Admissions Blog

To me the New Year period is a time of reflection, for the experiences of the year behind us, and how we choose to move forward from that. In reviewing my experience of medical school so far there are three areas of life that come to mind and I can frame these as three challenges to keep in mind moving into the new year.

Time management skills are an important skill in a medical career, and we must learn these starting from when we enter the profession as students. My challenge for this area is not just to cover assigned reading, but to go beyond this. To find things that interest us and follow up on those, to keep in mind that the things we are learning provide a basis for clinical practice and to look for those links. While picking up additional textbooks might not be that feasible, there are review books that provide quick insights into utility such as the first aid USMLE and boards series, and books highlighting clinical cases that we can apply our burgeoning knowledge to.

Experientia docet in Latin means 'Experience is the best teacher’  
By: Yuka Suzuki, PhD Class of 2013

I am a first-year student at the Duke-NUS PhD Program in Integrated Biology and Medicine (IBM), with a primary interest in cancer genomics. Known as a foodie, I always look for the best food places, in particular Japanese food.

My second love is science, and so I chose to do a PhD in science. However, running computer scripts and churning out huge datasets was something I had never envisioned previously. Once I failed a computer programming class so badly I vowed never to touch a computer terminal again. However, I found myself getting re-acquainted with computational biology as I worked on my master’s dissertation in epigenomics at the University College of London (UCL). This was where I studied how epigenetics could lead to cancer in humans using a technology called next-generation sequencing and where I got my first taste of genomics. 

Joining Duke-NUS was serendipitous because after graduation I still didn’t know what I wanted to specialize in. Next generation sequencing was my first thought. 

If you ever had a doubt about what the word “commitment” means, you should try to ask one of the MD/PhD students – that is of course if you could find them: are they in the laboratory, the vivarium, the Academia, the wards, or the classroom…?

After 2 years of medical school and almost 4 years of full-time graduate studies I now find myself writing about the biggest commitment I have ever made in life. If I could illustrate this concept by calling the past six years a marriage, then it has been quite a fruitful one, resulting in not only scientific discoveries in the field of molecular neuroscience but also in fostering a beautiful collaboration between scientists at Duke-NUS Neurosciences & Behavioural Disorders Signature Research Program and clinicians at the Singapore General Hospital and Bright Vision Hospital.

As a Duke-NUS MD student I have been guided by some of the best faculty on how to be a good doctor and now as a PhD student I have been very fortunate to be taken under the wing of an excellent mentor, Dr. Antonius Van Dongen, who has shown me what it truly means to be a scientist. And I am not special: ask any of the other of our ever-growing list of MD/PhDs what they do for a living and you will most likely get the same answer.

Hello, I am Benjamin Farah, currently in my 3rd year of my PhD at Duke-NUS, under Dr. Paul Yen in the CVMD program. With my PQE (PhD qualifying exam) behind me, I've moved further on into my thesis research, as well as working on writing up some of my earlier projects for publication.

My PhD here at Duke-NUS has been a wonderful program so far. Although I had been out of a lab for a while when I started, it felt good to get back in the swing of research, and work on solving some interesting problems. My clinical year (2nd year of MD) taught me many things, but one thing that stood out is how there is still much unknown about many diseases, and how there is still much that needs to be done to improve treatment. I only hope that during my thesis research I can advance our knowledge, and be a (small) part of a huge effort to improve patients' lives.

Hi everyone! I’m Bernice, a first year student in the Duke-NUS Integrated Biology and Medicine (IBM) program, pursuing my Ph.D. in Cardiovascular and Metabolic Diseases under the supervision of Dr David Silver.

After graduating from the University of Melbourne with a Bachelor of Science in 2007, I started working at the National Cancer Centre as a Research Officer under the supervision of Prof Teh Bin Tean. In my 6 years working in a cancer laboratory, my love for research grew, and I decided it was time to challenge myself by embarking on this new journey.

In our first semester, students are required to complete a core course entitled “Molecules to Medicine”, which is conducted on a team-based learning platform. Lectures were pre-recorded and had to be reviewed prior to class, and through discussions and interactions with our lecturers and group members, I was able to benefit from this collaborative learning environment. What I enjoyed most was to be able to review current scientific literature and to be encouraged to think critically.

I am Javier, a first year PhD student in the Duke-NUS IBM (Integrated Biology and Medicine) program and am currently working in the Cancer and Stem Cell Biology department.

My interest and current area of research lies in cancer metabolism, which involves unravelling part of the mystery of how cancer cells sustain themselves. Before embarking on my PhD journey, I obtained a Bachelor of Biomedical Science degree from University of Western Australia and spent two years living in Tokyo doing volunteer work and travelling in Japan.

During those years, I was fortunate enough to experience the medical diagnostics and paediatric surgery field while interning at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital Singapore, and as a research student in Telethon Institute for Child Health Research Perth. These hospital internships allowed me to better understand the need for translational medicine, which in turn fuelled my passion to pursue a career in research. Duke-NUS offers such an opportunity, especially in the area of translational medical research.

I’m Rena, from the inaugural 2011 batch of Duke-NUS. I’m a general surgery resident at Singhealth and am currently taking a year off residency to do the Singapore-Stanford Biodesign Fellowship this year (2014).

Prior to my medical degree, I graduated with a BSE in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Being trained as an engineer, I have always been interested in medical devices and the medtech industry; and this was one of the reasons why I decided to choose a career as a surgeon.

As a fellow in the Singapore-Stanford Biodesign program, we spend 6 months in Stanford University and the following 6 months in biopolis in Singapore. We work in multi-disciplinary teams including engineers, business and medical personnel to examine clinical needs and learn the biodesign process. The Biodesign Process was developed in Stanford as a systematic approach to identifying clinical needs and the invention and implementation of new biomedical technologies.

Our program just started on 6 January 2014, and I am very much looking forward to this adventure. In the long run, I hope to be able to invent & innovate medical devices to advance patient care and also inspire future generations of young surgical innovators in Singapore.

As part of being a comprehensive health screening event, we couldn’t have missed the opportunity to carry out some public education on health issues. Afterall, prevention is always better than cure so what better method than educational health talks that help create awareness for the participants of the CDAC event.

The task of the talks were undertaken by 4 of us Duke-NUS MS2 students (Owen Png Ziyun, Tan Shih Jia Janice, Sun Jing Feng and myself- Huang Youyi). We pondered carefully which topics that would benefit most of the participants during the event. As most of the participants were aged between 35-60 years of age, we decided on hypertension, diabetes, osteoarthritis and osteoporosis, which were some of the most common ailments that often strike this age group as well as ailments that can be delayed/prevented by empowering people with knowledge. Carefully crafting these talks and slide shows, we had to ensure that the information we gave was pertinent, relevant as well as accurate.

On the 8th of December, members of the Eugene Stead College (College 3) spearheaded the Health Screening event for the Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC). This was part of the CDAC’s annual event, “CDAC Ready For School 2013”, kindly hosted by Nanyang Junior College. The event seeks to help local underprivileged families through a carnival, where participants could attend talks, receive holistic services and participate in activities to prepare for the upcoming school year.

Our school’s inaugural involvement at the event was the brainchild of our Overall Project Co-ordinator, Ms Ho Shu Fang, who helped to link up Duke-NUS with CDAC, planning and ensuring the smooth operation of the entire event. We started with a vision to detect asymptomatic participants who were at high risk of common preventable diseases, so that they could be directed to the relevant channels for early intervention. We also wanted to create awareness about lifestyle choices that lead to healthy living. In the process, we could also provide our medical students a chance to give back to our local community.

After 8 fulfilling weeks of our first clinical rotation, my classmates and I finally had our hiatus from the wards. During the weekend that ensued, a couple of us decided to participate in the outreach program “Doctor for a Day” organized by Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital. For many of us, it was an interesting notion for it granted us the opportunity to interact with children enthusiastic to discover what life as a doctor entailed and a chance for us to pay it forward after benefiting from the lessons from our clinical faculty during our brief stint in the wards.

The event featured different aspects of clinical life from the happenings in a general practitioner’s clinic to the accident & emergency department and the operating theatre, just to name a few. Hosting slightly more than a hundred children with ages ranging from as young as 4 to 10, all of us had a great time interacting with the kids and sharing with them the inner workings of the medical profession.

Class of 2016: Caroline, Jinyi, Natalie, Edwin, Geraldine, Chieh Hwee, Jia Loon (from left to right)