AMSEP Taiwan, 2014

The YLL/LKC-NCKU Exchange programme was first initiated from the 20th December 2014 – 25th December 2014 in Taiwan. 7 NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine (YLL) students and 4 Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine (LKC) students visited National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) in Tainan.

The second leg of the exchange programme was held in Singapore from 26th January 2015 -30th January 2015, where AMSA Singapore welcomed 11 Taiwanese medical students from NCKU. Throughout their week-long stay they were hosted by the same group of YLL and LKC students who went to Taiwan in the first leg of the exchange.

The bilateral exchange aims to serve as an academic and social platform for medical students from different countries to experience the healthcare systems and medical education of a partner country. Through these exchanges, students also hope to forge meaningful friendships with the medical students from another country.

On the first leg of the exchange, I remember stepping into Tainan near midnight and how I wasn’t very used to the cold but the friendliness radiating from our Taiwan buddies really warmed me. Throughout our 6 days with them, they were such wonderful hosts that I felt that we could not have gotten any better buddies. In my opinion, the taiwanese planned a very spectacular programme for us. That was the first time I experienced such a wide variety of fun in such a compacted period. I remember there was the “peaceful” fun where our buddies brought us to the various scenic sites in Tainan. Whether it was bird watching of the black-faced spoonbill (a type of bird solely found in tainan), touring the Anping old streets, treehouses, sightseeing along the love river, each scene was unique and unforgettable.

Then there was the “thrilling” fun where we were brought to NCKU’s Christmas party and experienced the Taiwanese’s way of partying. There were performances, DJs and various games which kept our spirits high. The company we had was excellent as well, it was definitely one of the highlights. And lastly, there was the “friendly” fun where we bonded with our new Taiwanese friends through meals and shopping at the night market and various shopping streets. Time passed very quickly whenever we were spending time with each other. In fact, 1 of the biggest takeaways I had from this trip was all the new friendships formed.

On the more academic side, I felt very privileged to be brought to visit both of the NCKU’s teaching hospital, the Dou Liu branch which was a community hospital and the NCKU’s main hospital. At the community hospital, I learnt more about the various problems, such as the lack of emergency department staff or the lack of various medical equipment and facilities, which the hospital faced. In Singapore where medical care is easily accessible, this experience reminded me on how privileged we are to have good medical equipment and facilities which not every hospital is equipped with and how things should not be taken for granted.

Throughout the whole trip, my on-doctoring experience with the oncology department in the NCKU’s main hospital left the deepest impression. With another exchange participant from Singapore, I had the opportunity to follow an oncologist for a few hours. The oncologist we followed was a wonderful mentor as he was very patient with us despite his busy schedule of meetings, ward rounds and research. Before he made his round, he went through the various case histories of the patients with us so that we could understand better on what he was doing. While communicating with his patients, he was an epitome of how an empathetic doctor should be. A unique feature of the NCKU’s hospital which I felt was very meaningful: the palliative oncology department and the oncology department wards were combined. The rationale behind that was to ensure that the terminally ill patients would not feel that their doctors gave up treatment on them when the oncology department hand them over to the palliative department. There would be continuity in the sense that the oncologist taking care of the patient would see them through till the very end, whether it is recovery or a dignified death. This experience also set us thinking more into the idea of dignified death. I was reminded of how It is a privilege to be able to journey with the patient and I definitely feel blessed to be part of this profession. 

On the second leg of the exchange when it was our turn to play host, we all felt the pressure in a positive way to plan it well after the amazing experience the Taiwanese gave us. To enable our buddies to get the most out of their Singapore experience, the programme was planned in a way where they would spend time in both LKC and NTU. In terms of lessons, they were exposed to both the NUS lecture tutorial style and NTU’s TBL style. It was very interesting to sit into their discussions when they were comparing the different learning environments among NUS, NTU and NCKU. It was definitely an eye opener for them. 

To experience the vibrancy of Singapore, we brought our Taiwan friends to various tourist attractions in Singapore such as Marina Barrage and Esplanade. In addition, with Singapore known for being a food paradise, our Taiwan friends had nothing but praises for our local food. Before they left, many of them took the opportunity to buy the local kaya jam back to share with their friends. It was really heartening to see how they were enjoying the food and experience here. The farewell party held in the Mandalay student lounge marked the end of this exciting exchange. The party was filled with a galore of local food from Newton Circus, the banana leaf apolo and wings world. I remember that we all had the times of our lives. The highlight of the night came when the Singaporean students and our taiwanese buddies exchanged gifts to mark the end of the exchange but the start of a lifelong friendship. 

All in all, I am very thankful to be part of this exchange. Through this exchange, I’ve met many new people, formed new friendships, not only with the Taiwanese but also the amazing people from YLLSOM. This exchange also helped me to appreciate healthcare a lot more from the different cultural perspective. It was a blessing to be part of this exchange and I definitely encourage anyone who has similar opportunities to take part.

Chia Ming Li, LKCSOM (M2)