Mission possible

Learn, Serve, Build. Be inspired by the accounts of those who made Project Dove, a Duke-NUS Medical School student-led overseas medical mission possible since 2010.


Project Dove 2019 team
The Project Dove 2019 team poses before the start of the mission

Going beyond our own communities to serve - that's what Project Dove, a Duke-NUS Medical School student-led overseas medical mission, has been doing since 2010. Project Dove leaders, including a faculty member, share their experiences from their 2019 mission.


Dr Courtney Davis, Staff Physician, Adolescent Medicine Service, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, and Faculty Advisor for Project Dove

Joining Project Dove as a faculty member in 2015 allowed me to combine my longstanding interest in health and prevention with medical opportunities, to then help an under-served community in Cambodia.  

Working closely with students, faculty members and local health workers was a unique learning and teaching experience for me. Now I go every year.  In my view, it’s the most meaningful educational and mentoring experience of the year.  

Although Project Dove is student-led, there are complex partnerships with faculty members and for the last few years, a local community non-governmental organisation (NGO) in Vietnam.   

The students plan, budget and communicate with our partner organisation, Project Vietnam, and carry out the programme. It takes commitment, planning and leadership on their part. We use the near peer teaching model, where third-year students mentor and teach first-year students. 

Faculty members play an integral part in planning the trip and pre-trip education, including contextualising it for global health learning. We’re also involved in precepting and mentoring students while on the trip, and engaging them in reflective practice.

We ensure that they learn from the experience. And they do. Student research shows that those who took part improved their self-efficacy, and clinical and cultural competence.  

We also ensure that the work is culturally relevant, useful and meets the needs of the community. It also needs to support Project Vietnam’s mission and our own goals.

In the past 10 years, we’ve grown and are now able to link up with more communities. We will be partnering the SingHealth Duke-NUS Global Health Institute in the future, which will deepen the global health learning experiences on these trips.      

Winning in the community service category of the National University of Singapore’s (NUS') Student Life Awards rewards one of our deserving projects, and we hope it highlights all our community service projects that students take part in, despite their busy workloads.     

Gim Hui Lim, Class of 2020 alumnus, MD Programme, Duke-NUS, and Project Director of Project Dove 2019

Last year, our team of 18 students, with Co-Directors Tan Kai Wei and Pamela Tay, returned to Quang Tri, Vietnam, to serve the rural community there.

I am proud of what my team has achieved. We doubled the number of doctors from three to six, and had 18 local volunteers serving 1,010 patients – two and a half times more than last year.

We bonded with these volunteers to become a high-performing team that overcame many constraints.

We also raised more than $34,000, a historically high sum thanks to generous donors.

We raised funds because we believe that to sustain help to the community, we need to educate the villagers, rather than simply giving them a month’s worth of medicine.

One thing we did with the money was to build a toilet in a preschool, at the request of community leaders. The children can now safely practice what we taught them about hand and oral hygiene.

We emphasised this need for education at last year’s International Conference on Humanitarian Medical Missions, where we presented six topics on the organisation of health education and a two-year epidemiological study of the area.   

Winning the NUS’ Student Life Award was one of the highest honours and a recognition of Project Dove’s performance. It reaffirms the hard work and dedication of our teams and I hope it will encourage more students to join us.


Tan Kai Wei, second-year PhD in the MD-PhD Programme student, Duke-NUS, and Co-Director of Project Dove 2019

Every member of the team was highly invested in the project.

I’m proud of this team spirit. We took time to get used to each other’s working styles and idiosyncrasies, but we worked well together, especially during the toughest times, like when patient queues seemed endless. It was then that the entire team transformed into a well-oiled machine to take on a patient load that was more than what we expected.  

Overseas mission trips abound with uncertainty, but I saw how versatile and flexible everyone was to accommodate the many changes that took place during the trip.  

The success of Project Dove 2019 would not have been possible without everyone’s hard work. It was great to win the NUS’ Student Life Award. It acknowledges our efforts.

Gim Hui Lim
Gim Hui Lim, Project Director of Project Dove 2019, with the residents of Quang Tri, Vietnam.
Gim Hui Lim and Tan Kai Wei
Gim Hui Lim and Tan Kai Wei, Project Director and Co-Director of Project Dove 2019, respectively, with NUS' Student Life Award.

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