Message from Our Staff: Scholarly Project – an introduction to research, or a turn-off?

Professor Michael Ferenczi, Vice-Dean, Faculty Affairs & Professor of Medical Sciences; Assistant Dean for Years 1 & 2; Lead for Scholarly Projects 2019

Since LKCMedicine started the Scholarly Project initiative in August 2016, we received much feedback from students and supervisors which has provided insight into the programme. In a nutshell, Scholarly Projects occur during a six-week period at the beginning of Year 4 when the MBBS medical students are immersed full-time in a research project. The projects fall into one of four categories: Laboratory and Translational Research, Medical Education, Medical Practice, and Medicine and Society. Students select their five preferred projects from a list and are allocated a project by an algorithm that maximises allocation to students' top choices. This process aims to create a level playing field in the allocation process. Private arrangements for project allocation are not endorsed.

Students are expected to write up their projects in the form of a scientific paper and are assessed on their performance during the project and on the quality of the report.

Now that the Scholarly Projects are well established, and supervisors appreciate the quality of the work performed by our bright and hard-working students, it is rewarding to see that projects are not only being proposed by LKCMedicine faculty and clinicians working with our close healthcare partners, but also by engineering departments in NTU (School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, School of Computer Science and Engineering, National Institute of Education) and many institutes including the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology, Skin Research Institute of Singapore, Rehabilitation Research Institute of Singapore, National Neuroscience Institute and the Ministries of Health and of Manpower. This ensures that our students are offered varied experiences across the research landscape of Singapore and have the opportunity to explore many wonderful opportunities to participate in the development of innovations to benefit patients.

The curricular window for research is short but intense, and the experience and report writing provide the foundation for a life-long interest in science and research, as well as inculcate teamwork and an appreciation of the impact of scholarship on self-development and on society.

In a recent survey on students' views of the Scholarly Project experience, they have noted that the Projects made them more open to other specialties such as public health and preventative medicine; that good team dynamics affects results; showed that research could become part of a clinician's career or another possible pathway.

A particularly perceptive student said, "Being a doctor is not just about treating the patients in the wards; we need to continue to stay relevant and ahead with the latest evidence-based medicine."

Although some students did not benefit as much as others, and clearly some experiences are more rewarding than others, the benefits of the Projects are overwhelming, and by and large student rewards generally correlate with the effort they put in.

More and more of our students continue with their Projects in subsequent months and years and some end up being authors on research papers as well as get to present their work at national or international conferences. These are wonderful accomplishments as they bring together the dual mission of the school: education to create the doctors that you and I would like to have caring for us as well as transforming healthcare by advancing the science and practice of medicine.