Duke-NUS holds Singapore’s first virtual Hippocratic Oath ceremony

The tenth graduating class of Duke-NUS Medical School took their first steps into the Singapore medical field with the School’s and Singapore’s first virtual Hippocratic Oath-taking ceremony held on 29 May.

This ceremony takes place at a crucial time, as world continues to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Professor Ian Curran, Vice Dean for Education at Duke-NUS, said, “Now, more than ever, our healthcare and medical ecosystems need clinicians who are not only clinically competent but also compassionate and dedicated in their professional service to patients and their families. We are confident that the education and mentorship they have received at Duke-NUS Medical School has equipped them with the essential qualities and capabilities to excel in clinical practice. We are also excited to see how they will distinguish themselves and excel as Singapore’s future clinician leaders, innovators, educators, scientists and so transform medicine and improve lives in Singapore and beyond.”

Duke-NUS hoped to empower graduands to commemorate the important milestone with their family and friends amid the unprecedented circumstances brought about by COVID-19. As such, the School organised a virtual event via the Zoom videoconferencing platform, a first in both the School’s and the Nation’s history.

Professor Thomas Coffman, Dean of Duke-NUS, said, “I am really proud of the Class of 2020. They have shown tenacity in the face of many disruptions during the first half of this year, and I have no doubt their resilience and dynamism will aid them meet future challenges and define their own successful paths as healthcare leaders.”

Taking the Hippocratic Oath occurs at two points in a clinician’s journey. The first time is at the White Coat ceremony during their first year of medical school, signifying the start of the Doctor of Medicine programme. The second time is in their final year, when they complete their formal medical education. Written nearly two and a half thousand years ago, the Oath remains relevant, setting out the professional values and personal responsibilities that physicians agree to uphold for the benefit and care of their patients.

This year’s graduating class includes a lawyer who had already been called to the bar, a banker who was already at management level, and a former naval officer from the Singapore Armed Forces.

Ms Chia Xintian, who was heavily involved in community service efforts during her time at Duke-NUS, commented, “Taking the Hippocratic Oath is a symbolic rite of passage that is meaningful to graduating medical students, enabling us to feel we are part of the medical community. Reciting the Oath — even virtually and with less-than-perfectly-synchronised voices, pixelated screens and variable internet bandwidths — is a perfect reminder that the core of medical ethics and values must remain steadfast despite evolving circumstances.”

Graduating senior Mr Lim Gim Hui, the 10th Overseas Medical Mission of Project Dove Director and a Singapore Armed Forces Naval Officer, also reflected on what it meant to join the medical workforce amidst the pandemic. “We are privileged to be given the chance to enter the medical profession during these times and I am glad to have the opportunity to put my training into practice for the care of patients,” he said.

The Duke-NUS Class of 2020 will officially graduate in June 2020 and will start work two weeks earlier than originally intended to help in the national response to COVID-19.