Growing up, Mr Nicholas Chan recalls being struck by the stories his mother and grandmother shared about the plight of friends and relatives who had to undergo risky procedures to terminate their unexpected or unwanted pregnancies.
In those days, abortions were considered taboo and these women had to turn to back alley clinics to get it done. Many suffered from long-term complications as a result of unsafe practices; some even died.
“I was extremely surprised to hear such stories because even at a young age, I believed that a doctor’s duty is to provide his patients with the best medical treatment possible,” says Mr Chan.
“The fact that there were doctors who took advantage of a vulnerable population did not sit well with me. I felt that if I could become a doctor myself, I would be in a better position to help such people.”
It is this fervent passion to heal and help others that has led the 24-year-old on a remarkable journey to where he is today.
A secondary school dropout, he enrolled in the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) in 2013 to pursue a National Institute of Technical Education Certificate in Nursing. He was impatient to further his ambition and wanted to dive straight into hands-on medical work.
But he soon realised that the transition from ITE Nursing to medical school was not as simple as he had thought. “It was only after entering ITE that I began to seriously research this path that I’d chosen,” he says.
Even so, Mr Chan remained undaunted. He did well enough to enter Nanyang Polytechnic’s (NYP) Diploma in Nursing programme in 2015. When he learnt that the National University of Singapore (NUS) would accept exceptional nursing diploma applicants, he went one step further to increase his chances of getting an interview with NUS — by taking his A levels as a private candidate in 2017.
Achieving a near-perfect grade point average in NYP, good A-level grades and being in the top 10 percentile during NUS’ medical admissions test, Mr Chan was deservedly given a place in Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine at NUS last year, which sets him on the path of becoming a doctor.
He was awarded an NUS Merit Scholarship, for which applicants are required to submit a scholarship application, and present outstanding academic results and non-academic achievements.
Currently a Year 1 student in the Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) programme, Mr Chan says he is grateful for the opportunities afforded by the scholarship, including how it will allow him to give back to society.
One of his scholarship requirements requires him to participate in a community project under the Seeds of Good programme, a NUS community engagement programme that empowers students to contribute to society by connecting them with outreach organisations.
Professing a strong inclination towards women’s health, Mr Chan thinks he is likely to choose projects related to that speciality. “I am in touch with several of my professors who have introduced me to women’s health projects of their own and they have agreed to mentor me,” he says.
A part-time Singapore Civil Defence Force volunteer, Mr Chan is also working on becoming an emergency medical technician. His next big dream is to specialise in internal medicine and women’s health because he feels it is woefully neglected in some parts of the world.
“Doctors may not always be able to take our patients’ illnesses away, but we’re in a position to give them the best shot they have at recovering. I hope that specialising in internal medicine will give me the widest skill set and knowledge base so that I can be useful in primary health,” he explains.