The first ever graduates of the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine received Medicine degrees from Imperial and Nanyang Technological University today.
At a degree ceremony overseen by Singapore’s President Halimah Yacob, 52 pioneering students became the first to ever receive an Imperial degree for overseas study. They earn a full MBBS qualification, and become alumni of both Imperial and NTU.
Madam Halimah was joined at the convocation, held at NTU, by government, diplomatic and academic leaders from the UK and Singapore. They included former President of Singapore Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam, who laid the foundation stone of LKCMedicine’s campus in 2015, and Britain’s High Commissioner to Singapore Scott Wightman.
LKCMedicine's state-of-the-art dual campus is now aiming to admit 150 students per year. It was officially opened in 2017 by Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, an Imperial alumnus (MSc Computing 1977), having revisited his alma mater earlier this year.
Imperial was represented at the ceremony by Chair of Council Sir Philip Dilley. Professor Jonathan Weber, Dean of Imperial’s Faculty of Medicine, called up the new graduates alongside LKCMedicine Dean Professor James Best. They were joined on stage by Professor Simone Buitendijk, Dr Martin Lupton and Professor Des Johnston, all of whom had helped the students to celebrate as graduands at a special event on Sunday evening.
Dr Tony Tan, Singapore’s former President, told the new graduates: “For each of you the degree you gain today is an important building block in your career. You should be proud of your achievement. But never forget, however, that no house, no city, no country is made up of identical bricks. Individual building blocks have a role and a unique function. But it is together that they realise a purpose greater than themselves.”
Professor Subra Suresh, President of NTU, said: “I eagerly look forward to observing the impact you will have on Singapore and the world, and to the many contributions you will make to society.”
One of the first graduates of LKCMedicine, Dr Aishwarya Narayanan, said: “During my time at medical school, the early exposure to patients helped me discover the personal fulfilment that comes through interacting with and helping those in need.”
We were the pioneer batch - not just in name, but in spirit Dr Ang Jia Wei Valedictorian, LKCMedicine
Speaking immediately after the ceremony, Dr Toh Wen Shien said that, although receiving a degree “doesn’t feel so different to before, we had this amazing high moment when we finished our exams and knew that we would become doctors.” Reflecting on the last five years, Dr Toh said: “I will take with me the team spirit, and inspiration from the great tutors who sacrificed many extra hours for us. I hope to one day be more like them.”
Their classmate Dr Ang Jia Wei earned a Lee Kuan Yew Gold Medal at the convocation for obtaining honours at the top of her class. During her studies, Dr Ang befriended the terminally ill at Dover Park Hospice, volunteered in a migrant workers clinic, and helped empower poor women and children in the villages of Batam.
In her valedictory address, Dr Ang said that “five years of medical school has not just been filled with learning,” but also “fun and laughter… eating mooncakes… watching the solar eclipse in year 3… carving watermelons.”
“We were the pioneer batch: not just in name, but in spirit.” There were “no seniors and no notes to guide us”, she explained, yet “we not only survived, but we thrived.”
Recalibrating med ed
LKCMedicine builds on Imperial’s world-renowned medical curriculum as it trains the next generation of Singaporean doctors. The innovative curriculum takes a patient-centred approach, harnessing team-based learning and the latest digital technology. As the LKCMedicine programme developed, it has influenced Imperial’s own medical curriculum, and Imperial and LKCMedicine students now take part in an annual exchange.
As these first graduates begin their careers, Singapore and the wider world will benefit for generations to come. Professor Alice Gast President, Imperial College London
Imperial’s Dean of Medicine, Professor Jonathan Weber, said: “We are immensely proud of this first international foray and the innovative teaching methods which have been developed there.”
Imperial's President Professor Alice Gast said: “This week’s celebrations are rightly focused on the graduates’ enormous personal achievements over the last five years. But we should also reflect on the vision of NTU, and of Singapore as a whole, in creating one of the world’s finest medical schools in less than a decade.
“Many of the best academics in Singapore and London pushed the limits of what a medical school can be. They recalibrated traditional medicine programmes, placing a stronger emphasis on personalised, patient-centred care and intelligent use of technology, wisely anticipating the emerging health challenges of ageing societies.
“LKCMedicine’s inaugural graduates’ humanity, courage and intellectual excellence are the greatest testament to Singapore’s vision. As these first graduates begin their careers, Singapore and the wider world will benefit for generations to come.”
Honours and awards
During the ceremony, Singapore’s former President Tony Tan received an honorary doctorate from NTU for his contributions to education in Singapore, including his role in the establishment of LKCMedicine.
Dr Tan’s citation was read by Imperial alumnus Koh Boon Hwee (BEng Mechanical Engineering 1971), Chair of NTU’s Board of Trustees. Mr Koh said: “Dr Tan widened Singapore’s international circle of friends through many top-level exchanges with foreign leaders. His visits abroad were also important occasions to promote cultural, scientific and technological collaborations.”
One such occasion was President Tan’s 2014 UK state visit, when he visited Imperial, saw the fruits of the College’s exceptionally rich set of research collaborations with Singapore, and met some of the 400 Singaporean students on campus.
A further honorary doctorate was conferred on Dr Lee Seng Tee, Chairman of the Lee Foundation, for his philanthropic contributions to education worldwide. Dr Lee’s generous support for LKCMedicine, which is named after his father Lee Kong Chian, includes a gift of SGD150 million from the Lee Foundation.
Professor Bertil Andersson was appointed President Emeritus for his service as Provost and then President of NTU, where he was instrumental in the creation of LKCMedicine. Professor Andersson said: “Today I am the most proud and happy President Emeritus in the world because I will see the new LKCMedicine doctors walking by to receive their degrees one-by-one.”
Two LKCMedicine graduates – Dr Ang Jia Wei and Dr Moses Ko Yong Sheng – were given Koh Boon Hwee Scholars Awards, recognising not only their own academic performance, but the teaching excellence that helped build their success. They were both given the chance to grant awards to a teacher and a faculty member who inspired them.
Dr Ko selected his former literature teacher from the Anglo-Chinese School, Mr Brian Connor, through who “I was exposed to the complexity of language and communication. I was better able to approach whatever I read, heard or saw – not just in examinations, but in life – with greater conscientiousness and renewed curiosity.” He also singled out LKCMedicine’s Associate Professor Mary Wong Fong Mun for her reminders of the importance of “character development, relationships and health… I look up to her not only as a clinician but, more importantly, as a mentor.”
'Pride and joy' behind the scenes
Multiple Imperial staff who helped shape and develop LKCMedicine attended the ceremony, including Roxy Hughes, Collaborative Partnerships Administrator, who manages student electives and exchanges with LKCMedicine. This was her first trip to Singapore, and a particularly special one, as she had got to know 22 of the first graduating cohort when they visited London.
Head of Business and Educational Development Gerry Greyling spoke of the whole team’s “Pride and joy at this symbol of LKCMedicine’s success. It is having a ripple effect. We are now looking forward to new levels of collaboration in areas like educational research, postgraduate training, and sharing knowledge and best practice through a joint Transform MedEd conference.”
Article text (excluding photos or graphics) © Imperial College London.
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