Admissions Blog

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.


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.