It was three years ago in 2019 that the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine (LKCMedicine) last celebrated a full-fledged Convocation ceremony. And as in all graduation ceremonies, it was a day filled with pride, joy, and tears for the students and their parents.
COVID-19 put a dampener on the event for the next two years when it was held as an online celebration in 2020 and then as a hybrid event with a much smaller live audience in 2021. Thankfully, the pandemic has somewhat abated today and with safe measurement measures eased, the LKCMedicine Class of 2022 celebrated their graduation on 23 July with the usual grandeur that comes with a full ceremony, with their loved ones in attendance.
Filled to capacity at the NTU Nanyang Auditorium, the Convocation ceremony kicked off with the arrival of the academic procession, followed by the national anthem before Presiding Officer Mr Lim Chuan Poh, Chairman of LKCMedicine’s Governing Board, declared the ceremony open.
A pre-recorded message by NTU President Distinguished University Professor Subra Suresh followed where he praised the Class of 2022 for excelling in their studies despite the challenges posed by the pandemic for more than half of their stay at NTU. He noted that the graduates have made the best out of adversity and built a close-knit NTU community to support one another.
“You have demonstrated remarkable resilience and innovation in overcoming formidable challenges, and we are immensely proud of what you have achieved. I am deeply grateful to our NTU faculty, staff and leadership team who worked tirelessly to ensure that your NTU educational experience not only continued as smoothly as possible but also was infused with significant innovation,” said Prof Suresh.
Prof Suresh also asked that the graduates contemplate, cultivate, and elevate their global and historical perspective with patience and compassion, always. He added, “Combined with the strong education you have received from NTU, you will have an impact on not just your local community or country, but on the entire humanity. “
The presentation of graduates started with 16 PhD graduates receiving their degree from Mr Lim and presented by LKCMedicine Vice-Dean (Clinical Affairs) Professor Pang Weng Sun. Amongst them were two clinician-scientists Dr Yew Yik Weng and Dr Barnaby Young.
The MBBS degree presentation started with six outstanding graduates receiving their awards from Mr Lim, with Sam Zhi Hao, Ryan leading the pack with four awards!
LKCMedicine Convocation 2022 Award Winners
Dr Sam Zhi Hao, Ryan
Winner of the Lee Kuan Yew Gold Medal; Toh Kian Chui Gold Medal, Anthony SC Teo - Gordon Johnson Gold Medal and Low Cheng Hock Gold Medal for Outstanding Achievement in Surgery
Dr Sean Ng Ming Sheng and Dr Wang Kaiying
Winners of the Koh Boon Hwee Scholars Award
Dr Pereira Emma Marie-Pamerlyn
Winner of the Anthony SC Teo – Gordon Johnson Gold Medal
Dr Lee Wei En, Zen
Winner of the Chew Chin Hin Gold Medal for Outstanding Achievement in Clinical Medicine
Dr Ho Jia Shun Reuben
Winner of the Chee Yam Cheng Gold Medal in Professionalism, Ethics, Law, Leadership and Safety (PELLS)
The Class of 2022 with 116 graduands, LKCMedicine’s fifth cohort, were presented to receive their scrolls by Prof Pang. With their families cheering them on, it was a momentous occasion as the graduates went onstage to receive their degree jointly awarded by NTU Singapore and Imperial College London.
Having a proper ceremony did not seem possible even a few months back when strict safe management measures were in place. This cohort would find it hard to forget the anxieties that the pandemic had brought, especially in the last two years.
“In the midst of this pandemic, whenever I thought about convocation, I never imagined that it would be possible to walk the stage, with my family in the crowd, celebrating this joyous moment together with me. From seeing faces, or usually just names, of friends over Zoom during the peaks of the pandemic, to walking the stage in this full-fledged ceremony with my dearest friends, I am truly thankful to be able to share this final moment with them before we set off on our journeys as doctors,” said Dr Nadirah.
Like the rest of the class, fellow graduate Dr Pereira Emma Marie-Pamerlyn had to do her Internal Medicine posting via Zoom when clinical postings were cancelled. She recalled being extremely anxious. She is nevertheless appreciative and thankful that the School did its best to ensure that her clinical experience was a balanced one, taking into account the risks that COVID-19 presented.
Dr Pereira had her memorable moments, one of which was during her posting to Palliative Medicine. “I learned so much from the senior doctors what it means to listen and be there for patients in their lowest. The seniors allowed me to be independent and gave me the chance to lead end-of-life conversations with patients and family members. I would not be able to carry through such difficult conversations if not for the training I got from LKCMedicine,” she said.
For LKCMedicine scholar, Dr Sam Zhi Hao Ryan, his memorable moments were the little things that kept him going, such as long meals at the café discussing future plans, struggles over coursework, and watching the sunset at the Medical Library. “These are moments that we took for granted, and the ones I especially miss now that work has begun,” said Dr Sam.
The tougher times were unforgettable too. “The pandemic started during our first clinical year where we were supposed to do rotations in the specialties of Internal Medicine and General Surgery. The theoretical knowledge was easily replaced by Zoom lessons, but we had insecurities about our clinical acumen. I mean, how else to pick up cardiac murmurs or auscultate for crepitations in these specialties and with them being the bedrock of our medical practice? So it was quite a detriment to miss out on our clinical postings,” added Dr Sam.
“The first year of the COVID-19 pandemic was an exceptionally intense period of work for me. At that time my PhD research was pretty much completed and my thesis drafted. However, I had no choice but to put it aside and not think about it for a year,” recalls Dr Young whose research project focussed on influenza in the tropics and what is the best vaccination strategy for the year-round infections we see in Singapore.
Fellow PhD graduate Dr Yew said, “The situation on the ground then was uncertain. I had clinical duties on top of my PhD and was also covering for my colleagues who were deployed to work in the dormitories or community care facilities. Labs were closed for a period of time. A lot of discussions happened via zoom which is less ideal.”
Nonetheless, both are grateful for the memorable journey. “I worked hard with my supervisor till the late hours and acquired entire new skills like using supercomputers and python programming. It was a great sense of accomplishment for a clinician like me,” added Dr Yew.
The valedictorian speech was delivered by Dr Sean Ng Ming Sheng who shared how, as doctors now, their lives may feel very different but, in a way, it is still much the same. “We are again at the beginning of a new journey, as House Officers at the nascent stages of our careers. As we move forward, there will be times when we falter, doubt ourselves, or face seemingly impossible expectations. Yet when these times come, let us not be discouraged but instead welcome that feeling of discomfort – for we know that it is in these moments of discomfort that we grow the most. Let us continue being students for life,” he said.
Dr Ng also reminded the Class of 2022 that when they took the Physician’s Pledge upon entering medical school, they pledged to always place patients at the centre of what they do.
“The time has come when simulated patients in simulated wards have given way to real patients, in real wards. Yet on some days, especially when tight for time, it can be easy to forget to place patients at the centre of our decisions. Our Dean, Professor Joseph Sung, once wrote that while the words in the Physician’s Pledge may take no more than two minutes to say, adhering to them perfectly takes a lifetime. Let us remember how each patient is more than just a bed number.
“Instead, may we remember how each patient is also someone’s father, someone’s mother, someone’s sibling or child, and treat them as though they were our own. May we continue striving to be the kind of doctors that we would like to have caring for our loved ones. By doing so, we can better put our pledge into practice and place our patients at the centre of what we do,” said Dr Ng.
Summing up her MBBS journey, graduate Dr Hima Premnath said, “What really made my LKCMedicine journey what it is are the friends that I have made, and the amazing faculty that have seen us through these five years! I’m so thankful to everyone who has seen us through these tough times!”