Coronavirus: SingHealth's free online lessons fill learning gap for overseas medical students back in Singapore

More than 860 Singaporean overseas medical students have signed up for SingHealth's initiative since its launch in May. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Although Covid-19 has put a pause on the studies of Singaporean medical students studying abroad, a free lifeline provided by SingHealth ensures that the learning carries on.

Through the Helping Overseas Medics' Education (Home) initiative, affected Singaporean overseas medical students can access medical lessons every day, and follow a curriculum that mirrors a standard medical undergraduate programme.

These students had been pursuing medicine overseas, but had to return to Singapore because of the worsening pandemic.

And now, from the comfort of their homes, they can sign up for free lessons, regardless of their year of study.

The lessons, which are held on videoconferencing platform Zoom - are facilitated by 45 SingHealth Residency faculty members and residents, and take place up to three times daily, covering broad disciplines such as medicine, gynaecology and paediatrics.

SingHealth Residency is part of the educational arm of SingHealth, providing graduate medical education.

Depending on the content, lessons can last from one to 2½ hours, and are usually held during office hours and evenings. Sometimes, lessons are held on weekends too.

Associate Professor Tan Lay Kok, programme director for the Postgraduate Year 1 programme at SingHealth Residency, which developed Home in April, said he saw a need for online lessons after receiving requests from doctor colleagues who were worried about the disruption to their children's education.

"The biggest benefit to these students is to have continuity and some tangible semblance of teaching and instruction by experienced faculty and residents, and to cover whatever lost ground caused by the disruption," he said, adding that the initiative also gives students the chance to compare how medical conditions are treated in Singapore in relation to their countries of study.

More than 860 Singaporean overseas medical students have signed up for Home since its launch in May, with 89 sessions already conducted as of last Thursday.

Participant Simon Ang, 23, said he was thankful for the effort put in to make medical lessons accessible to overseas students who have been left in the lurch because of the pandemic.

"I was heartened to be able to gain a better understanding of the workings of the local healthcare landscape.

"This understanding will also help ease the transition when overseas medical students return home after graduation," said the third-year medical student at Imperial College London.

The Home initiative is expected to continue until Aug 31, when most students are expected to have returned overseas to continue their semester.

Students who are interested can register via the medical society for Singaporean students in their country of study.

Alternatively, they can also e-mail to register.

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