Pioneering Duke-NUS Culture

The pioneer batch from Singapore’s first Postgraduate medical school reflect on how they helped to shape the school’s culture.

It is not often that university students get a chance to enjoy regular lunch meetings with their Dean and forge a path that others will follow. But that is what the pioneering class of the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School have done: Blaze a trail.

Mr Vincent Tay, who received his bachelor’s degree in Pharmacy from NUS, said it best: “As the pioneer class, the greatest opportunity that I took up was in having a clean slate to build new possibilities. As the school builds up a comprehensive list of programs for the students, I believe our class had gone on to explore uncharted territories locally and overseas.“

What they have collectively built up, with support from the management and academic staff, is a collaborative culture where they are free to think, speak up and take action.

Even though the school was brand new with no track record, they were drawn to its unique educational model. Ms Pamela E-Wei Gopal entered with a Masters in Biomedical Engineering from NTU and will be graduating along with her peers next year. She said, “I was excited about studying in a school that combines the best of both the American and Singapore Education systems.”

Students also relish the opportunity to dedicate their third year in the school to research. Ms Karen Nadua who hails from the Philippines and has a Bachelor’s degree in Life Sciences from NUS agrees: “the unique education curriculum had improved my critical thinking and presentation skills.”


Some of the other firsts the cohort have experienced include atypical classes which consist not of topdown lectures but group learning sessions where they solve challenges as a team, providing feedback to help shape the school’s curriculum, seeding events like the inaugural Duke-NUS Vertical Challenge which are set to become part of the university’s tradition and provide humanitarian aid.

Mr Chia Ghim Song, who holds a Masters degree in Electrical & Computer Engineering from Cornell, took part in one such project. The medical student who is also a father of 1, helped organise a camp for the children of cancer patients. Said Mr Chia, on Camp Simba, which was a joint project organised by students from Duke-NUS and the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine:

“After interacting with the children and bonding with them, it made me realise that grave and debilitating illnesses such as cancer not only impact the patient alone but also the caregivers and their immediate loved ones. This is something I will bear in mind as I progress in my medical training.”

Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School Singapore (Duke-NUS)
• Since 2007, Duke-NUS offers a medical training program for degree holders based on Duke University School of Medicine’s model of education.
• The construction of the new 11-storey Duke-NUS building, situated within our SGH campus, was completed in 2009.
• The majority of Duke-NUS’ local faculty comprises SingHealth’s physicians, and SingHealth’s senior executives play an active role in the school at all levels.
• In this 4-year course, students dedicate an entire year to independent study and research projects. The program aims to produce highly trained clinician scientists: specialist medical professionals whose expertise is also based on medical and clinical research. Students are actively engaged in learning through TeamLEAD sessions, that assesses them both individually and as a team, designed to help students become self-directed learners
• The first batch of Duke-NUS medical students will graduate in May 2011.
• It is Singapore’s only tie-up with an American University to start a medical school.
• www.duke-nus.edu.sg 

Extracted from me+SH (Sept-Nov 2010), a SingHealth Publication