Professor James Best, Dean of the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, says the young school is already making a difference to healthcare in Singapore.
This week Professor Best, who received an Imperial College Medal at Commemoration Day for his contribution as LKCMedicine’s first resident Dean.
The second cohort of medical students graduated from LKCMedicine earlier this year. Here, Professor Best reflects on the pioneering medical schools’ first few years and ambitions for the future:
What were your thoughts when you first came to LKCMedicine five years ago?
I was excited with the opportunity to continue to build a new medical school in Singapore, having come from a very established medical school at the University of Melbourne, where I had worked for 25 years.
The fact that LKCMedicine had two parent universities, NTU Singapore and Imperial, added an interesting dimension. I was also looking forward to living in Singapore and a life adventure as well as an academic adventure, which is exactly how it has played out.
In your assessment, how well has LKCMedicine achieved its goals?
Our primary goal was to deliver an excellent educational experience for our MBBS students and produce outstanding doctors for Singapore. We graduated our first cohort last year and our second this year, and by all accounts, with excellent support from Imperial, we have succeeded in this aim.
At the same time, we wanted to develop a strong research programme, building on the clinical capabilities of our major healthcare partner, National Healthcare Group (NHG). We saw potential in working with NHG to develop clinician scientists and in joint research projects.
We also wanted to link our research program closely with Imperial and with NTU, leveraging on their outstanding research capabilities. I am very pleased with our progress towards all of these goals.
What is LKCMedicine doing differently to other medical schools and what could they learn from LKCMedicine?
We had the opportunity to develop a new curriculum and so we were able to place a strong emphasis on team based learning (TBL), with extensive IT support.
Lectures are pre-recorded and viewed prior to the TBL sessions on an iPad provided to all students. We have included clinical scenarios that are relevant to the system being studied with an integrated learning approach. There is a strong emphasis on professionalism and on providing a supportive environment.
Our students enjoy wonderful facilities, designed for our educational approach. We have had a lot of interest from other medical schools internationally and have been happy to share our experiences.
What’s it like to manage a School led by institutions in two countries and continents, with different cultures and health systems?
The involvement of two highly ranked universities does add an element of complexity, but it has truly been a seamless partnership. Being based in Singapore, we are very strongly connected with NTU, but we value highly our Imperial connection and the support and prestige that brings. The East-West connection provides wonderful opportunities for our new medical school.
Having graduated two cohorts, what can you say about the characteristics of an LKCMedicine student?
They are good communicators, knowledgeable and competent, thoughtful and committed to the care of their patients. I am sure they will live up to our expectations of producing ‘the kind of doctors you and I would like to have caring for us and our families’.
How is the LKCMedicine relationship with Imperial evolving?
The relationship is going from strength to strength. I see it evolving into a more bi-directional partnership, where Imperial derives significant benefit through collaborative efforts in education and research. In fact, that is happening already.
What have Imperial colleagues brought to the relationship with LKCMedicine?
The opportunity to work with Imperial staff has been immensely beneficial for me, both at a personal and academic level. I appreciate very much the support and encouragement, as well as the sage advice I receive. Staff who have relocated to Singapore from Imperial have contributed mightily to our success and have provided a strong connection, as have the academic staff visiting from Imperial.
What contribution do you think LKCMedicine is making and will make to healthcare in Singapore and around the world?
LKCMedicine is providing the opportunity for many more Singaporeans to study medicine in Singapore and is making a contribution to the healthcare system through producing fine doctors.
I believe we have also brought a new perspective in medical education and medical research, adding diversity to existing strengths. We do have a strong focus on global health in communicable and non-communicable diseases at a population level. A recent achievement has been recognition as host for a WHO Collaborating Centre in digital health and education.
What does the Imperial College Medal mean to you personally and professionally?
The award of the Imperial College Medal is a significant and unanticipated honour, which I appreciate greatly at this stage of my career. It means the efforts I have made over the past five years are recognised by Imperial and that Imperial sees its presence in Singapore through its joint Medical School in a very positive light. I naturally also reflect on all of the assistance I have had from colleagues in Singapore and London and express my warm appreciation of their support.
Transform MedEd Conference 2020
In March next year, Imperial will host the Transform MedEd 2020 conference - jointly organised with LKCMedicine. The first conference in 2018 attracted 400 delegates from around the world. This year’s conference will address global challenges to achieve local impact.
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