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Career in medicine in Singapore [2024 guide]

    Many of students who register for my H2 Biology classes are considering the career in medicine.

    Whilst many do so by seeking entry into the local medical school. Others go abroad instead. Both are viable methods and I will detail the how-tos, below.

    Career in medicine, think twice!

    Ironically, I have been actively dissuading my students from a career in medicine.

    The most important reason is because many seem to consider the option from a financial or egotistical point of view.

    Only to disguise it as: my XXX died from XXX, so I want to help people who are sick.

    And medical admissions interviewers probably roll their eyes a little at the standard statement.

    And when they ask further why don’t you become a nurse instead?

    Usually there are no good responses clearly showing that, it is a cover rather than the real reason.

    Furthermore, telling people you are a doctor comes with an immense sense of achievement as well as social standing.

    In the past, I too am amongst one of the hopefuls thinking about a career in medicine.

    However exposure to the medical industry as well as an internship showed me that the profession is anything but.

    Career in medicine, lifelong studying

    In reality, a career in medicine is far less productive. And a person in training spends far more time studying.

    Furthermore, learning is a lifetime commitment and also necessary for him/her to be effective. This is due to new procedures and drugs or information arising daily.

    In fact, most of your non-doctor compatriots will likely be well on their way up the career ladder by the time you graduate.

    A look at a recent study reveals the sobering truth. Most importantly that the returns are low. Here’s a doctor who shows you the calculations resulting in the same conclusion.

    In addition, if you make errors in clinical judgement, you can look forward to severe punishments. Especially when patients initiates legal action against you.

    For medical doctors in private practice, you are completely on your own. This includes paying for malpractice insurance, seeking your own legal advice etc.

    All of these add up and most importantly take away from your income, reducing it further.

    Career in medicine, Private vs Public sector patients

    Many think that going into private practice increases income.

    On the contrary, a number of those who seem to do well do so employing unethical tactics.

    If you have some time to spare, watch the harrowing story of how a Korean young man died on the surgery table in part due to how his doctors were chasing after his monies.

    YouTube video

    My medical friends speak about the practice of double consults (2 patients in 2 different rooms simultaneously seen) by some.

    A small handful even go as far as routinely prescribing unnecessary drugs as well as expensive procedures in order to increase per patient earning. Many also receive indirect kick-backs from fulfilling buying quotas of drugs set by pharmaceutical companies.

    Furthermore, foreign private full-fee paying patients continue to decrease as they opt for less expensive medical destinations in Malaysia and Thailand.

    For those in private practice, they also have to rent clinic space. These costs are increasing as demand increases as more medical doctors leave the pubic sector.

    Career in medicine, Reality check

    Whilst the lives of doctors on the TV screen are cosmetically enhanced to perfection.

    Unfortunately, what happens once the privacy curtain is lifted is anything but.

    It is not unusual for an A&E doctor to do a digital rectal exam for occult blood so as to rule out a myriad of medical problems.

    It’s a shitty job (pun unintended) in addition to possible the projectile anythings that can come your way. Such as flatulence, blood, saliva, pus, urine and sometimes a mixture of them.

    And in these times of COVID-19, many end up with the infection.

    Some even die from it.

    You may think that the list above is not daunting for you. On top of that, you are comfortable with earning a common man’s income. You also still think you will love the job because you truly believe and have the gift of healing. Finally, you have an endless inquisitive nature.

    If that is the case, then you may just be perfect for the profession (or the seminary)!

    Getting into medical school, local options

    If you are still reading on and want in on a career in medicine, let me provide the overview of gaining university admissions in Singapore.

    There are 2 universities offering the program at undergraduate levels and a special program at postgraduate level.

    At undergraduate levels, NUS and NTU’s programs are ultra competitive.

    Majority of the spaces are set aside for Singapore-Cambridge A level holders.

    The indicative grade profiles of students who gain admissions are typically AAA/A.

    It is important to note that those who wish to gain entry into the NTU program needs to sit for an additional UCAT within the year of admissions (BMAT is no longer valid from AY2024 onwards).

    On the other hand, the graduate entry (after completing an undergraduate program) level medicine course comes via Duke-NUS.

    Similar to the NTU program, students need to sit for an additional admissions test of which 2 are acceptable. GAMSAT or MCAT.

    Because of the stringent requirements, few make it through the shortlists.

    In addition, more will subsequently be rejected after an interview.

    Every year, I bring my past students who successfully enroll into the local programs back to guide juniors who are in my H2 biology class.

    Let me introduce Nicholas Chan, my student in 2017 who made it into NUS medical school in 2019.

    First ITE nursing student to enter into NUS medicine

    career in medicine nicholas chan first ITE student

    Yes, he is the first ITE graduate to get into NUS medical school.

    Unbeknownst to many, he actually is able to differentiate himself from other applicants by being the only one to do a simultaneous full time diploma program as well as A levels with 3H2 and 1H1 subject combination.

    I was tutoring him for his H2 biology and in addition, also wrote him a glowing appraisal for his admissions.

    Unfortunately, all the articles written about him seem to point to the fact that he is an ITE, Poly nursing student rather than him embarking on a double qualification in order to merit a consideration to admit him into the program.

    I suspect that many future applicants may come from the ITE, Poly nursing background without thinking that they need to stand themselves out and prove that they are extraordinary.

    Read more about Nicholas Chan’s story here.

    Getting into medical school, Overseas options

    There is a small minority of students who want a career in medicine and are able to venture overseas for medical school.

    Unfortunately, if they do want to return to Singapore to practice medicine, there’s a list of accredited programs so not any program is acceptable.

    Generally, these overseas nprograms are a little easier to gain admissions comparing to Singaporean universities.

    Some of my past students successfully gain admissions to Australian universities. They usually do so either directly or via a foundation program that gives them a direct path into medical school.

    H2 bio tuition student Zi Ting

    Read about another of my student, Zi Ting’s journey to getting an Australia University Medical program to accept her.

    One of my friends gained admissions into the Hong Kong University medical program. She later successfully transferred back to NUS after completing the pre-clinical years.

    That is only possible because someone left the program prematurely creating a vacancy in the clinical year class.

    In addition, universities in the UK generally requires an additional entrance test such as the BMAT or the UCAT.

    One advantage of an overseas education is that it is the much wider options for a career in medicine. This includes fields that are only available due to a larger population. Where one has a higher chance of encountering rare diseases or afflictions in contrast to Singapore.

    In addition, MOH Holdings routinely offer Singaporeans in these universities to training grants to return. This may reduce the cost of an overseas medical education.

    Career in medicine, bottomline

    The road towards medical school and a career in medicine may be daunting. I hope as well as cross my fingers that you will make it in if you really want it.

    More importantly, I will try to keep the information here updated for your reference as well as review.

    All the best!

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