Making the pledge, virtually

The Duke-NUS Class of 2020 recited the Hippocratic Oath in a historic virtual ceremony, marking their transition from students to doctors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Class of 2020
The Duke-NUS Class of 2020 recited the Hippocratic Oath in a historic virtual ceremony on 29 May 2020

On Friday, 29 May 2020, the 10th Duke-NUS Doctor of Medicine (MD) Class recited the Hippocratic Oath, in sharp blue Duke-NUS scrubs, faces bright and focused, and voices fairly audible, via the ZOOM teleconferencing platform and confirmed the acceptance of their personal and professional responsibilities as they joined the medical profession.

Given the unprecedented circumstances posed by COVID-19, Duke-NUS commemorated the transition of the Class of 2020, from students to clinicians, by organising a virtual Hippocratic Oath Ceremony, a first in the School’s – and the Nation’s – history. Reciting the oath took on greater meaning as the graduates join the medical workforce at a critical time of need and step forward to contribute to Singapore’s fight against the novel coronavirus.

Swearing the Hippocratic Oath occurs at two points in a clinician’s journey. At the White Coat ceremony during their first year of medical school, and in their final year, when they complete their formal medical education. Dr Lee Li Wen, who was active in community service projects throughout her time at Duke-NUS, shared what the Ceremony meant to her and said, “The Hippocratic Oath Ceremony has always been an outward declaration of our commitment to upholding the values of Medicine, whether done virtually or in person. Importantly, it also means something personal for us all as a small graduating batch, that we may hold ourselves accountable as we begin our careers together.”

The Class of 2020 includes individuals with past careers and backgrounds in industries as diverse as law, engineering, pharmaceutical, finance and the Singapore Armed Forces — all united in their desire to serving humanity as doctors. In the last semester of their studies, they had to face challenges brought on by the pandemic, including enhanced infection control and social distancing measures, even as Duke-NUS introduced adaptive innovations to the delivery of medical training and examinations to support them. Through it all, the graduating students remained steadfast in their journey to complete their studies and advance as doctors. In a speech at the virtual Hippocratic Oath Ceremony, Class Valedictorian Dr Aditya Subramaniam reminded his classmates that they, as a class, shone brightest in the face of adversity and would continue to do so as they entered the wards in this challenging time.  

Emcee and Hippocratic Oath lead, Professor Ian Curran, Vice Dean for Education at Duke-NUS, echoed his sentiment, and said, “We are confident that the education and mentorship they have received at Duke-NUS Medical School has equipped them with the essential qualities and capabilities to excel in clinical practice. We are also excited to see how they will distinguish themselves as Singapore’s future clinician leaders, innovators, educators and scientists, and so transform medicine and improve lives in Singapore and beyond.”

There are still plans to hold a physical graduation ceremony and celebration when control measures allow. The Class of 2020 start their Postgraduate Year 1 training in mid-June 2020, two weeks earlier than originally intended to help in the national response to COVID-19.

Dr Sabina Sayeed, who was one of the graduates who participated in the Ceremony, shared what she thought about entering the workforce during this time. “None of us could have envisioned that we would be marking the culmination of a life-long dream in the midst of these unsettling times. But now more than ever, I am reminded that of the privilege that I could be of service and to be a part of the medical community to fight in the frontline,” said Dr Sayeed.

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