News: LKCMedicine launches Up-Close series

On a cool Thursday evening, over good food and great company, a small group of LKCMedicine students and alumni got up close with the two Deans of LKCMedicine – Professor James Best, who will step down end of this month, and Professor Joseph Sung, the incoming Dean come April 1.

Easy banter and inside jokes between the two deans are a testament to the mutual understanding and respect they have for each other.

Together, last night they launched the inaugural Up-Close With... chat series organised by the LKCMedicine Alumni Relations team. Held at LKCMedicine’s Medical Library in Novena, the two deans shared several stories with an audience of about 40. And there were lots of stories to be told!

“Who are you?” said a student as Dean-Designate Professor Joseph Sung entered the gym at the LKCMedicine Clinical Sciences Building recently. 

“I am the incoming Dean at LKCMedicine,” said Prof Sung. 

“Who are you?” Prof Sung asked. 

“I am a Year One medical student.” 

The audience burst into laughter as Prof Sung shared some of his encounters during his first few weeks at LKCMedicine, every now and then emphasising that he is someone young and heart and loves interacting with students. 

During the 1.5-hour session, Prof Best and Prof Sung also answered questions from the audience and shared their passion for medicine, research as well as education. The session was moderated by Year 5 student Goh Xin Rong. 

As Prof Best will be stepping down soon, Year 1 student Hafez Sorouri asked if he would be giving the traditional last lecture. 

“I actually did not think about it,” said Prof Best. However, if he had to give one, it would be about the art of medicine. 

Hafez also asked Prof Sung for the title of his first lecture.

Prof Sung replied that back in the Chinese University of Hong Kong where he was Vice-Chancellor, he would usually deliver his first lectures to the first-year medical students. And then, turning to Prof Best, he feigned outrage, “James, you stole my lecture!” He added, amidst laughter, “My first lecture is always titled ‘Is Medicine an Art or a Science?’”, indicating the two deans may be two peas in a pod.

Another member of the audience asked Prof Sung what his vision for LKCMedicine is. Prof Sung said he hopes to advance research not just within medicine, but also between medicine and other schools at NTU, in particular engineering.

Some members of the audience asked about the rapid advancements in technology and the impact on medicine. 

Prof Sung said the medical profession has to embrace these, for example, artificial intelligence and see it as an augmentation.

However, he emphasised that the human touch will never be replaced in the practice of medicine. 

“AI can only help us (to a certain degree), but it still needs the human touch,” said Prof Sung. 

Sharing his experience during the SARS outbreak in Hong Kong back in 2003, Prof Sung who was a doctor in the wards, recalled having his classmates as patients. 

One classmate asked Prof Sung to use the stethoscope on his back instead of his chest during his health check-up. The classmate was worried about making Prof Sung ill. However, Prof Sung told him not to worry and went on to listen to the chest and back of his classmate, after which he patted the classmate’s shoulder and wished him well. 

“At that moment my classmate cried, in relief. This is the human connection that you cannot lose and miss out (in medicine),” said Prof Sung. 

The audience also asked questions about Prof Best’s best moments in LKCMedicine over the last seven years.

One of them was Year 1 student Lim Rong, who asked Prof Best what his best achievements are at LKCMedicine.

Prof Best shared it was the building of a young medical school when he first took the helm in 2014. 

Looking back, Prof Best said, “Today, LKCMedicine is ranked 89th by the QS World University Rankings by Subject (2021). This is an incredible achievement, considering that we are the youngest medical school to be in the top 100”.  

Another student asked Prof Best, “What are your best experiences at LKCMedicine?” 

In response, Prof Best said one of his best experiences was to lead the OneLKC community’s move into the Experimental Medicine Building in the NTU main campus and the Clinical Sciences Building at Novena. “Everyone was involved. From faculty, to staff and students – we moved as one.

“I’m also happy to have (witnessed) different ceremonies during my time at LKCMedicine,” he added.  

When asked about his plans after leaving LKCMedicine, Prof Best said he would like to catch up on reading and research. He will also be moving back to Melbourne with his wife to spend time with family. 

The session concluded with LKCMedicine Alumni Association Vice-President Dr Toh Wen Shien, who was from the pioneering Class of 2018, thanking the professors for their time. On behalf of the alumni, he wished Prof Best well for the future and said they look forward to working with Prof Sung. 

At the end of the session, Year 5 student Ashwin S/O Singaram said the conversation between students and the deans was extremely smooth and interesting. “On top of that, hearing Prof Best share about how far the School has come and Prof Sung share his aspirations for LKCMedicine gave us students a better understanding of everything the School has achieved and the direction we will be moving towards. Overall, it was an enjoyable evening with plenty of takeaways,” he added.

His classmate Zenneth Lim agreed and said he enjoyed the stories shared by Prof Best and Prof Sung. 

“Very interesting and eye-opening; it is nice for us to know more about them,” said Zenneth. 

Dr Toh added, “It’s like listening to a speaker with many engaging insights. I found it quite enjoyable.

 “The good reviews that we get as graduates of LKCMedicine is due to the fact that we come from a good place, and that we received a lot of guidance (from the School). This is thanks to Prof Best and the School,” Dr Toh stressed. 

Similarly, his classmate, Dr Leon Tan found the session very insightful. “It tells us how they live through their journey and how they got to this stage of their life, so I do appreciate having this time with the deans,” said Dr Tan. He is also inspired by the deans’ advice to the students and young doctors to have a life and explore knowledge beyond medicine.

“Medicine can sometimes be over-consuming. That message really resonated with me.”

Look out for the next LKCMedicine’s Up-Close with… session!