DukeNUS Open House


Hey everybody!

I think my inspiration for writing is back! Today I will be sharing more about Duke-NUS, Singapore’s only postgraduate medical school, based on what I have learned from today’s open house.

Prior that, Justin came to fetch me from home and we had Collin’s for lunch. Subsequently, after a short catch up, we headed over to Duke-NUS. Duke-NUS is located within SGH itself, at Blk 2. I am not too sure about directions in apart from the road we drove into. Carpark H is the nearest carpark and the school is about 3 minutes walk away. If you are familiar with the area, and you are driving your way into Duke-NUS, I suggest you turn in along Outram Road (the split point before another road that has the sign “SGH this direction”). This small road, about 100 meters or so away from the old Zhangde Primary School, leads straight into the vast carpark H.

Since we were there early, and that was part of the plan, Justin and I got the chance to try out the laparoscopic trainer, which essentially is a simulation that allowed us to perform a simple task using tools, much like what a surgeon using a key-hole method would do. At first, I tried to pick up the sugar cubes using the gripping forceps on my right hand. Then, I noticed that the forceps was in an awkward position (so much for being a left hander) and decided to use the scissors for picking up the sugar cubes instead.

The scissors worked well, but I was not utilizing the correct tools properly.

Justin, on the other hand, managed to stack the 8 sugar cubes on top of one another without dropping them. Not bad!


The laparoscopic trainer ft. Justin’s stable hands.

Thankfully, we were given another opportunity to try this trainer out after the talks by the Professors from both the MD and the PhD track. That was the time when I had enough time to play with this interesting toy! To be honest, practice makes perfect and I can never agree more that hands-on skills require consistent practice. Otherwise, you may lose the muscle tone and memory which tags along the acquisition of the skill.

One limitation I noticed was that the whole field of vision is very two dimensional. Meaning to say, depth perception was affected and honestly, I have quite a bit of trouble stacking the cubes because of poor depth judgment. Reflecting back on it now, I realized I could have readjusted the camera to provide another view of the “operating site” I was on and improve my odds of stacking the sugar cubes up.

Moving on.

Instead of covering everything that could possibly be found on Duke-NUS’s website, I decided to summarize these information and also cover aspects which are not found on the website. However, do take this information with a pinch of salt and confirm with the school’s admissions team for more information.

Dual tracks

The school offers both MD (Doctor of Medicine) and PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) as well as a 7-year MD-PhD program for students.

Essentially, the MD track is a 4-year degree course which allows students to gain skills and knowledge needed to be future doctors.

Here are some things you need to know before applying to the MD course:

  • You will need a bachelor
  • You can be from any faculty (e.g. finance, arts, law)
  • Age is not a deciding factor as to who gets to be selected
  • MCAT score is needed for applying to Duke-NUS, who’s application period opens in June the preceding year.
  • MCAT scores are valid up to 4 years (check the school’s website!)
  • The earlier you apply, the higher your chances. Offers will be given out to students who have submitted their application first and the first batch of early birds application closes in September.
  • GAMSAT is now accepted as of November 2016
  • GAMSAT results are valid for 1-2 years (check the school’s website!)
  • Fees are fixed for the following 4 years
  • Finance should not be an issue, the school will never deny anyone from pursuing their passion in Medicine simply because of the lack of finance (which is good news for poorer students like me!)
  • 3 recommendation letters are required
  • According to the Panel session with the students, MD candidates have to go through a total of 2 interviews (one medical segment, and the other about research).
  • Also, there are a total of 4 essays that needs to be written for submission (i.e. Personal statement, Ethics, Teamwork, etc… Topics might vary from year to year)
  • The school is looking for candidates who are passionate and have the mental fortitude to last the entire course. Medicine is not just the 4 years of studies, but more than just that.
  • Do note that in YLLSoM and LKCSoM in both NUS and NTU teaches normal body functions and pathology over the span of two years. In Duke-NUS, those are condensed into less than a year.
  • Years 2 and 4 are mainly clinical rotations.
  • Year 3 is dedicated fully for a research program.


This is one of the slides the Professor used while telling us what type of candidates they are looking out for.

Also, be warned that Specialty training requires 5-8 years of studies, exclusive of 2-year fellowship before you can be a consultant! Do factor aging into your equation if you have yet to!

For the 4-year PhD program:

  • There are 5 different areas of interest you can apply into for the Integrated Biology and Medicine (IBM) track.
  • There is a new Bioinformatics & Biostatistics track students can apply to.
  • School fees are paid fully by the school, however, you need to publish at least one paper by the end of your school years.
  • If you are choosing the IBM track, you can try 3 different areas of interest (out of 5) during your first year before you start preparing for your thesis.
  • There will be modules you will need to take as well.

I need to apologize for the sparsity of information provided for the PhD program since my interest was not as developed as I have for the MD track. Kind of switched off a bit here and there during the talk.

For the MD-PhD track:

  • You will need to go through 4-5 interviews, and you will need to meet the criteria for both MD (2 interviews) and PhD (2-3 interviews).
  • MD fees for 1st 2 years need to be paid by yourself before they are refunded at a later stage.
  • You will be studying MD for 2 years, before you break into 4 years of PhD program.
  • You will conclude your studies in the 7th year with a final year MD rotation to prepare you for actual practice.

According to the students, and the tour…

Age is not an issue. There are people going as young as 20, 21, and those as old as 35, 37. What is important is that the passion and motivation are there.

Duke-NUS runs on a house system (they call it college instead of house) where juniors will be grouped into different colleges with seniors. This system serves to build a strong support system among the juniors and the seniors and help make life easier.

Work-life balance depends from individual to individual. Some are able to cope well, others may not. What is more important is that students help each another.

Learning session includes 3-4 tests each week, sometimes with teamLEAD exercises. This is one of the core areas in which Duke-NUS encourages learning. Lectures will be pre-recorded and students will have to view them before school. Following which, they will go to school and sit for a test.

Once the time is up, the will convene as a group to discuss the answers to those questions they have attempted, debating on the best answer to the questions posed.

Sometimes, they will have clinical case studies or applications questions where students get to debate on the particular approaches and defend them against the other groups!

TeamLEAD sessions are held in this semicircular classroom where all students would be able to participate actively in its discussion!


I have taken a snap on how magnificent this place looks!


I think Duke-NUS is a good medical school in Singapore and really helps students who are really passionate about Medicine.

Should I fail to secure any slots into undergraduate medicine, I would definitely apply into Duke-NUS MD track! But first, I need to wait for news from the three other UK schools, the application period for NUS transfer, as well as the shortlisting date for Southampton Medicine.

Hopefully I do not need to wait 4 more years before I can get into Medicine school :|!