Admissions Blog

A bit about me

Hi there! I'm Aaron, a first year student in the Duke-NUS MD programme. I graduated from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) with a Bachelor of Engineering (Chemical and Biomolecular) in 2015 and joined Duke-NUS right after.

An Engineer's Journey to Medicine

Graduating from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in 2015 with a Bachelor of Engineering

Since I was a kid, I had always been intrigued by the idea of being a doctor; a professional who is able to provide comfort, assurance and love for the sick. I decided on an engineering degree for my undergraduate studies because I did not know if I was ready to do Medicine then, and engineering had a good mix of my interest in the sciences and mathematics. I enjoyed what I studied in my undergraduate degree but the idea of Medicine always lingered at the back of my mind.

How I got interested in Medicine

There are a couple of reasons that led to my decision to do Medicine. During my undergraduate days, I enjoyed doing community work to help the needy and the sick. It was during those days when I realized how much joy I could give by interacting with the elderly, and saw the impact of forging connections with those in need of our time and help.

Anna Uehara (PhD Student)

Student Spotlight

Fort San Cristobal in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Tell us about your path to Duke-NUS.

I graduated with a B.Sc in Neuroscience with Honors and a B.A. in Music, concentrating on flute performance from Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, USA. During my undergraduate years, I was a member of Professor Kathleen Page’s lab where I studied the effects of altered melatonin levels on the expression of genes involved in the circadian rhythm. After Bucknell, I started my Masters in Global Health at Duke University, North Carolina, USA. For my thesis project, I went to Sri Lanka and spent some time here at Duke-NUS studying Sri Lanka’s dengue epidemics with Duane Gubler and Christopher Woods. After graduating from Duke, I came to Duke-NUS to enroll in the PhD program focusing on emerging infectious diseases. I am now a member of Wang Linfa and October Sessions’ laboratories focusing on pathogen detection from sequencing and serological platforms.

What are some of your interests and hobbies?

Outside of science, my passion is music. I enjoy freelancing on piano and flute or having jam sessions with friends. I also have a strong case of wanderlust and enjoy traveling around the SE Asia region when time allows.

I embarked on a 6-week long trip to the US for an overseas away elective in Abdominal Transplant Surgery in Duke University Medical Center. I also fortunately planned and had the privilege on going for a major international scientific meeting, the annual ASCO GI Cancers Symposium in San Francisco, California. I started the trip touring the east coast's New York City, Boston and Washington DC for a couple of weeks prior to the commencement of the elective as it was my first time in the USA! I thoroughly enjoyed the Big Apple, spending New Year's eve counting down to 2016 at Times Square, visiting famous medical medical landmarks and national monuments in the nation's capital. I also had to eke out some time from the elective for my International Foundations of Medicine (IFOM) exam and the USMLE Step 2CS (Clinical Skills) Exam! The most memorable though was the chance to fly out in a private jet on a trans-state organ procurement surgery followed by the opportunity for scrub up for multiple surgeries to implant these harvested organs. I must say that it was certainly a rewarding and eye-opening 6 weeks, probably the most enriching time of my life!

Here are some snapshots of my amazing time in the US:

1. Traveling and Exploring NYC, Boston, Washington DC before the commencement of my elective at Duke

Danny Tng (Year 1 MD Student)

Student Spotlight

Tell us about your path to Duke-NUS.

I did my Bachelors in Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore. In my final year of Bachelors, I had the opportunity to participate in cancer related research. It was then that I had the dream of contributing to healthcare though research. I decided to stay on for 3 more years at NTU to do my PhD, working on micromachines and nanomedicines for cancer treatment in Prof Yong Ken-Tye’s group. Concurrently, I also had the opportunity to work as a researcher for the NTU x National Healthcare Group (NHG) collaboration project with Adj Prof Tan Cher Heng. During that time I had the privilege of working with many researchers as well as clinician scientists who shared the same dream as me. It was then that I had the aspiration to become a clinician scientist in order to care for patients as well as to have the ability to do research which can directly contribute to taking better care of them in the future.

What are some of your interests and hobbies?

To help those sitting for the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) this coming MCAT season, we interviewed a student who will be joining our MD Class of 2020. We posed the following questions to April, who holds a Bachelor of Engineering (Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering) degree from Nanyang Technological University and scored 520 on her MCAT. She was part of the first few batches of candidates who sat for the new MCAT, launched in April 2015. Here’s how she prepared for the test.

How far in advance of your test date did you begin studying for the MCAT? Were you studying full time or did you have a job/were you still in school at the time? How was your study schedule like?  I began studying for the MCAT one month in advance of my test date (ie. July for my early August test date). As this was during summer of my junior year, I was able to just focus on studying for the test that entire month. Due to the short duration I had to study and the sheer volume of content, my study schedule was 15 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Vanessa Cheong (Year 1 MD student)

Tell us about your path to Duke-NUS.

I spent 4 memorable years studying Pharmacy in London School of Pharmacy (now merged under University College London) in the city of London, United Kingdom before graduating with an MPharm degree in 2013. After completing my 1 year pre-registration training at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) and various institutions, I worked as a pharmacist in IMH's general psychiatric, rehabilitation and the National Addictions Management Service (NAMS) ward before joining the Duke-NUS MD program last year in 2015.

What are some of your interests and hobbies?

I enjoy creative and artistic pursuits in general, especially art and music. I draw and do digital art in photoshop, sing and perform occasionally. I also love the Japanese language and culture and will be happy to have more opportunities to practise the language! My other hobbies include reading, travelling and photography.

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

8 November 2015: Today was the big day. The big day we’d been planning for and organizing for almost a whole year. A lot of time and hard work had been put into making this day happen. Every one of us in the committee contributed lots of energy – be it by email/phone harassing sponsors, planning event logistics, creating event graphics, or keeping track of progress and deadlines. The Paediatric Brain Tumour Awareness day was finally here.

Duke-NUS students all set for Paediatric Brain Tumour Awareness Day

The set-up team arrived early in the morning at around 7am to KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital. Besides the banner that had been set up the night before, there was still a lot of work left to do before the event officially began at 8:30am. Tables had to be placed properly according to plan. Booths and props to set up. Microphones, sound system, and DJ equipment prepped and ready to go. In the blink of an eye, it was 8:30am. Everything was set up and ready to go. The crowd, however, had not arrived.

Setting up

On the 15th October 2015, a group of final year medical students from Duke-NUS gathered together, and walked 50km to fundraise for the Student Financial Aid fund. I was part of the team, and I shall expound on why we did what we did.

Photo of the gang before setting off on the walk

Why fundraise?

Medical school is substantially costlier than most other graduate courses, and it is the school’s strong belief that no student is denied of an education due to financial needs. There is great demand for financial aid as well - around two-thirds of our student population are on some form of financial aid. We took the initiative and actively fundraised for this campaign even though we would not be direct beneficiaries. As seniors who have reaped the fruits sowed by our predecessors, we find that it is only right that we continue to pay it forward to our Duke-NUS community, and help sustain this noble tradition.

Why walk?

A little about me

Two years ago, I graduated from Duke University with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. I’m now a wide-eyed, enthusiastic first year medical student. In the two years between graduation and matriculation, I conducted research in sleep and circadian rhythms with Dr. Joshua Gooley at Duke-NUS. Having known I have wanted to pursue a medicine for quite some time, most people ask me why I didn’t join medical school directly. Why take two years off to do research? I needed a break is what I usually answer. Jokes aside, honestly, instead of going to medicine immediately, I wanted to have an extended opportunity to do research. I have always believed research to be the mother of medicine; so to have unfiltered time to conduct research before pursuing medicine was important for me.

Graduating from Duke University

How I spent my 2 years


Haikel Lim (Year 1 MD student)

Tell us about your path to Duke-NUS.

I graduated with a BSocSci(Hons) from National University of Singapore (NUS), where I read psychology and was part of the University Scholars Programme. Because I was incredibly interested in the spectrum of psychological research, my junior undergraduate years were spent as a volunteer research assistant/minion for a number of amazing mentors both locally and overseas (shoutout to Prof Crystal Park, Dr June Gruber, and Dr Patricia Chen!), and my senior undergraduate years were spent under the tutelage of A/P Konstadina Griva at NUS, where we worked on understanding the issues and barriers facing dialysis and diabetic patients. I spent the next two years after graduation as a full-time research associate for the inspiring A/P Rathi Mahendran and Prof Kua Ee Heok at National University Health System (NUHS), where we strengthened the clinical research arm of the Psychosocial Oncology Service. While at NUHS, I also pursued a part-time research MSc with NUS focused on psychological medicine and biostatistics, before joining Duke-NUS to commence my medical education.