In Focus: Class of 2021 shines brightly amid the pandemic

Five LKCMedicine graduates conferred special accolades for outstanding achievements at Convocation 2021

With the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Class of 2021 found themselves facing new challenges in their final years of medical school and having to adapt to new ways of learning.

The LKCMedicine speaks with five LKCMedicine graduates who overcame these obstacles and excelled in the face of adversity, emerging as winners of top accolades at this year’s Convocation.

From left: Dr Sia Chin Leong, Dr Koh Yu Qian, Dr Ding Jianbin, Dr Clara Kong, and Dr Andrew Yap

For Dr Clara Kong, recipient of the Chew Chin Hin Gold Medal for Outstanding Achievement in Clinical Medicine and the Toh Kian Chui Gold Medal, winning the awards was just icing on the cake.

“Early on in my medical school journey, I received this advice: every piece of information that I learn now may potentially, in some way or another, help to save someone’s life in the future. These words stuck with me until now and have served as motivation to keep working towards the goal of being a safe and holistic doctor. Doing well in my studies happened to be a pleasant surprise along the way,” said Dr Kong.

As medical students training to become doctors, they knew that it would be an arduous but rewarding journey. However, when the COVID-19 outbreak hit Singapore, they were confronted with new and unexpected challenges in their final years of medical school.

Despite finding it difficult to prepare for her MBBS during the pandemic, Dr Koh Yu Qian, winner of the Low Cheng Hock Gold Medal for Outstanding Achievement in Surgery, said, “It served as a timely reminder of why I chose to study medicine in the first place and reinforced the urgency of the situation, motivating me to prepare harder for starting work as a junior doctor in a pandemic.”

Dr Sia Chin Leong, recipient of the prestigious Lee Kuan Yew Gold Medal and Koh Boon Hwee Scholars Award, recalled how he and his course mates helped one another to continue learning, “In our fourth and fifth years, we missed out on some of our clinical postings, and other postings were truncated. Within our teams and among friends, we practised hard in order to make up for the loss of clinical exposure.”

Like her fellow medical students, Dr Kong adapted quickly to a new style of learning when lectures and tutorials were shifted online. “These unique circumstances gave rise to many innovative methods of learning. During the circuit breaker when the medical library was closed, my friends and I organised sessions where we would practise history taking with each other over Zoom instead,” she said.

Dr Ding Jianbin, who was awarded the Chee Yam Cheng Gold Medal in Professionalism, Ethics, Law, Leadership and Patient Safety, shared that the School’s regular engagements and conversations with the students during the pandemic provided much needed assurance. 

“The weekly updates were tremendous in maintaining the students’ morale amidst the disruption of learning. These efforts helped to optimise our learning and frankly speaking, prepared us well for life as a junior doctor,” said Dr Ding, who also received the Koh Boon Hwee Scholars Award.

Looking back on their LKCMedicine journey, the graduates had fond memories of their time at the School and the strong friendships forged over the years.

Winner of the Anthony SC Teo - Gordon Johnson Gold Medal Dr Andrew Yap said, “LKCMedicine provided me a wonderfully nurturing environment to explore both medical and non-medical interests with motivated and like-minded people. There was always a strong sense of collaboration, altruism, and paying things forward for others’ sake that I wholeheartedly believe in.”

For his juniors at LKCMedicine, Dr Sia has these words of encouragement, “Each year, my sense of purpose and calling in Medicine has been strengthened, and the initial passion that I first had as a first-year medical student has only grown. I would like to encourage my juniors: enjoy the journey and don’t forget your first love! Rooting for all of you!”