Duke-NUS’ largest graduating cohort celebrates diverse pathways to medicine

The largest graduating class in Duke-NUS’ history saw 90 graduates, including the first-ever Master of International Translational Medicine cohort, receive their degrees. Collectively, this cohort published 99 academic publications, underscoring Duke-NUS’ role as a leader in innovation and academic rigour in medical education. Celebrating diverse pathways to a career in healthcare, the graduates’ first degrees reflect diverse backgrounds, including architecture, communication studies and engineering, among others.

Doctor of Medicine graduands from the Duke-NUS Medical School Class of 2024 pose for a photograph before the Graduation Ceremony.

(Right to left): Executive Vice-President for Health Affairs at Duke University and Dean of Duke University's School of Medicine Professor Mary Klotman, Dean of Duke-NUS Medical School Professor Thomas Coffman, and Guest-of-Honour His Excellency Mr Jonathan Kaplan speak to some MD, Master of International Translational Medicine, PhD and MD-PhD graduands of the Duke-NUS Class of 2024.

Duke-NUS Medical School marked a significant milestone today as it celebrated the largest graduating class in its history. The Class of 2024 comprises 90 exceptional graduates who received Doctor of Medicine (MD), Masters and/or PhD degrees. This year also saw the inaugural graduating cohort from the Master of International Translational Medicine programme.

The ceremony, held at The Ngee Ann Kongsi Auditorium, was graced by His Excellency Mr Jonathan Kaplan, the United States Ambassador to Singapore, who attended as the Guest-of-Honour. Adding to the significance of the event, Professor Mary Klotman, Executive Vice-President for Health Affairs at Duke University and Dean of Duke University’s School of Medicine, a renowned figure in academic medicine, delivered a compelling keynote address, inspiring the future paths of the new graduates in contributing to global healthcare.

The Class of 2024 consists of 90 graduates, including 62 MD, 15 PhD, and 5 MD-PhD graduates, and 8 graduates of the Master of International Translational Medicine programme. This cohort embodies Duke-NUS’ dedication to a multidisciplinary approach in excellence-driven education, with the new Masters programme providing another avenue for international collaboration with the Eureka Institute for Translational Medicine in Italy.

Embodying the Duke-NUS commitment to diversity and inclusivity, the Class of 2024 boasts 58 per cent female representation in the MD programme, with 46 per cent of the MD graduates making mid-career switches to pursue their dream of studying medicine. Before coming to Duke-NUS, they earned degrees ranging from communications to information systems technology and engineering; from accountancy to philosophy and even zoology; as well as life sciences and pharmacy. Despite the demands of the rigorous curriculum, several of the graduates also began their families during their period of study at Duke-NUS.

Dr Felicia Ang, Class of 2024 PhD graduate with a background in psychology and organisational behaviour, who gave birth to three children during the course of her PhD, addressed the ceremony’s attendees, saying:

“Our journey was less like the predictable, linear correlations we love to see in our results sections, and more like those erratic toddler years—unpredictable, occasionally awkward, and definitely more successful with a strong support system.”

The School, which was established in 2005 with the mission to nurture a new generation of clinician-scientists who treat patients with compassion and care while bringing discoveries from the bench to the bedside, was a natural fit for graduates such as Dr Tay Shi Huan, Class of 2024:  

“Starting in academia, I quickly discovered a passion for working directly with patients. I believe that the perfect balance for me is to work as a clinician-scientist, where I can blend patient care with research to truly make a difference.”

Another speaker from the graduating cohort, Dr Low Feng Yi, made mention of the importance of the humanistic approach, saying:

“Having knowledge alone is not enough because we are in one of those few lucky professions where having your heart in the right place is equally as vital.” Dr Low was in the first cohort to graduate having participated in the Duke-NUS Health Innovator Programme, designed to nurture entrepreneurship in clinician-innovators. He was a member of the team FemTech, whose innovation to reduce the incidence of perinatal tears during childbirth won the judges’ acclaim, and $20,000 in funding to further develop their prototype, during the capstone presentation of the Health Innovator Programme.

Professor Thomas Coffman, Dean of Duke-NUS, praised the graduates for their resilience, especially as most of them enrolled at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic:

“You have faced uncertainty with confidence, mastered new ways of learning, and solved unimagined problems. Despite the COVID-related barriers that kept you apart during your first year at Duke-NUS, you became a close-knit group, transitioning seamlessly from remote learning to a community of aspiring doctors who have supported one another during trying times.” 

The graduation also celebrated numerous student achievements beyond academia, including community service initiatives and a remarkable 99 publications in prestigious journals.

As part of the graduation celebrations, special accolades were awarded, such as the Singapore Medical Association-Lee Foundation Achievement Prize and the College of Physicians Prize in Medicine, acknowledging students who have excelled in academics, community service, or leadership, at a dinner held on 31 May 2024.

Entering its 20th year, Duke-NUS remains committed to blending compassionate care with cutting-edge technology in the spirit of collaboration and innovation. As the institution prepares to celebrate its milestone anniversary next year, Duke-NUS continues to nurture the next generation of medical leaders poised to make a profound impact on healthcare in Singapore and around the world.

Professor Tan Eng Chye, President of the National University of Singapore, Professor Ng Wai Hoe, Group CEO of SingHealth, and Mr Goh Yew Lin, Chairman of the Duke-NUS Governing Board, and other leaders from Duke-NUS, NUS, Duke University and SingHealth joined the Class of 2024 and their family and friends at the Graduation & Hooding Ceremony.