On 28 August, the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine’s Clinical Sciences Building (LKCMedicine) officially opened – four years after Singapore’s third medical school (and the youngest) started operation. Its pioneer batch of 54 students, matriculated in 2013, will graduate from the 5-year course in July next year.

A fruitful partnership that balances the interests of its stakeholders

The 20-storey Clinical Sciences Building is located in Health City Novena, with links to various health centres and community care services, including Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH). The National Healthcare Group (NHG), which manages TTSH, is the medical school's primary clinical partner.

LKCMedicine is a partnership between the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Imperial College London. Students have their lessons both at NTU’s main campus in Jurong West (specifically, the Experimental Medicine Building), and at Novena – with a curriculum adapted from Imperial’s. It took in 120 students this year.

According to LKCMedicine's governing board chairman, Lim Chuan Poh, the three major stakeholders – namely, NTU Singapore, Imperial and NHG – have all fulfilled a "long-held ambition".

"For Imperial, it was the right opportunity to prove its impact globally. For NTU, it was to start a new medical school, while for NHG, it was to have an academic presence on campus. LKCMedicine fulfilled all those and more," expressed Lim.

Doctors: Training should meet the needs of the changing times

At the opening ceremony, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, spoke of the need to remain adaptable to changes in Singapore’s healthcare needs; particularly given the rise in ageing population. He said that while there are already “advanced methods and sophisticated equipment” to combat complex illnesses – that does not guarantee the infallibility of the healthcare system.

“Pathogens are evolving at ever-faster rates, and can also be transmitted globally within a short period as countries are more interconnected,” stated Teo, who is also Coordinating Minister for National Security, further citing examples such as the Zika outbreak last year, and the discovery of several drug-resistant tuberculosis cases in Ang Mo Kio.

He outlined the need for technology to boost the quality of healthcare, such as enabling remote patient monitoring via home-care robots in the near future, and tele-consulting services.

Teo also emphasised the need for Singapore's medical community to serve with the patients’ interests in mind and provide a “holistic care”.

"This total health approach requires good social skills and the ability to work in teams with other healthcare professionals, within and across the hospitals, clinics and community, to serve our patients with a 'big heart'. This is especially important as our healthcare structures evolve to suit the needs of an ageing population," asserted Teo.

The school, built with this philosophy in mind, aims to foster collaborative spirit, initiative and compassion for patients, through the methods of teaching and student participation in community programmes; such as the Long-Term Patient Project, which pairs students with patients that have chronic conditions requiring special needs.

"This helps to provide additional support for these patients," added Teo. "(It) also encourages our budding doctors to have a deep understanding of the complex interactions between treatment of disease and total patient health and well-being."

The curriculum is notable for its strong emphasis on team-based learning. Students are often tasked to listen to pre-recorded lectures from academics at Imperial before discussing the material in class, often with local subject experts.

According to the president of Imperial College London, Alice Gast – both universities also collaborate on student exchange programmes, which serve to expose students to the similarities and differences in medical education and healthcare in Singapore and the UK. To date, approximately 50 NTU students have gone to Imperial College London – either in their second year for a week-long immersion programme which was launched last year, or in their final year for six-week-long elective placements which have been introduced in August.

Clearly, what can be said of the school may be summed up by NTU president, Professor Bertil Andersson’s words. "The trademark of any successful joint programme is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” he said. MIMS

Read more:
Doctors in the making: 3 new and innovative teaching methods at medicals schools today
Family medicine course for GPs to undergo "intensive upgrade" in Singapore
4 ways smartphones can shelp patients and doctors save valuable time