Published on 09 January 2024

A New Beginning

Professor Joseph Sung
Dean, Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine

Flying on a plane back from Christchurch, New Zealand, to Singapore, on 1 Jan 2024, I reflect upon what LKCMedicine has gone through in the past few years.

Coming from a medical school in Hong Kong which is only 40 years old, I can appreciate how much effort one has to put into building the most condusive environment to train future doctors. In the past 13 years, LKCMedicine has grown from birth to infancy and is now moving into adolescence. Like every growing child, she has had to go through many teething problems. From recruiting a good team of faculty, staff and teachers, to enrolling the best students into the programme; from starting the School in temporary facilities, to completing and moving into two major buildings, namely the Experimental Medicine Building and Clinical Sciences Building – in two separate campuses – , and from transiting beyond our joint venture with Imperial College London, to starting a new partnership with National Healthcare Group (NHG); I would say every step, every phase, every stage, was challenging.

How to establish a medical curriculum from scratch, benchmarked against international standards, and be accredited by professional bodies, to ensure that our “products” are fit for purpose and able to practice as good doctors? How to attract the best faculty who are experienced in teaching medicine, and can spearhead innovative research and translate discoveries from bench to bedside? How to solicit sufficient support – financial and professional – to build a strong academic environment for a medical school with little or no reputation, no alumni and no track record? How to differentiate and distinguish LKCMedicine on the medical education landscape, to start with, in Singapore which already has two highly successful medical schools, each supported by a thriving academic medical center? These are questions that our founders and early leaders have had to face day and night in the past decade.

Yet, according to an independent survey conducted recently, our graduates are rated highly as competent medical officers and residents. LKCMedicine students are recognised as able to work with different disciplines in the decision-making process. Respondents largely perceive LKCMedicine to be distinctive in offering an engaging curriculum that promotes problem solving and a culture of collaboration among students. The training and teaching of our students in artificial intelligence and digital health is also acknowledged. We are humbled by these findings, and aim to stay the course while strengthening our pedagogy of self-motivated learning and critical thinking.

As we turn a page and start a new chapter, allow me to express our sincerest gratitude to those who have been with us from the start. We are most grateful to the Singapore government (especially the Ministries of Education and Health) for having the vision to set up a new medical school in order to expand the workforce in the healthcare sector. We cannot thank enough our donors, especially the Lee Foundation, for their generous support in the establishment of the School. It has been a true privilege to have Imperial College London as our partner to seed the foundations of our MBBS programme, sending some of their best faculty to kickstart the teaching and research in LKCMedicine. We are extremely thankful to our clinician colleagues in the hospitals, particularly from NHG, for setting aside precious time to teach and mentor our students. They serve with honour, distinction and often, altruism, furnishing our students not only with the knowledge, but also the ethos and values of being a doctor for the people.  Last but not least, I reckon we won’t  be standing here today without the full commitment of our Governing Board members led by Chairman Mr Lim Chuan Poh, who steered the ship through many challenges over the years, including the disruptive effects of COVID-19.

In 2024, we are going to start admitting a new cohort of students who will receive the NTU MBBS degree. This promises to be an exciting programme with renewed emphasis on professionalism, patient safety and ethics, to be value-added by the teaching of data science and artificial intelligence, among many others. There will be the addition of new technologies including the latest virtual and augmented reality in our teaching programme. We will continue to use new learning technologies to optimise teaching effectiveness of individual students. New opportunities for international attachments and exposure to different continents around the world will be made available to our students. We will also put more resources and effort into the development of Continuous Education and Training (CET) for doctors and allied health colleagues in line with Healthier SG. I am confident that all these will elevate us to be a better place,  uplifting our healthcare workers. 

At the beginning of this new year, I am enthused by the many changes that are coming our way. As we head towards the successful conclusion of the Imperial-NTU collaboration agreement, we are entering an exciting transition period. We will be unveiling a new identity to best reflect the evolutionary journey of the School. Our partnership with Imperial will enter a new phase of research collaboration with focus on Infectious Disease and Respiratory Medicine, Metabolic Disease and Microbiome Medicine, Neuroscience and Science of Learning, Artificial Intelligence in Medicine and Climate Change and Health. On AI in Medicine, the newly awarded CREATE programme between NTU and Imperial will set up a strong platform for new collaborations. Our partnership with NHG will also evolve to become more mutually supportive. We welcome the new Group CEO Mr Joe Sim who will start leading the group in 2024, and we are looking forward to new beginnings and fresh ideas. I foresee opportunities for us to work together in several areas including streamlining healthcare delivery, improving mental health services by early detection of depression and cognitive impairment, behaviour and healthcare, among many other clinical specialties.

Let us strive together, working as a family to realise our vision of REDEFINING MEDICINE, TRANSFORMING HEALTHCARE.