Students' Take: Pursuit of beauty and wholeness in medicine

Valedictory Speech by Dr Sia Chin Leong, Class of 2021  

Presiding Officer, distinguished faculty, family, friends, and the graduating class of 2021, good afternoon and thank you for being here. We are deeply aware of the immense effort needed to bring us all together in person to celebrate this day. For this, we are especially grateful.

As one of the pioneer batches in Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, we experienced the thrill of being part of something new. I believe I can speak for all of us in saying that medical school was marked by a sense of excitement, of togetherness, and of creating a fresh new culture that prizes creativity and collaboration. It is fitting then, that we are also graduating in an extraordinary time, with new challenges that our time in LKCMedicine has equipped us well for.  

As I reflect on our collective journey, I would like to share on three things that my time in medical school has taught me about: wisdom, compassion, and beauty.


Since our very first year, we were reminded time and again that the foundation of good Medicine really lies in the time with our patients – hearing their stories carefully and using all our senses in physical examination to discern what might be wrong. I believe we all realised quickly in our clinical years that Medicine is not so much about how much we know, but whether we can apply that knowledge to make sound judgements when we are face to face with our patients. Between the information gathering process and a good diagnosis lies something special that we all covet, something we like to call clinical acumen. For me, I think another word for this is wisdom. And the connection between wisdom and our ears is captivating. 

This connection was embodied in one of the richest men who ever lived, a Middle Eastern king in 970 BC named King Solomon. In his prayer as a newly crowned monarch, he prays for wisdom. What is interesting is that the word for “wisdom” which Solomon uses in Hebrew literally translates as “a heart that hears” – in other words, listening is wisdom, and wisdom is listening. I found this fascinating, and particularly instructive for us in Medicine. Listening well to our patients may often tell us the answer to their problems and listening well to our colleagues lends us valuable borrowed experience that makes us wiser.

As we all strive to achieve clinical acumen, let us try our best not to tire of having a heart that hears. Somewhere between our sheltered, simulated practices in school, and the shop floor as a House Officer – at the junction between the ideal and the practical – may we all discover the sweet spot in listening well.  


This leads me to the second thing that is so closely tied to listening: compassion. Compassion, as derived from Latin, means “to suffer with”. It goes beyond merely acknowledging the suffering of our patients, to realising that in crossing paths with them we are now a part of their story and that our response to their suffering – whether in word or deed – can somehow make a small difference in relieving their pain.

In their book Compassionomics, American physicians from Rowan University present evidence that compassion in medical practice results in better patient outcomes, lower healthcare costs, and lower physician burnout rates. This may come as a surprise to some, who may believe that compassionate practice is emotionally draining. Paradoxically, connecting with our emotions and allowing it to be expressed proactively in acts of kindness, a listening ear, and a timely word – these make us more effective and fulfilled as physicians.

Admittedly, this is very difficult in the busy life of a junior doctor. With each sick patient that I’ve come to know, and with each one I’ve had to say farewell to, finding time to connect with them meaningfully seems impossible on some days. But knowing how much of a difference it can make to both our patients and to ourselves, I hope we can encourage one another not to lose the passion and compassion that drew us to Medicine.


The last thing I would like to reflect on is beauty. The intricate workings of the human body and its capacity to heal have always been fascinating to me. I learnt that there is a Greek word that is used to describe this. The Greek word “horaios” means “beauty” and is applied specifically to the particular beauty of the human body in health and wholeness.  

I first stumbled across the word “horaios” in a very old short story. In this story, two ordinary men pass by a man who is crippled. He sits daily by a gate in the city begging for alms. As the men pass him by, the man who cannot walk asks them for money. In this story, they stop and help him up by the hand, saying, “We have no silver or gold, but what we do have we give to you. Come, rise up and walk.” In the story, the man is miraculously healed and gets up to walk with them. The story takes place at a setting called the “Horaios Gate” or “Beautiful Gate”, as if to highlight the beauty of this man finding newfound health. What fascinated me even more was learning that “horaios” is also the word from which we derive the word “hour”, with the nuance of timeliness, of a flower blooming at the right time. It was almost as if to say that these men showed up to help the crippled gentleman at just the right time and just the right place.

As I read this story, it inspires me to want to do the same for my patients. While perhaps none of us will make a bedbound man walk or a blind man see, nor as House Officers do we have any silver or gold to give, but like these two men all of us can say, “What we do have we give to you.”  Like these two men, we may be the ones who are present at just the right time to offer timely help. Like these two men, we can help contribute to the physical health and wholeness of our patients, which in turn contributes to their holistic healing as human beings who are wonderful in complexity and individually so precious. I am convinced that Medicine is fundamentally committed to the pursuit of this beauty and wholeness.

In closing, for the great privilege of being a part of this tradition that seeks to heal, I would like to thank firstly all our patients, who continue to be our greatest teachers. Thank you also to all our faculty and tutors – especially Prof Koh, Prof Wong, Prof Tham and Prof Pang – you have demonstrated the art and science of Medicine. From LKCMedicine, I would also like to give special mention to our Student Life team: Ivis, Qiu Li, Michelle, Xiu Hui, Wei Wei and the respective teams for giving us the unique LKCMedicine experience. Thank you so much Dr Tierney, Emannuel and Dr Reddy for taking care of us. And thank you Darren and the lab team who saved us many times when we were scrambling to practise for our exams. Thank you also Arthur and the team from Security for keeping us safe all those nights we spent studying in CSB.  

A big thank you, friends of the Class of 2021, for making the journey so wonderful and full of irreplaceable memories. I look forward to continue working with all of you. Finally, thank you to our families for being here with us all the way – it is your love that has made everything possible.

Thank you everyone, and happy graduation!