On Thursday 1 April, the 105 students from the Class of 2021 marked both the end of the Student Assistantship Programme (SAP) and the salient milestone of the close of their medical school chapter. The former students were announced to have already passed their final exams earlier in February, scoring a remarkable 100% pass rate on their MBBS programme. With their SAP completed, the new batch of medical professionals will join Singapore's healthcare workforce later this month as Postgraduate Year 1 (PGY1) doctors.
As a virtual and limited in-person event, with safe-distancing observed, the usual congratulatory hugs from a pre-Covid-19 era were absent from this year's SAP wrap-up. However, the celebratory mood was not muted by the lack of physical contact on their final day of medical school.
The day was opened with an address from Vice-Dean for Education Professor Jennifer Cleland who gave a virtual welcome to the attendees. Prof Cleland spoke of how proud she is of the former students, noting particularly their success in times of the pandemic. She said, "You all have excelled in many ways over the past five years. You managed the challenges of Covid-19 with good humour and positivity. We admired your resilience."
Prof Cleland concluded her address in saying, "Best wishes to you all as you continue with your medical careers. PGY1 is the next step on your journey as medical professionals."
Prof Cleland was followed by the Singapore Medical Association (SMA) Membership Committee members, Dr Tan Yia Swam, Dr Ng Chew Lip and Dr Lim Kheng, who gave an overview of the association. The fresh new doctors were then given an online briefing by MOH Holdings on what to expect from their first posting as PGY1 doctors.
Next, the students were welcomed by the NTU and LKCMedicine alumni teams, who gave a short presentation of their fundraising initiatives for students in need, in view that NTU is no longer fully government funded, and impressed that any donation, no matter how small, may contribute to a fellow student realising their dreams as a healthcare professional.
The talk from the alumni teams was followed by sessions conducted by Mr Aloysius Chow, who spoke about 'Transitions to Practice'; Associate Professor Alfred Kow, who gave an introduction to 'Let's PASS IT', concerning Patient Safety e-learning on-the-go; then Vice-Dean for Clinical Affairs Professor Pang Wen Sun, who took the reins to deliver a talk on PELLS Ethics and Professionalism.
In opening his session, Prof Pang encouraged students to remember the pledge they made at their white coat ceremony five years ago by saying, "You did make a promise that you will serve humanity; you will care for the sick, and alleviate pain and suffering."
He added, "With this comes considerable responsibility, so declare that you will practice with integrity, humility, honesty, and compassion."
Associate Professor Tham Kum Ying followed by seeking students' feedback on the SAP and settled any outstanding administrative matters to ensure that the students will have a smooth start on 26 April.
With the last of the morning's sessions complete, LKCMedicine's new Dean Professor Joseph Sung gave a much-anticipated virtual address, expressing his delight at seeing the cohort ready to put their best foot forward on what was their first day as "real doctors" and, indeed, on what was his first day as Dean of the School.
As with Prof Cleland, he spoke of his pride for the former students as "our flag bearers and trailblazers", but also echoed the words of Prof Pang about being true to their humility in donning the white coat. He quoted physician Sir William Osler, saying, "The good physician treats the disease, and a great physician treats the person who has the disease."
In closing, Prof Sung concluded, "I urge you not to stop learning and to help us advance medical science and technology… I wish you a successful career and do remember to come back and see us."
As with the previous year's SAP wrap-up, a commemorative photo of the entire cohort with the Vice and Assistant Deans was not possible, but a worthy substitute in the form of delicious food in bento boxes was offered instead to those who attended in person.
A hearty congratulations and best wishes to all our PGY1 doctors as they embark on their careers as healthcare professionals.