Considering a career in medicine in Singapore
A large number of students who register for my H2 Biology classes are considering the career in medicine.
Some wish to enter a career in medicine by going into the local medical school. Others go abroad.
Career in medicine, think twice!
Ironically, I have been actively dissuading my students.
Because many seem to consider the option from a financial or egotistical point of view.
It may seem like doctors earn a lot of money. Or that telling people you are a doctor comes with an immense sense of achievement and 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
A career in medicine is far less productive. And a person in training spends far more time studying.
Furthermore, learning is a lifetime commitment. This is due to new procedures and drugs or information arising daily.
In fact, most of your compatriots will likely have settled into a career by the time you graduate.
A look at a recent study reveals the sobering truth. That the returns are low.
In addition, if you make errors in clinical judgement, you can look forward to severe punishments. Especially when patients initiates legal action against you.
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.
My medical friends speak about the practice of double consults (2 patients in 2 different rooms simultaneously seen) by some of these doctors.
Others pay middle men to send overseas patients to their practice.
A small handful even go as far as routinely prescribing unnecessary drugs as well as expensive procedures.
Furthermore, foreign private full-fee paying patients have dwindled as they opt for less expensive medical destinations in Malaysia and Thailand.
On the other hand, there are not a lot of medical conditions in which a doctor can cure. Most are symptomatic treatment whilst for some others a dose of prayers is the best a doctor can do.
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 drawn is anything but.
It is not unusual for an A&E doctor to do a digital rectal exam for occult blood 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.
You may think that the lust above is not daunting for you. And you are comfortable with earning a common man’s income. You also think you will love the job because you truly believe and have the gift of healing. Finally, you have an endless inquisitive nature. Then you might just be perfect for the profession (or the seminary)!
Career in medicine, Singaporean 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 both have sound programs and admissions is keenly competitive.
Majority of the spaces are set aside for Singapore-Cambridge A level graduates although other qualifications are acceptable.
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 BMAT within the year of admissions.
This is a much easier version of the A levels. Furthermore, people who sit for the BMAT can also use the results to apply for UK medical schools (see below).
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 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.
Career in medicine, 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 programs are a little easier to gain admissions.
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.
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.
This is likely due to drop outs in NUS occurring frequently at year 2.
In addition, universities in the UK generally requires an additional entrance test such as the BMAT (mentioned earlier), UCAT.
One advantage of an overseas education is that it is the widening of options for a career in medicine.
In addition, MOH Holdings routinely offer Singaporeans in these universities to training grants to return. This may reduce the cost of a 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.