the best graduate-entry medical programmes in the region. Apart from excellent mentors and faculty members, we also have great classmates who support each other, which makes for a conducive learning environment. For me, Singapore is a place that is easy for an international student to fit into because of its diverse and multi-ethnic community. In general, people have an open mind and welcome anyone who strives to contribute to the wellbeing of the society.

Want to know more? Contact Sophie at