School includes humanitarian work to produce docs who treat with heart as much as head

Dr Lam Pin Min, Minister of State, Ministry of Health, takes a photo of a dummy medical officer treating a dummy casualty during a tour of the Humanity in Medicine Exhibition at NTU's Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine Experimental Medicine Building o
Dr Lam Pin Min, Minister of State, Ministry of Health, takes a photo of a dummy medical officer treating a dummy casualty during a tour of the Humanity in Medicine Exhibition at NTU's Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine Experimental Medicine Building on August 12, 2015.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - It is a curriculum aimed at developing the correct attitude in doctors, so that they treat patients as much with their hearts as with their heads.

Medical students at the Nanyang Technological University's Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine are encouraged to provide humanitarian aid, both locally and overseas.

The school's dean, Professor James Best, said three in four of its 132 students, many from their first year, have done just that.

Some have been on missions to Cambodia, Batam and Sri Lanka. Others spend their weekends with patients at the Dover Park Hospice.

Said Prof Best: "We talk of medical education as developing knowledge, skills and attitudes. In a lot of medical education, the attitude part has been neglected. We don't want to neglect building the character of our doctors ."

On Wednesday, the school launched a Humanity in Medicine exhibition, highlighting efforts by doctors and nurses here.

Opening the exhibition, Dr Lam Pin Min, Minister of State for Health said: "The practice of medicine is an art, not a trade; a calling, not a business; a calling in which your heart will be exercised equally with your head."

An ophthalmologist by training, Dr Lam has taken part in many such missions in his eight years as a doctor in the air force, a fact highlighted by Mr Lim Chuan Poh, chairman of the school's governing board.

Dr Lam said the school "inspires student doctors to become doctors who provide care they would like and appreciate for themselves."

Three second year students who provided humanitarian aid abroad this year shared their experiences.

Shawn Tan, 20, was one of 12 students who went to several villages in Cambodia to teach hygiene, and first aid. He recalls putting talcum powder on the children's hands to show them how easy it is for germs to be passed from one person to another, if they do not wash their hands properly.

Candice Loh, 19, plans to return to Batam during her vacation to continue to provide health education and to help in sanitation projects. She also wants to identify other needs, so that she and her fellow students can continue to help.

Berwyn Tan, 19, said his stint in a village in Sri Lanka was an "excellent opportunity to learn about myself and the healthcare problems faced by communities in other countries".