Admissions Blog


Gwen Hwarng (Year 1 MD student)


Gwen (standing, right behind) and her team enjoying a feast at Gluttons’ Bay: celebrating one teammate’s birthday and showing another (international) teammate the sights and sounds of the Singapore River.

Tell us about your path to Duke-NUS.

I did my undergraduate studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Go Tar Heels! And go Blue Devils of course). I majored in Public Health and Nutrition.

What are some of your interests and hobbies?

I love to dance. In my younger, fitter, free-er days, I used to do Malay and Chinese dance. The feeling of moving in synchrony with a whole troupe of dancers is pretty amazing. These days, my main source of movement is limited (sadly) to walking to and from the MRT station.

featuring members of Team 1: Muhammad Zulhakim bin Aman; Chan Huan Hao, Mervyn; He Huiling; Koh Shu Qing and Ong Yan Zhi, Ayden

The Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School curriculum is based largely on that of Duke University School of Medicine. However, the Duke-NUS learning philosophy includes a large element of team-based learning. Pre-clinical year students are divided into teams of six or seven. Throughout the year, in-class activities include TeamLEADs and tutorials, during which clinical cases are used as teaching material, and students work through the cases in their teams to answer questions set by the faculty.


When I arrived at Duke-NUS last July, I found myself assigned to Team 1. None of us knew one another initially, and after the whirlwind three weeks that was Foundation Course, we were declared ready to work together as a team by the trainers from Duke Corporate Education.

What does it mean to have a calling? When I was six years old, I dreamt about taking to the skies as a pilot after putting together a plane model. Four years later, becoming a scientist seemed like a great idea although I never really understood what a scientist did.

At 16, I was certain I belonged in the film industry after trying my hand at producing a short film. That was it - I shall produce a blockbuster! I never thought of being a doctor.

Then at 18 years old, I took a leap of faith and applied to read Pharmacy in university. I realised that I enjoy the science behind the production of medicine. So instead of producing a blockbuster film, naybe I can play a part in producing the next blockbuster drug.

L-R: Zulhakim at 6, and at 18 years old (amy training started early)

Zulhakim (2nd from right in both photos) with his friends from the theatre

Hello there. Allow me to introduce myself. My name’s Brian Chan. I’m a Singaporean and physician-in-training with the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School Singapore MD programme. My college days were spent roaming around the Faculty of Science at the National University of Singapore, where I chanced upon a BSc (Hons) in Life Sciences.

Having a coffee break with my friends Kian Leong (left) and Mei Xing (right). I'm the one in the middle.

Wearing our favorite swimwear to the beach. Putting on a singlet for a jog at the Botanic Gardens. Dressing up in summer wear for a walk down the shopping alley. While most of us can do these things without much thought, many psoriasis patients are unable to do these easily. With rashes of salmon pink and silvery flakes occurring on prominent parts of their body, public attention is drawn easily to patients with psoriasis. Patients often face social ostracism as many people believe that psoriasis is infectious and heritable. Public awareness of the condition can greatly help improve these patients’ lives

world psoriasis day

A few of us who participated in World Psoriasis Day

18th October 2014 was the day that World Psoriasis Day was cerebrated in Singapore.   The DermSIG medical students from Duke NUS Graduate Medical School and NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine joined other healthcare professionals and patients to better understand the perspectives of the public on the condition.

First of all, allow me to give some background about myself: I am a first year medical student at Duke-NUS with a Bachelor in Business Management from Singapore Management University (SMU). After being accepted into Duke-NUS, people have approached me throughout the past few months asking the same question, “Why the sudden change from business to medicine?” To be honest, answering the question with a brief, two minute summary usually doesn’t suffice to shed enough light onto my decision making process, and the conversation usually ends up revolving around salary, time foregone, and skillsets unutilised.

graduation rayson

Graduating from Singapore Management University (SMU) in 2014 with a Bachelor of Business Management

Eczema is a chronic itchy skin condition. In most circumstances, it is not fatal and does not result in significant physical morbidity. This has often led the condition to be branded as “benign” by both the medical community as well as the general public. But in reality, it has been shown to have great negative impact on the quality of life of patients, especially when it’s inadequately controlled.

The appearance of lesions as red, oozy and angry makes patients appear to have an infectious condition. This leads to social isolation, teasing and bullying by peers and acquaintances, which may inhibit their activity, play, and social interactions that are fundamental to their development.

To allow patients a chance to better understand their condition, support groups for the condition have been formed by the KKH Dermatology Service and National Skin Centre. The support group conducts biannual Eczema camps. In November 2014, students from the Duke-NUS Dermatology Interest Group joined tertiary students from SMU, NUS Yong Loo Lin and La Salle College of the Arts to organize and help out at the event, held at two locations in Singapore.


A confident-looking young man in his medical scrubs stares confidently into the mirror, proud to be starting his medical career. Sauntering into the hospital, a busy nurse stops him and starts giving him orders. His blank stare was followed by this famous monologue...

“Four years of pre-med, four years of med school,
and tons of unpaid loans
have made me realize...I don't know jack.”

This iconic opening scene from the popular television comedy series, “Scrubs” is hilarious but accurately sums up the emotions of a first-year medical intern.

My first day was a nightmare. I was the Solo House Officer1 attached to a busy surgical team with 30 patients, a much higher ratio than normal. A Solo House Officer is a tragically ironic name since “solo” conveys that you are independent and in control, however the reality is overwhelmingly the opposite. You are saddled with so many responsibilities and work that your primary function of stepping out of the hospital is to nap and shower so that you don’t spread head lice to your colleagues. Looking back, it’s a miracle I survived those days.

As part of our "4 Years at Duke-NUS" series, we have invited a group of students to share their respective reflections as the curriculum year comes to an end and they move into the next academic year. Our fourth contributor is  Dr Joshua Chua (Class of 2014). Read on as he shares his experience in the fouth year of medical school.

Advice for the Fourth Year

So now you’re in your final year; you’re striding into wards with confidence exuding, casually waving at professors and hitting questions out of the park like a boss… well at least some of your classmates seem like they are..

Fourth year of medical school can be quite an exciting and positive year, on one hand, there is quite a bit of stress over residency applications, on the other hand, its the part of your medical school education where you get to be more relaxed and have more control over your time.

While it might seem that the amount of available time is relatively abundant, it would be good to prioritize on a few things

Invest in your career

Dr Jaemin Park, a graduate from Class 2014, is currently a Pathology resident at Baylor College of Medicine, US. Prior to graduation, Jaemin spent two months in India (one month in Tenali as a volunteer in an orphanage). The town of Tenali has few foreign visitors and even fewer foreign volunteers. The entire town soon knew about Jaemin and two local Telugu Indian newspapers even featured him. Jaemin shares his story.


Jaemin with Dr T Thirumoorthy at the Duke-NUS Graduation & Hooding Ceremony on 31 May 2014. Dr Thirumoorthy taught the class about the importance of empathy in young doctors - something that resonated deeply with Jaemin during his time in Tenali

Towards the end of my 4th year in medical school, I thought, ‘Why not use the two months until graduation to do something truly meaningful?’ I knew that once residency began, it will be challenging to commit myself for a long volunteer trip.