By Kimberley Wang, Manager, Media and Publications, Communications and Outreach
On 15 May, LKCMedicine Year 3 student Jonathan Au Eong made history by clinching a gold medal in the men’s individual foil (fencing) at the 31st SEA Games. After defeating his Filipino competitor in the final, he took home Singapore’s first ever title in the event.
Jonathan (second from left) with his historic gold medal in the men’s individual foil
Three days later, Jonathan went on to join Singapore’s fencers to win the men’s foil team title, bringing their campaign to a close with a total of six golds. This was their best showing at the SEA Games, surpassing the four golds won at the 2019 edition.
Reflecting on his win, Jonathan shared that he had talked about the possibility with his coach before flying over to Hanoi, but they did not let it weigh too much in their minds. Since it was his first time competing in an event of this scale, he simply went in with the mentality of wanting to do his best.
“We knew and trusted that the hard work that we have put in over the past years would pay off. It was quite an amazing feeling being on a podium winning that historic gold because for me, it's been a culmination of many, many years of hard work, and many sacrifices, not only for me, but for my family. And the support of my family, friends, coaches, and schools, has made this possible. So really, an unforgettable moment.”
Making sacrifices in his quest for gold
The journey to the top has not been an easy one for Jonathan. He shared candidly that he entertained the thought of quitting after failing to make the squad for major competitions in the past. But his love for the sport and pure enjoyment of fencing helped him press on despite the disappointments.
“I knew that if I continue to put in the hard work and not give up so easily that one day it will pay off and I'll be able to represent Singapore at a major games, so that helped keep me going as well. My parents, coaches, and my friends have all been there to support me whenever I felt like quitting, whenever I felt like walking away from the sport. They encouraged me to continue to push forward and not let that moment of disappointment push me away,” he said.
In the lead-up to the regional competition, Jonathan also battled with fatigue as he juggled training with his clinical postings. He recalled waking up as early as 6am during his general surgery posting and after a long day in the operating theatre, having to drag himself to training even when he was feeling tired.
“The physical toll was immense. Clinical postings are quite physically exhausting. Sometimes I have to sleep a bit less so that I can finish my work as well. Ultimately, it all paid off in the end so I'm glad I was willing to make these sacrifices when they were needed,” he added.
LKCMedicine Dean Professor Joseph Sung said, “We are extremely proud of Jonathan’s achievements at the recent SEA Games. He has shown great courage, determination and perseverance in his journey to clinch a historic gold medal for Singapore.
“The School is very supportive of our students who pursue their interests in sports, music, the arts and other non-academic areas. Humanities feature strongly in our programme for instance, as we believe that medicine is truly a science and an art. Through these pursuits, our students will gain more exposure and holistic life experiences which will contribute to them becoming good doctors.”
Vice-Dean (Education) Professor Jennifer Cleland, who is equally proud of Jonathan’s win, added, “He has managed to juggle sports training and ultimately perform to an international standard while successfully maintaining his medical studies.
“We try to be supportive of students with interests in sports, music, the arts and so on, who are selected to represent Singapore at high-profile events. This is not always easy, or indeed not always possible, because of the attendance and other professional requirements of a medical degree. However, in this case, his year Lead, Associate Professor Koh Nien Yue and our clinical colleagues were able to make special accommodations allowing Jonathan to participate in the SEA Games and fulfil his posting requirements. A win-win solution!”
Jonathan is appreciative of the School’s support during his preparations, and the words of encouragement from his coursemates. Acknowledging that adjustments had to be made for him, he said, “I'm very grateful to the School for having a willingness to help me make this kind of arrangements, which I know disrupted the normal schedule that I would have been expected to go through, so that I could have this opportunity to represent Singapore at the SEA Games.”
While it has been a tough balancing act, he has learnt to apply the mentality of being single-minded and focused in his studies to his training.
“Being in the clinical year, sometimes you are put in situations where it can be a bit stressful, especially with real patients in real time… This kind of pressure also helped me to learn how to calm myself down and how to focus and redirect the anxieties in these pressure situations to a kind of focus that helps me to do better. In that way it does help me in fencing, especially when we are put in situations like ‘sudden death’ where pressures are high,” he added.
For now, Jonathan’s goal is to work towards the Asian Games and casting his sights further, to consider the possibility of competing in the Olympics. “I just want to take it step by step. Enjoy this time off from fencing a little bit and then start preparing for the Asian Games and see where that leads me afterwards.”
Grace Chua, top row, third from left (photo credit: Team Singapore)
Two other LKCMedicine students also donned national colours to represent Singapore at the SEA Games – national shuttler Grace Chua (M4) and national triathlete Nicholas Rachmadi (M1). Grace was part of the team who won a bronze medal in the Badminton – Women’s Team Event while Nicholas was placed eighth in the men’s triathlon.
Sports luminaries among our alumni
Even as a young medical school, LKCMedicine counts notable sports luminaries among its students, both past and present.
Former national water polo player Dr Eden Tay graduated from the pioneer cohort of LKCMedicine. Currently doing his residency in Family Medicine at Singapore General Hospital, he said “I have always been competitive – not only with others, but also to challenge and push myself to greater heights … to become a medical practitioner who cares, delivers and inspires.”
As part of Singapore's national hockey team from 2013 to 2019, Dr Ishwarpal Singh Grewal (Class of 2019) won two silver and two bronze medals at the SEA Games. Now a geriatric doctor at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, he has since taken up a new challenge – representing Singapore in floorball.
Making his debut in the World Floorball Championship Asia-Oceania qualifier at the Sports Hub's OCBC Arena on 31 May, he scored the second goal for the national team who went on to triumph over Malaysia. Speaking to The Straits Times, he said, "Floorball is a growing sport and the association is doing a great job of growing it in Singapore. I also wanted a new challenge because I have done quite a few tournaments in hockey."
Also from the Class of 2019, Dr Tan Wei Jie, who is currently serving in the army, represented Singapore in high jump at various regional competitions including the Hong Kong Athletic Championships, Thailand Open Track & Field Championships, and Asean University Games. In an interview with The New Paper, he said, "As an athlete, you have a certain expiry date so, for now, I hope to do well in sports and, once I retire [from it], I hope to be a good doctor."
Flying the LKCMedicine flag high at competitions
Beyond sports, our students are also flying the LKCMedicine flag high at international competitions. In March, a team of Year 4 students surpassed international teams to win the overall second runner-up prize at the 11th Siriraj International Medical Microbiology, Parasitology and Immunology Competition.
Organised by the Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University in Thailand, the annual event serves as a platform for medical students to challenge themselves and get to know their peers. Chen Mingwei, Bryan Lee Heng Yi, Lee Jun Ye and Muhammad Danish Bin Massuryono beat 40 teams in the qualifying and live team rounds to reach the final where they defeated competitors from Indonesia and India. Jun Ye additionally clinched the bronze medal for his outstanding performance in the individual stage.
From left: Muhammad Danish Bin Massuryono, Bryan Lee Heng Yi, Lee Jun Ye and Chen Mingwei
Mingwei shared that it was the team’s interest in infectious diseases that inspired them to take part. “The COVID-19 pandemic has further emphasised the impact of infectious diseases, and the importance of preventing, responding to, and managing infections. Infectious diseases disproportionately affect some of the sickest and most underprivileged members of our population in Singapore and worldwide. As our tutors have showed us, knowing the science behind these infections is the first step in ensuring that nobody is left behind, and that everyone is well taken care of,” he said.
LKCMedicine students also stood out at national competitions, making a name for themselves. Last July, a team of five students clinched the Judges’ Pick and Audience’s Pick awards at Beyond! Health Hack '21, Singapore's largest student healthcare hackathon organised by the NUS Pharmaceutical Society. With 45 teams from local universities and polytechnics taking part, the virtual competition gathered student entrepreneurs, healthcare and industry experts together to brainstorm on how to tackle a series of real-world challenges that stand in the way of non-communicable diseases prevention, treatment and chronic care through technological innovations.
Named OActive, the team comprising Year 4 students Angeline Aw, Megan Chua, Ong Kay Hsiang, Sean Lim and Year 2 student Darren Chong came up with an AI-based app that combines telehealth and physiotherapy to gamify exercises for the elderly suffering from early-stage osteoarthritis. Leveraging on their clinical knowledge and patient interactions, they were able to better address their problem statement and ensure that patients’ needs are met with the device they had conceptualised. As one of three teams who clinched the Judges’ Pick award, they won a three-month Commercialisation Mentorship to develop their idea and hope to capitalise on it to prototype their idea and take it to market in the future.