By Kimberley Wang, Manager, Media and Publications, Communications and Outreach
On 11 April, it was announced that Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) and Imperial College London will successfully conclude their collaboration agreement to establish LKCMedicine as planned in 2028.
Students who enrol this year or in 2023 and complete their Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degree (MBBS) by 2028 will receive the joint degree. Those who enrol in 2024 or later will receive an NTU degree.
The two universities are exploring new areas of collaboration in postgraduate education and research in areas such as healthcare devices and systems, public health, sustainability, and climate change, drawing on both NTU Singapore’s and Imperial’s strengths in engineering.
“The collaboration between NTU Singapore and Imperial College London to establish Singapore’s newest medical school has been a major achievement. Having Imperial as our strategic partner was instrumental in NTU’s efforts to build a top-quality medical school from scratch within a short time frame. This partnership between NTU and Imperial designed a unique curriculum for medical education that made use of the latest technology, and shaped the standards of teaching, learning and governance,” said NTU President Professor Subra Suresh.
“To date, four cohorts of medical doctors have graduated from LKCMedicine and are now contributing to Singapore's healthcare sector, and the fifth cohort will enter medical practice next month. Both NTU and Imperial College London can be very proud of LKCMedicine’s success, progress and maturity as a medical school,” he added.
Professor Alice Gast, President of Imperial College London, said, “It has been a privilege to work with NTU and to help ensure that our vision for LKCMedicine came to fruition. Together we have successfully delivered a world class medical school for Singapore which is producing first-rate doctors that will have an impact on Singapore’s healthcare system long into the future. As we move to a new phase of our partnership, I am confident that the school will go from strength to strength and we look forward to more areas of collaboration with NTU.”
LKCMedicine was established in 2010 in response to Singapore’s growing healthcare needs. Named after Lee Foundation founder and philanthropist Tan Sri Dato Lee Kong Chian, following a landmark gift of S$150 million in January 2011, the School admitted its first batch of students in 2013, and its state-of-the-art dual campus, in Health City Novena and at NTU, was completed in 2017.
In the initial years, the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Imperial also served as the Dean of LKCMedicine, with Imperial playing a leading role in the training of key staff. As LKCMedicine reached a steady and mature state, NTU appointed a new LKCMedicine Dean in 2014 who provided full-time leadership in Singapore. The School’s faculty members are all now fully based in Singapore and include a number of clinicians from the National Healthcare Group (NHG).
Professor Jonathan Weber, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Imperial College London, said, “The remarkable success of LKCMedicine demonstrates what is possible when two great institutions come together with a common goal. We are incredibly proud of the school’s students and graduates, who have the talent and drive to make a profound difference to society in Singapore and around the world as top-tier doctors. We will continue to support LKCMedicine as our partnership evolves.”
Strong support from medical fraternity
Just 10 years after it was established, LKCMedicine charted on the global university ranking system Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings by Subject 2022, coming in top 100 in the world for Medicine.
“In the past decade, we have seen LKCMedicine grow from strength to strength, from a fledgling medical school to one that has successfully groomed several cohorts of healthcare practitioners who are resourceful, versatile, and able to innovate in the face of new challenges in a post-Covid world. I am confident that the training and unique blend of education at LKCMedicine will continue to equip students with the knowledge and heart to make a difference to society,” said Associate Professor Kenneth Mak, Director of Medical Services at the Ministry of Health and LKCMedicine Governing Board member.
Echoing the same sentiment, Professor Philip Choo, Group CEO of NHG and LKCMedicine Governing Board member, said, “We are very pleased to see the quality of young doctors from LKCMedicine and are confident that the school will continue to produce skilled doctors who will serve Singapore’s healthcare needs.”
Commenting on the collaboration, Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, Chairman, Cancer Research UK, 345th Vice-Chancellor of University of Cambridge, and NTU Board Member, said, “In the UK, it is common for established medical schools to help set up new medical schools and let them operate on their own once the new schools have found and proven their excellence. The partnership of NTU and Imperial College London, has allowed LKCMedicine to establish itself on the global stage in the shortest time. LKCMedicine is now ready to take the next steps independently and to build bilateral research relationships with Imperial and other partners, building on and enhancing LKCMedicine’s reputation for teaching and research excellence.”
LKCMedicine is known for its unique team-based learning pedagogy and early clinical exposure in medical education. Together, Imperial College London and NTU made full use of the opportunity to design and implement innovative and bold approaches to the development of the LKCMedicine curriculum.
In 2021, as a result of this collaboration, LKCMedicine received the ASPIRE award for excellence in curriculum development, the first medical school in Singapore and the fourth in Asia to win this accolade. The award, developed by a group of leading international authorities in medical education and educational bodies, led by the UK-based Association for Medical Education in Europe, is the only global accolade of its kind to recognise excellence in medical education.
Forging its own path ahead
LKCMedicine Dean Professor Joseph Sung said, “Our team-based learning, early clinical exposure, and students’ enthusiasm for self-learning are the foundations of our success. We are also proud that at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, our doctors are on the frontlines, joined by our fourth-year and fifth-year students who donned PPE (personal protective equipment) and worked alongside the doctors and nurses in hospitals as volunteers or as healthcare assistants.”
He added, “The high quality of the LKCMedicine programme, teaching programme and student experience will continue. We will continue to upgrade and evolve the MBBS programme, taking into account advances in the science and technology of medicine and the ever-increasing complexities of healthcare.”
Prof Sung shared the School’s future direction with students, parents, alumni, faculty and staff through a personally penned message disseminated on 11 April. He reassured the LKCMedicine community that the School’s commitment to medical education will not change, its investment into medical education will continue to grow, and its mission of redefining medicine and transforming healthcare will prevail.
On hearing the news, Year 4 LKCMedicine student Amelia Chay, who is also President of the Students' Medical Society, said, “I have faith that our faculty have our best interests at heart, and will continue to develop a curriculum that prepares us to be safe and effective doctors in the future. I would still encourage all prospective students to consider an undergraduate degree in LKCMedicine even when the degree is not jointly awarded anymore, because you will still be in the hands of extremely dedicated clinicians and faculty.”
Students say: In the media
In an interview with Channel NewsAsia, LKCMedicine student Thirrisha Murugan (M4) said she noticed how the tutors have gradually come to be based locally in Singapore and that it was a gradual process to ensure that the faculty stays constant over a longer period of time.
Another LKCMedicine student Danson Lim (M4) said the change may not affect students’ job prospects very much, “I think NTU is quite well established in its own right already and LKCMedicine has been there for quite a few years, so people know about us.”
A prospective junior college student, who hopes to enrol in a medical school, Wu Yanru, shared in an interview with Lianhe Zaobao that the conclusion of the partnership does not take away the value of the medical degree. She said that as long as the medical degree can be recognised and allows her to practise medicine in Singapore after graduation, it does not make much of a difference whether NTU will jointly confer a degree with Imperial College London in the future.
The LKCMedicine Governing Board chaired by NTU Trustee Mr Lim Chuan Poh, Chairman of Singapore Food Agency, has overseen LKCMedicine since its inception, and will continue to steer the future development of the School.