ADMISSIONS BLOG

Admissions Blog

Katherine Nay Yaung, Entering class of 2016, MD-PhD

katherine nay yaung

with family

Tell us about your path to Duke-NUS.

Before starting school at Duke-NUS, I graduated from NUS with a BSc (Honours) in Life Sciences (Specialisation in Biomedical Science). I started to toy with the idea of doing medicine in secondary school when I was first exposed to scientific research. Since then, I’ve dabbled in many areas such as microbiology, infectious diseases and neurobiology. Throughout the years, I’ve had many nurturing mentors and colleagues who have inspired me to continue pursuing research. Along the way, I had a few volunteering stints with various organizations, which piqued my interest in healthcare. I came to the realization that medicine would be a perfect blend of these various interests and I’m glad to be able to pursue it.

Have your medical interests changed since becoming a student at Duke-NUS?

Mengge Yu (PhD Entering 2016 Class)

mengge phd

Tell us about your path to Duke-NUS.

I graduated from the 7-year programme of Capital Medical University in 2016 with a Bachelor of Medicine (MBBS) and Master of Medicine (MMed) in Clinical Medicine (Paediatrics). Following my internship in Beijing Xuan Wu Hospital, I came to work with my thesis mentor, Prof. Zheng Huyong, on the immune reconstitution after chemotherapy for paediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), during a 2-year residency in Beijing Children’s Hospital. While working at the bedside of patients, I recognized the current limitations of medical care and saw the urgent need for a change in therapeutic strategies. I realized that this change could only be achieved through medical research, which is why I decided to pursue a PhD at Duke-NUS Medical School, in order to formally train myself to contribute to change.

How did you come to know about Duke-NUS?

I heard about Duke-NUS from my high-school friends who were studying in Singapore at the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University when we were talking about graduate schools.

Did you consider applying to other PhD programmes? How did you eventually decide on Duke-NUS?

Amelia Koe (MD Class of 2018)

Amelia is the poster girl in our widely used 'Inspiring Hope, Impacting Lives' poster that you may have seen on our brochures and flyers

Tell us about your path to Duke-NUS.

In 2004, I decided to spend a few years in The University of Melbourne, Australia, pursuing Bachelor of Biomedical Science. During this time, I did research in a neuroscience laboratory at the Department of Medicine, Royal Melbourne Hospital. Inspired by research and my keen interest in behavioural neuroscience, I ended up spending more than a few years in Melbourne, continuing on to pursue a PhD in Neuroscience. I spent four years in translational research, investigating the mechanisms by which early life stress increases the vulnerability to developing epilepsy in adulthood. My research was conducted in rodent models of human conditions, and while contributing to the field of science, I often yearned to understand these conditions first hand in the human population and to see science in medicine with my own eyes. Nearing graduation, I decided that a medical degree was something I wanted to embark on next. I applied right after graduation, entering Duke-NUS a year later in 2014.

What made you apply to Duke-NUS?

Kwek Swee Sen (MD-PhD Entering 2012 Class)

swee sen md-phd duke-nus
Swee Sen (center) with his classmates

Tell us about your path to Duke-NUS.

I graduated from University of Wisconsin-Madison with a Bachelor of Science in Medical Microbiology and Immunology in 2011. While I was in UW-Madison, I spent 2.5 years in the lab of Professor Shannon Kenney, an Infectious Diseases doctor who also has a laboratory working on lytic reactivation of Epstein-Barr virus in associated malignancies. After graduation, I returned to Singapore and worked as a Research Officer in Singapore Immunology Network under Dr. Katja Fink, looking at B cell development and also the role of natural killer cells in Dengue virus infection. Inspired by clinician-scientists like Prof. Kenney, I applied to the MD-PhD program at Duke-NUS and joined the school in 2012.

How did you come to know about Duke-NUS and what made you apply?

Audrey Khoo (PhD Entering 2015 Class) 

audrey khoo phd duke-nus

Tell us about your path to Duke-NUS

I graduated from the University of New South Wales in 2014, with a Bachelor of Science (Hons) in Psychology and Bachelor of Arts in Music. During my time as an undergraduate, I had the opportunity to work with the UNSW Regenerative Neuroscience Group and SMART Recovery Australia. These experiences gave an insight on how people carried out research to study how computer-based brain training might slow ageing, and also how available literature is used to improve current drug and alcohol rehabilitation programmes. I worked with Professor Gavan McNally for my Honours thesis, studying the role of striatopallidal pathway in relapse and reacquisition of alcohol seeking. That was when I knew that I wanted to continue doing research in behavioural neuroscience. I continued working as an RA in Professor McNally’s lab for a while, until I left Sydney.

Read our interview with Wharton Chan, who joined Duke-NUS Medical School in 2016 as an MD-PhD candidate after graduating with a Master of Biochemistry from University of Oxford. 

wharton singhealth hackathon
Wharton (2nd from left) with classmates at the SingHealth Hackathon 2017

How did you decide on pursuing an MD-PhD?

For many science graduates in Oxford, one thing always lurks at the back of the mind – should I do a PhD? Some dismiss this straight away, as lab work may not be the most enticing sort of career; but for many others, the Part II research experience provides a change in perspective, and may reassure thoughts of a research career. I fall into the latter group – it seemed that I was good at research, I enjoyed research, and it was ‘the right thing to do’.

Liwen Lee (MD Class of 2020)

At the Duke-NUS White Coat Ceremony in 2016 

Tell us about your path to Duke-NUS.

I studied at the University of Edinburgh for my undergraduate degree (in Medical Sciences) and graduated in the summer of 2016, a few weeks later I started my term in Duke-NUS!

So what got you interested in Medicine?

I was a part of St John Ambulance when I was in secondary school, where I not only learnt some medical knowledge but also the value of service. I realised I was super excited learning about the human body/medical conditions and I relished every opportunity given to me to serve as a First Aider. I knew then that I wanted to bring this one step further to pursue Medicine.

So how did you find out about Duke-NUS?

Mervyn Chan (MD-PhD Student)

Tell us about your path to Duke-NUS.

I was in the pioneer batch of my undergraduate course - Sport Science and Management which started in 2009. Exercise was my hobby and the thought of being able to learn more about a field I loved prompted me to join the course. It was there that I learnt about basic human anatomy, exercise physiology and biomechanics which provided a foundation for the first year of medical school curriculum. Not that I knew I was going to pursue medicine at that point in time. It was a great 4 years spent doing the things I loved. However, 4th year came and it was time to face reality again.

My final year in the course was when I really thought hard about what I wanted to do post-graduation. Did I want to go into sport science research? Did I want to pursue public health? Did I want to do something in allied health? It was during my 4th year internship stint at Health Promotion Board, where I spent 6 months learning about health policy and public health, when I knew I wanted to work in healthcare instead of elite sports.

chan wee lee

Having fun while learning

Tell us about your path to Duke-NUS.

I went up to Oxford in 2004 to read Biochemistry. While I was a student at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, I had several incredible tutors who were leaders in the fields of biophysics and structural biology. In my four years there, I was greatly influenced by their work and developed a strong interest in understanding the structures and functions of biological molecules. Upon graduation, I was keen to further my training in this field, and one of my tutors recommended me to a friend of hers, Professor Randy Read, at the Department of Haematology in Cambridge. It was in Professor Read’s laboratory that I pursued a PhD, where I learned to use X-ray crystallography to elucidate protein structures to angstrom resolution.

Duke-NUS Student at Everest Base Camp

One of my fondest memories - trekking to the Everest Base Camp

Tell us about your path to Duke-NUS.

Prior to entering Duke-NUS, I studied in NUS. There, I majored in Chemistry and minored in Life Science and Forensic Science. These subjects allowed me to be exposed to a wide variety of medical-related topics, from Biochemistry to Forensic Medicine. That got me interested in Medicine. In my second year during my undergraduate studies, I enrolled in the Pre-Medical Track, a programme that is designed to expose students to the translation of scientific discoveries at the bench to changes in the healthcare system at the bedside. I went through a seminar-styled module, modelled after the TeamLEAD learning method that Duke-NUS adopts. It was through this programme that I had opportunities to volunteer at local health screening events with Duke-NUS medical students, interact with various Duke-NUS faculty members, shadow a medical oncologist in the National Cancer Centre, and even go on a Student’s Exchange Programme in Duke University in Durham, North Carolina! Eventually, these opportunities strengthened my interest in Medicine and I decided to apply to Duke-NUS during the end of undergraduate third year. I have never wavered in my decision since.

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