Published on 24 March 2023

The Art and Science of Medicine

Professor Joseph Sung
Dean, Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine

Last weekend, our School launched the inaugural Art and Science of Medicine Festival in our neighbourhood community Toa Payoh. I would say it was a great success.

Our Guest-of-Honor, Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen said in his opening speech, that he was very happy to see a medical school going into the community to introduce the many advances in medical research and education. I also mentioned in my welcome remarks that at the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, we are not building the proverbial ivory tower in the university. We willingly come out to the community to serve our fellow citizens and neighbours, to empower them to look after themselves and to take care of those who are in need at home. 

Because of the location, and the great interest in health and medical topics, we had attracted thousands of people. Among them were many from the silver hair population who wish to learn how to ensure healthy ageing and detect early dementia, for example. Others were attracted to pulmonary diseases and tried their hand on the manikin for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. The beautiful microscopic images of kidney organoids and the virtual reality of unsteady gait also drew much attention. And there were many other hands-on activities and educational games for the public to try including in the areas of Infectious Diseases, Metabolic Health and Nutrition, Skin Health and Wound Repair, Neuroscience and Mental Health, as well as Anatomy, Ageing Simulation and Ultrasound demonstrations.

To me, the most fascinating corner was the exhibition area showcasing the Art of Medicine, where our students displayed their wonderful drawings of the heart. These are artworks from their Medical Humanities course in which, through the use of colour and imagery, they conveyed the message that Medicine is very much a humanistic endeavour requiring empathy, optimism and sometimes a sense of humour. One of the drawings by our medical student was paired with my calligraphy, and presented to Minister Ng as a token of our appreciation for him gracing the festival.

This festival has given me a chance to reflect on our work as a medical school. Although we are small, and much younger than the other medical schools, it does not mean that we cannot do something impactful if we put our heart and soul into it – thanks to our colleagues, especially the organising team of administrative staff. From the drawing board to finding the venue and putting up the equipment and exhibition items, the show was put together within a very short period of three months. There are so many who have lost their sleep, sacrificed their weekend, and stayed behind after office hours to meet, to discuss and to put our ideas into a beautiful showcase of what our School passionately work for and believe in. I take my hat off to you.

Solidarity is the key to our success. I saw the research team and education team working together hand-in-hand. I saw students, researchers and faculties wearing the same shirt, demonstrating and explaining to the public of our work. I saw our alumni who are now junior doctors, medical students, and faculties giving health talks on the stage as one team. I feel the vibrancy and the power of this medical school. I saw PhD students and researcher from different programs helping each other in the setting up and the demos. The words from President John F. Kennedy flashed in my mind “Ask not what your country (school) can do for you, ask what you can do for your country (school)”, that was the spirit. I thank all of you contributed to this festival from my heart. 

Medicine is an Art as much as it is Science: the medical science of pathology, pharmacology and surgery needs to be complemented with the art of listening, explaining and feeling other’s pain. I hope that this Festival will be run yearly, so that we provide ourselves with an opportunity to see the real world, to serve the healthy and the sick, and to practice what we have learned in textbook and classrooms.