Admissions Blog

“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

– Franklin D. Roosevelt

In March 2015, while I was conducting my research studies at Duke University (Durham, NC), I joined a team of Duke students and faculty leaders to travel 3,000 miles southwest of Durham to the small town of Las Mercedes, Honduras.

The mission of the trip was to improve access to healthcare in rural areas of Honduras.

The team adjusted to the elevation of the mountain town that sits 5,000 feet above sea level.

At the travel clinic, we were getting comfortable speaking Spanish, and were able to develop a connection with our patients.

We conducted home visits to develop better cross-cultural understanding.

At Duke-NUS, we are not only medical students but also part of the Duke-NUS family. In July, as we transitioned from our embryonic year in medical school to become seniors for the incoming class, we had the great privilege of organizing the welcoming party for the year 1s.

An effective orientation should not only be filled with lots of fun and laughter, but more importantly, help the year 1s warm up to the Duke-NUS family and get comfortable working with their peers. Personally, I benefitted a lot from my orientation and wanted the incoming year 1s to experience the same – if not better.


Cindy Zhu (Year 2 MD student)

Tell us about your path to Duke-NUS.

I was born in Nanjing, China, and moved to Canada with my family at age 7 to the beautiful West Coast city of Vancouver. I did my undergraduate studies at McGill University, where I majored in Physiology and minored in Social Studies of Medicine. During my third and fourth years, I worked as research assistant in Dr. Jon Sakata's neurobiology lab, whose research focuses on the neural basis of vocal communication using the songbird model, a topic that I found quite fascinating. I moved to Singapore in the same summer that I graduated from McGill to join the Class of 2018 at Duke-NUS.

What are some of your interests and hobbies?

Since I was young, I enjoyed playing the piano as I found it a really enjoyable way to express myself. After moving away from home and no longer having regular access to a piano, I started jogging and doing yoga, which are my go-to stress reliever activities now in medical school. I also enjoy exploring Singapore (even if it's from of studying at different Starbucks cafes around Singapore with my roommates during the busy periods) as much as time allows.

Project DOVE (Duke-NUS Overseas Volunteering Expedition), organised by a team of medical students from Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School, first pioneered under the name of Project Karen in 2010. Since then, teams representing Project DOVE have travelled to Thailand and Vietnam annually to improve lives beyond Singapore, by providing sustainable medical care and health education to underprivileged communities.

This year, from 26th April to 1st May, I was privileged to be one of 20 Duke-NUS medical students accompanied by 4 doctors for Project DOVE. The expedition was a collaboration with an NGO called One-2-One Cambodia and featured a 3-day mobile clinic and a 1-day health education programme in Kampong Speu, Cambodia.

Setting up of pharmacy upon arrival at the guesthouse in preparation for the next day’s clinic

For a few months since this March, there has been a new activity added to my usual Saturday morning routine. Earlier this year, I signed up to start taking classes to learn Hokkien, a dialect spoken by many overseas Chinese throughout Southeast Asia, including Singapore. At the time, I was not exactly sure how much I would be learning, especially when we would only have ten sessions. But, I decided to take the opportunity to learn a dialect I was completely unfamiliar with before.

Teacher Spotlight: Introducing Ms Ng Geok

Before diving into this brief learning experience, I want to introduce you to our teacher, Ms Ng Geok. Although retired for ten years, Ms Ng used to work for Mediacorp’s news and current affairs for 39 years as an assistant producer, reporting the news in Hokkien through TV and radio. Even after retiring, she continued to help with their live show for 2 hours every day, up to today.

After attending a seminar hosted by a linguistics professor from Xiamen University and starting a class on Hokkien pronunciation here in Singapore, she was asked to teach Hokkien to the general public after the professor returned to China. It was not until 2009 when she was approached and asked to teach Hokkien to students at Duke-NUS.

Every Saturday Morning


Natalie Wee (Year 3 MD student)

Natalie on holiday in Sydney, Australia

Tell us about your path to Duke-NUS.

I spent three amazing years in London studying Psychology at University College London (UCL), immersing myself in the vibrant city life and the active research scene in cognitive neuroscience. My initial plans to become a neuroscientist underwent a subtle but significant shift during one of my summer research stints - I caught a glimpse of life as a clinician while working under Prof Masud Husain (a physician-scientist) and was inspired to follow in his footsteps and give back to society through both medicine and science. After graduation, I returned to Singapore where I first worked for a year as a research assistant in Prof Michael Chee's lab at Duke-NUS, before joining as a medical student.

Is it possible for a medical student to balance medical school with extra-curricular work and activities? To answer that, allow me to share an experience of mine.

A bird's eye view of the NUS High School of Mathematics and Science

I have been serving as a boarding counsellor in the NUS High School of Mathematics and Science since 2011 in its boarding school. Back then, I was a final year NUS undergraduate. I had decided to apply for the position as I found the opportunity to make a positive difference as well as free accommodation an attractive win-win option. As a boarding counsellor, my responsibilities include mentoring a cluster of 18 mostly international teenage students and facilitating and organizing various boarding school events.

A picture with some of my students during a laser tag fun outing

The first time I heard about Duke-NUS was when I was having brunch with our senior, Kavisha Singh (now an internal medicine resident at Duke, Durham), at the Collins dining hall in CMC. She had just been accepted, and that was when I found out about the wonderful opportunity to study medicine, especially for international students who may have a harder time getting into medical schools in the US, not to mention their exorbitant tuition fees. Also for me, it was a great opportunity to move back to Asia, after having been away for more than a decade while growing up. When I finally received my acceptance email, I was thrilled to start a new chapter of my life in Singapore.

The curriculum at Duke-NUS is quite hectic, as it follows the 1-year pre-clinical, 2-years clinical, and 1-year research as per Duke Durham, so most of the time it feels like information is just whooshing by with hardly any time to consolidate. Yet the school makes it bearable by having their signature TeamLEAD, whereby students get into groups of 6-7 students to discuss and learn together. Not only does this build the base for the following years of clinical reasoning, but also encourages teamwork and a foundation for lasting friendships.


Kenneth Chin (Year 3 MD student)

Tell us about your path to Duke-NUS.

After graduating with a BSc. Hons (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology) from the University of Melbourne, I returned to Singapore to complete my National Service as a Platoon Commander in the Basic Military Training Centre (BMTC) and 4th Battalion, Singapore Infantry Regiment (4SIR). Thereafter, I worked for a year in A*STAR’s Bioprocessing Technology Institute in the Stem Cells lab, before I was accepted to Duke-NUS and commenced my medical education.

What are some of your interests and hobbies?

I have two hobbies that are close to my heart but yet very different in nature: Medical Illustration and Pistol Shooting.

medical illustration

Kenneth’s medical illustrations

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

I find the learning very enriching as we study and work together in small teams. Because of the diverse backgrounds of the students here, we are able to see issues from different perspectives. This often helps us generate new ideas to tackle the issues.


Qasim Hussaini (Year 2 MD student)


On a medical missions trip to Vietnam

Tell us about your path to Duke-NUS.

Prior to coming to Duke-NUS, I was in the US for 8 years. I completed my BSc. in Biochemistry and Genetics at beautiful Washington State University on the west coast. Following graduation I packed bags and headed east to Baltimore. At the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, I worked full-time as a research technologist. My work centered on adult neurogenesis and its implications in neurological disorders. While working at Hopkins, I also obtained a MSc. in Biotechnology with an emphasis on regulatory affairs. Following my time there, I completed a one-year research fellowship with a more translational focus at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota before I joined Duke-NUS.

What are some of your interests and hobbies?

Running, traveling, writing, reading, movies and watching random cat videos on YouTube. Contrary to popular belief, you can definitely have time to yourself during med school to do things that you love and enjoy.