​NTU President's speech for LKCMedicine's White Coat Ceremony 2019

Published on: 13-Aug-2019

Opening remarks by

Professor Subra Suresh
President & Distinguished University Professor
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore


Nanyang Auditorium 
Tuesday, 13 August 2019, 10.30am

Guest-of-Honour Professor Lee Eng Hin, LKCMedicine Governing Board member,

Mr Lim Chuan Poh, Chairman of LKCMedicine Governing Board; and member of NTU Board of Trustees, 

Professor Desmond Johnston, LKCMedicine Governing Board member and Vice-Dean (International Activities), Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College London,

Dr Sayampanathan Sarvaselan, Master, Academy of Medicine Singapore,

Professor James Best, Dean, Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, 

Class of 2024 and parents, 

Distinguished guests, 

Ladies and gentlemen, 

Let me offer a very good morning to all of you and welcome to the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine White Coat ceremony. 

How time flies! In less than 10 years, from concept to reality, LKCMedicine has come quite far. Today, we are welcoming our  7th, and largest cohort! 

My heartiest congratulations to each of the 150 medical students here, who by 2024 will become practising clinicians working in hospitals in Singapore. Let that sink in for a moment. 

Let me offer my congratulations to the parents, as you watch the White Coat ceremony today with pride and joy. You have devoted yourselves to helping your sons and daughters reach this milestone. For the next five years, the new cohort of medical students in LKCMedicine will be pursuing an education that offers the best of two leading universities in the world.

NTU in a relatively short period of time has come a long way to become one of the best education institutions that combines research and education. And LKCMedicine, in a relatively short period of time, has established itself for its innovative ways of educating young minds in the practice of medicine.  

To the medical school class of 2024: You have made a wise choice. Awaiting you is a very innovative programme brought to you by distinguished faculty and staff led by Professor James Best, the dean of the medical school with decades of practice as a medical educator.  The programme that you will experience over the next five years has undergone multiple rigorous rounds of quality assurance, not only by internal professors and educators but also by external examiners. 

Your learning will take place in state-of-the-art facilities. Your knowledge and skills will accumulate through formal teaching and encounters with clinicians, medical educators, biomedical researchers, and most importantly, your patients. Anything you learn from any sophisticated instrumentation, or something that’s as seemingly simple as an iPad will have been developed and put there by those same people, who put a lot of thought into your education. 

We just started last year to graduate our first cohort of 52 pioneer graduates who are now working across hospitals in Singapore. And we hear that they are a credit to the School and to NTU. Last month, we graduated 75 more graduates.

Today’s White Coat Ceremony is significant as it marks the beginning of your journey in medicine. When you walk on stage to receive your White Coat later, I hope you remember that you have chosen a course and answered a calling that is fundamentally about compassion, empathy and care for your patients – from those you will meet in your first year, all the way to those you will see on the day you hang your white coat up.  

I want to leave you with two thoughts. 

You are entering the medical profession as first a learner and then a practitioner at a profound time of change for humanity, at a time when technology is significantly impacting not only the practice of medicine, but equally, the way we use interfaces, the day-to-day life of human beings at all layers of society all over the world. Robotic surgery, telehealth tools, regenerative medicine, artificial intelligence in diagnosis, virtual reality in the clinic and in the operating theatre, 3D printing of body parts: all these things are here, when it will impact your career even more so in the decades to come. 

NTU, in addition to LKCMedicine, has enormous strengths in other areas such as engineering, science, business, humanities, arts and social sciences, that would have a bearing on your education. For example, our College of Engineering is consistently ranked by every metric as one of the leading engineering colleges in the world. I hope that during the course of your five years, you will have an opportunity to engage and learn from colleagues in a different part of the campus, whose innovations will impact medical practice whether they are medical doctors or not. 

The second point I would like to make, is all that excitement and promise that you will experience are happening just as healthcare challenges are becoming increasingly complex. In Singapore, in less than a decade from now, we are heading towards what is known as a ‘Silver Tsunami’. It is expected that ten years from now, one out of every five Singaporeans will be at least 65 years old. Singapore is one of the countries with the longest life expectancy, but longevity can also come at a price. For example, the Singapore Government has declared a ‘war on diabetes’. So as life expectancy increases, we should also pay attention to the quality of life.

So you will be practising medicine at a time when there are profound changes in the way technology impacts medicine and also profound demographic changes locally in Singapore. LKCMedicine’s innovative curriculum has been designed to prepare you for the shifting healthcare needs of Singapore. You will have many opportunities to work alongside teams in clinics and hospitals across Singapore and to begin observing the challenges ahead and the changes that will be required. 

Our mission is to advance the science and practice of medicine for the good of humanity. In fact, just last year, NTU launched the NTU Institute of Science and Technology for Humanity (NISTH). This institute serves the purpose of connecting technological advances so that we can benefit humanity in new ways. The medical practice is very much at the epicentre of our mission of what entities such as NISTH are also trying to build. We believe that the best way to achieve the connections between medicine and humanity, is to train doctors who put patients at the centre of their exemplary care. That’s your big goal and I wish all of you all the best in this journey.

Thank you. 

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