The Stalwart Resolution of Stewart Retnam
When he is not immersed in studies and training in medical school, 22 year-old Stewart Retnam is moving up and down a strip, thrusting, parrying, riposting and clashing blades with fellow skilled fencing opponents. In his free time, he tries to make as much a difference as he can by taking part in community welfare activities, like helping to decorate the Dover Park Hospice for the Chinese New Year in February this year.
Stewart, one of the 54 top students who formed the inaugural intake for Singapore’s newest medical school jointly set up by Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Imperial College London, was also awarded the LKCMedicine Scholarship in 2013. The Scholarship was made possible through a historic gift of $150 million from the Lee Foundation to support the medical school, where half of the gift forms an endowment fund for scholarships and other forms of financial aid for needy students; and the other half for an endowment that supports the advancement of medical education and research.
“Being awarded the Scholarship meant my parents would save a substantial sum on my tuition fees, which I hope they will spend on themselves – I owe it all to them.”
As a recipient of the LKCMedicine Scholarship, how significant has this been for you and how has it made a difference to your life as a student?
The Scholarship has been of great benefit to me and my family. I was initially considering to study in an overseas medical school which would have been a huge financial drain on my family. I was aware of my parents making changes and plans to cut down on spending in order to finance my upcoming (costly!) tuition fees. Everyone was undeniably stressed. So, it was a complete reversal of fortune when l was offered a place at the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine and on top of that, a scholarship!
What were your initial thoughts and feelings when you learned that you had been awarded the Scholarship?
I was elated, not only because of a sense of self-accomplishment, but also because of the realisation that I would not place a financial strain on my family during my university education. My parents had been and are still incredibly supportive in furthering my education, selflessly footing the costs of whatever lessons and resources I have needed to develop intellectually, artistically and physically. Till then, those costs had been borne entirely by them. Being awarded the Scholarship meant my parents would save a substantial sum on my tuition fees, which I hope they will spend on themselves – I owe it all to them.
How did your family react when they first learnt that you had been awarded the Scholarship?
They were overjoyed! I called my parents first thing after receiving the news. While I could not see their faces, it was evident from their voices that they were elated. We had all been apprehensive about whether I would be offered a place in the school, as admission was extremely competitive. So when the news of a scholarship came in, I imagine they must have been quite overwhelmed. I certainly was.
As the oldest of three brothers, the Scholarship was also a great relief because it meant my parents would have greater means to support my younger brothers financially throughout their education. I was conscious that if I had gone overseas, it would be unlikely that they would have had the same opportunity to do so due to financial constraints. I am grateful that because of the Scholarship, this is now not the case and I can pursue my course of study without that thought weighing me down.
Describe your academic journey prior to being accepted as a student in LKCMedicine.
I undertook and completed the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) at Anglo-Chinese School (Independent). I believe the IBDP’s core components, in particular the Extended Essay and Theory of Knowledge modules, were instrumental in my development then. Both encouraged creative thinking, afforded me great freedom in the choosing approaches to the task and pointed me toward spheres outside of the academic realm. I think that really fostered a sense of intellectual curiosity and self-drive in all of us IB students – things that all students could use more of!
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