Speech by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat at the Virtual Ceremony for the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine Graduating Class of 2020 on 25 July 2020.
To the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine Class of 2020,
Congratulations on completing your medical degree!
Graduating into the frontline in the fight against COVID
When you started medical school five years ago, none of you would have imagined graduating in the midst of a global pandemic.
Countries around the world are now grappling with COVID-19. More than 14 million people have been infected, and more than half a million lives have been lost. It is not clear when the pandemic will end, or when an effective vaccine will be available.
In February, when the DORSCON was raised to Orange, LKCMedicine ensured that learning continued, through e-learning and simulation. I am glad you adapted well to these challenging circumstances and went on to complete your training.
In April this year, you joined the frontline, together with your fellow healthcare workers in the fight against COVID-19. There was no easing in. The Circuit Breaker had just started. The number of active cases being cared for was climbing, largely due to outbreaks in our migrant worker dormitories. You had to hit the ground running. I learnt that you rose to the challenge, showing resilience, compassion and teamwork.
Together with others on the frontline, you worked tirelessly to keep us safe in the critical time of need. Through your collective hard work and dedication, we have kept the situation under control. Our healthcare system has not been overwhelmed, and our fatality rates remain very low. A big thank you to all of you and your colleagues!
Collective effort to fight COVID-19
The battle against COVID-19 goes beyond the frontline. To overcome this crisis, we must fight together as Singapore Together. We have to muster our collective wits and will, as we navigate the difficulties ahead. Each and every one of us – every individual, every doctor, and every institution – has a role to play.
Like you, your school – the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine – has also stepped up to this challenge. As we gradually reopen, expanding our testing capacity is critical to preventing a new wave of infection. To contribute to this effort, LKCMedicine converted an existing lab space into an MOH-certified diagnostic lab, that will be able to undertake 4,000 PCR tests per day. COVID-19 is also a very smart virus. If there are blind spots in our safeguards, the virus can spread very rapidly, at an exponential pace. So I am glad to know that some of your professors, especially those in the infectious diseases faculty, are among the clinical scientists involved in the PROTECT cohort study led by NCID.
All around us, we see countless examples of how everyone has stepped up. From school children sending messages to encourage those at the frontline, to social sector agencies, charities, and volunteers strengthening support for the vulnerable, to businesses returning funding for the Jobs Support Scheme because they are doing well, and they are rewarding their workers and contributing to social causes.
COVID-19 has deepened our sense of common purpose, and brought us closer as a society. By working together as one people, we will not only overcome the pandemic, we will emerge stronger from this crisis.
Looking beyond this crisis
As with all pandemics, COVID-19 will eventually run its course. When that happens, you will hopefully have more time to reflect on the experiences gained from starting your medical career at the frontline of the pandemic. On how you would like to make the best of your medical career. On how you would want to make a difference to society.
One major societal trend is that Singapore is ageing rapidly. In ten years’ time, many of you would have just completed your medical specialty. By then, one in four Singaporeans will be above the age of 65. The Ministry of Health is rapidly expanding healthcare capacity. We will have 32 polyclinics by 2030, up from 20 today. We would have added new community and acute hospitals. We would have redeveloped the Singapore General Hospital and rejuvenated the National University Hospital, where some of you trained at during medical school. While expanding healthcare infrastructure is critical, at the heart of our healthcare system is you – our doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers.
What you learnt in medical school will set the foundations for you to grow, to learn, and to contribute. Advancements in medical technology will change how medicine is practised in your lifetime. The Circuit Breaker has accelerated the adoption of telemedicine. The pandemic will trigger a re-imagination of how healthcare services are delivered in the future. But no matter how advanced our medical technology, remember that nothing can replace your genuine care and the emotional warmth of concern for your patients. Much as the fight against COVID-19 requires a collective response from everyone. We must similarly empower our people to remain healthy and educate patients to manage their chronic conditions.
The future of healthcare is yours to shape. I am confident that in the good hands of your generation of doctors, our people will stay healthier for longer. Healthcare delivery will transform for the better and the care and concern that have come to define our healthcare system, will continue to be an enduring feature.
Beyond your medical career, I hope that you will channel your passion and energy to make a difference to causes you care about. I also hope that your generation will draw your own lessons from this crisis, and forge a better future in your own way.
COVID-19 may have prevented you from celebrating this moment in person. But let us continue to celebrate your accomplishments, and share in the pride and joy with you and your families.
Let me once again congratulate you as you embark on the next phase of your lives and careers. Thank you also to your families, for supporting you through schooling years and to the team at Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine for nurturing you.
You may have graduated in the wake of a global pandemic, but your future is bright and full of promise. I hope you also remember the values of – humility, integrity, compassion, continuous learning, and professionalism – that LKCMedicine has taught you. You must always remember the Physician’s Pledge that you will soon be taking – the values that you will uphold, and your responsibility to your patients. Your journey has just begun, and I hope that you continue to learn and grow. In your hands, we entrust the health of our people. Congratulations once again.
Explore recent content
Explore related topics