Admissions Blog

Katherine Nay Yaung, Entering class of 2016, MD-PhD

katherine nay yaung

with family

Tell us about your path to Duke-NUS.

Before starting school at Duke-NUS, I graduated from NUS with a BSc (Honours) in Life Sciences (Specialisation in Biomedical Science). I started to toy with the idea of doing medicine in secondary school when I was first exposed to scientific research. Since then, I’ve dabbled in many areas such as microbiology, infectious diseases and neurobiology. Throughout the years, I’ve had many nurturing mentors and colleagues who have inspired me to continue pursuing research. Along the way, I had a few volunteering stints with various organizations, which piqued my interest in healthcare. I came to the realization that medicine would be a perfect blend of these various interests and I’m glad to be able to pursue it.

Have your medical interests changed since becoming a student at Duke-NUS?

A lot of my volunteering experiences prior to starting medical school involved working with children or adolescents, e.g. giving free tuition at Loving Heart Multi-Service Centre, volunteering at the Children’s Cancer Foundation and Ronald McDonald House Singapore. I’ve always enjoyed working with children and interacting with their parents and family members so paediatrics has always been at the forefront of my medical interests. However, being in medical school has allowed me to uncover many other interesting areas that I had never given much thought to before. I’m keeping my options open and will definitely be using this clinical year to explore the different areas!

Do you have any plans for what your PhD research will be about?

Since I started research in secondary school, I’ve tried to explore different areas because I’m interested in a variety of things. I’ve yet to identify an area of interest for my PhD but I would like to work on clinical or translational research, which are areas I have limited experience in. I’d ideally like my PhD research to be related to my medical interests so this year’s going to be a year of discovery and decisions!

katherine team

Enjoying some time together outside school with her team

Has Duke-NUS changed your outlook/understanding of healthcare?

Having been in Duke-NUS for close to 1.5 years has taught me the importance of teamwork in healthcare. In the first year, we had to work very closely in teams for our classes and we were tasked to give regular feedback to one another. I realized the importance of this process of teamwork and optimizing one’s interpersonal relationships during my experiences in the wards. Even before starting medical school, I knew that teamwork was one of the main ingredients in healthcare but I was not aware of the extent of it. In the wards, every team member has a role to play in the care of the patient. There can be very serious implications if just one member were to slip up in his/her responsibilities. Furthermore, inter-team communication and relationships are also important so that patients get great all-round care from the hospital.

What do you do in your free time (interests/hobbies)?

During my free time, I like to go on jogs around school (the Clarke Quay area is simply picturesque, especially in the early evenings). These jogs help me to de-stress and work out at the same time. I also like exploring Singapore’s nooks and crannies when I have the time, and also enjoy visiting galleries or museums for some art appreciation. As someone with a rather spontaneous personality, I tend to take up things in the spur of the moment. For example, I purchased a ukulele before I started medical school because I wanted to learn how to play it but unfortunately haven’t had much time to invest in that. I also enjoy participating in things that are non-medical in nature as I feel that it helps to broaden my perspectives. An example would be the Hitachi Young Leaders Initiative that I attended in Yangon in July this year. It was an eye-opening experience and I made many new friends from around the world.

hitachi young leaders initiative

at the Hitachi Young Leaders Initiative

What was the Hitachi Young Leaders’ Initiative (HYLI) about?

I had the honour of attending the 14th HYLI in Yangon, Myanmar in July this year. It provided a platform for youth leader participants to discuss regional issues with one another. We also had discussions with local government officials and representatives from local organizations on issues pertaining to the local context. These included sustainable urban transportation, environmental sustainability and waste management. It was an eye-opening experience as I got to interact with like-minded peers from different countries and share our cultures with one another.

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

I’ve had many great experiences and opportunities at Duke-NUS and it would be difficult to talk about just one. I must say that taking part in community health screenings and events are very valuable experiences to me because I feel that I’m able to make a difference in the participants’ lives. Some examples include the annual CDAC health screening organized by Duke-NUS, the NUS PHS health screening organized by NUS Medicine, and Camp Simba during my first year of medical school. It was a joy interacting with the participants and the little ones taught me so many things about courage, innocence and love. 

Then, there are also the monthly medical camps organized by 1YOUTH, a group of about 200 young people who participate in various community service projects all over the country. As part of its medical outreach efforts, it has conducted several monthly medical camps across Singapore. Having been in the organizing team for a few of these camps, I’ve had opportunities to work with other passionate young adults and it has been a great experience. Within the group, there have been many ideas for community service projects and we’ve been fortunate enough to have been able to put many of them into action. 

Camp Simba

katherine nay yaung

Part of the organizing team for the monthly medical camps organized by 1Youth

Want to know more? Contact Katherine at