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Aspiring doctor blends medicine and music to help patients and community
Medical student Loh Pei Yi standing in front of the white grand piano at Tan Tock Seng Hospital
Ms Loh Pei Yi decided to become a doctor after her father’s second heart attack. PHOTO: SPH MEDIA

This pianist and LKCMedicine scholar is finding ways to bring a more compassionate, holistic and human-centred approach to healthcare

In the midst of a rigorous first clinical posting at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, medical student Loh Pei Yi found herself gravitating towards the white grand piano in the hospital lobby.

There, she would lose herself making music, using it as a way to recharge from days filled with clinics, tutorials and self-study. Music was – and still is – her safe space.

“It was my time to set aside my stethoscope and just immerse myself in the piano without fear of judgment, while also bringing joy to others with music,” says Ms Loh, who has been playing the piano since she was seven years old. 

More than just playing for herself or performing at events, she believes in the power of music to move people and communities.

Equally important to her are her family and a desire to care for others.

“Medical knowledge empowers me to be a bridge between the community and the healthcare system, making it more accessible to typical Singaporeans.”

Ms Loh Pei Yi, recipient of the LKCMedicine Scholarship (NTU)

As a child, Ms Loh witnessed her father suffer a heart attack. When she was 19, her father’s symptoms recurred. Despite enduring chest pains for months, he feared going to the hospital for further heart scans. 

“I felt helpless at that point – not just because I did not know how to comfort my father but because I could not understand his medical reports,” says Ms Loh. 

This made the aspiring defence chemist pivot to medicine as her career choice instead. “I realised fulfilling my vision of protecting the community would not be possible without safeguarding the lives of those closest to me first,” she says.

NTU LKCMedicine scholar Loh Pei Yi visiting a patient
Ms Loh (pictured in a red shirt) visiting a patient as part her involvement in Project Gift of Song. PHOTO: COURTESY OF LOH PEI YI

Ms Loh went on to apply for and accept the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine (LKCMedicine) Scholarship from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in 2021.

“I chose LKCMedicine because of its use of cutting-edge pedagogy and it being a young, dynamic and innovative school. 

“The approach of humanistic medicine in our education helps us grow into medical professionals skilled in clinical sciences and who understand patients are people, not just case studies,” says Ms Loh.

After almost three years at LKCMedicine, Ms Loh can now understand her father’s electrocardiogram (ECG) readings and the purpose of each of his prescriptions.

“Medical knowledge empowers me to be a bridge between the community and the healthcare system, making it more accessible to typical Singaporeans like my father,” says the 21-year-old.

Compassion for others

Ms Loh (pictured in a red dress), with guests and performers at the 2023 Solace charity concert which raised over $50,000 for Ambulance Wish Singapore. PHOTO: COURTESY OF LOH PEI YI

Even in the thick of her studies, Ms Loh continues to give back to society. By melding her musical skills with medical training, she has continued her involvement as founder of Project Gift of Song which she set up with five friends at the end of 2020. 

The group raises funds for the charity Ambulance Wish Singapore (AWS) to fulfil the final wishes of the terminally ill. Now an 80-strong youth organisation, it continues to bring music to beneficiaries and raise awareness on the issues of palliative care.

As the vice-chairperson of the NTU Piano Ensemble in 2023, Ms Loh also led the club to collaborate with Project Gift of Song for the Solace charity concert that brought in other arts groups from NTU to raise over $50,000 for AWS.

“We leveraged music to inspire challenging conversations on end-of-life matters beyond what words can express,” she says. 

When she first started medical school in 2021, Ms Loh did not think she would be able to keep up with her outside interests alongside her studies. However, she was pleasantly surprised to discover that the structure of her five-year medical programme made it possible. 

LKCMedicine’s team-based learning (TBL) approach — unique among the medical schools in Singapore — was one of the reasons it earned the international ASPIRE Award for excellence in curriculum development in 2021, the first local medical school to do so.

Compared to traditional lecture-style teaching for large classes, TBL brings undergraduates to work collaboratively in small teams, guided by a facilitator and content experts.

“Materials are given to us for pre-reading and the actual discussions in the classroom happen twice a week, so for three days each week, we have time to self-study and prepare for TBL sessions,” explains Ms Loh. 

She spends around 60 per cent of her curriculum time in Year 1 and Year 2 on TBL. The remaining 40 per cent is allocated to sessions in the foundation of clinical practice, science practicals, anatomy lab and medical humanities. 

Ms Loh particularly appreciates that the TBL system promotes discussions on longitudinal topics that teams investigate over time, such as medical ethics and patient safety.

“I have come to appreciate the beauty of these discussions that do not necessarily have fixed answers, stimulating our critical thinking and encouraging us to look at the patient as a whole beyond the medical issues,” she says.

Becoming a future-ready clinician

NTU LKC School of Medicine students
Ms Loh (second from left) with her schoolmates during her Tan Tock Seng clinical posting. PHOTO: COURTESY OF LOH PEI YI

This patient-centred approach is further emphasised through short attachments at hospitals and polyclinics in the students’ first year and a long-term patient project that teaches them how people manage chronic conditions.

“Even before learning any form of clinical knowledge, I had the opportunity to speak with patients as fellow human beings and understand their journeys through the healthcare system,” Ms Loh says.

She has also gained from advancements in technology. Part of her curriculum involves learning with 3D-printed body part models developed at NTU and engaging with 3D simulations that make textbook concepts more understandable. 

Additionally, Ms Loh has also participated in school events such as the Art and Science of Medicine Festival and the International Conference on AI in Medicine. “These opened my eyes to the cutting-edge expertise on campus and effectively enriched my real-world learning towards becoming a future-ready clinician.”

After being able to juggle both her studies and extracurricular activities in the first two years at medical school, the clinical segment of Ms Loh’s training nowadays demands longer days at hospitals, followed by tutorials. Still, she finds the time for the activities that keep her connected to the community.

“After my clinical-related activities, I try to squeeze in an hour or two of studying and checking in on my extracurriculars,” she says. 

What has sustained her through the intense period of her studies and after-school engagements is knowing that she always has the support from her peers and the faculty to follow her heart in doing what interests her.

Ms Loh believes the LKCMedicine experience is nurturing her into becoming someone who is not just clinically competent but also as a person who genuinely cares for fellow Singaporeans like her father. 

“I aspire never to lose sight of the patient’s perspective and always practise medicine humanistically with patients’ dignity at heart as I progress further in my medical journey and future career,” she says.

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