Sat, Feb 20, 2010
The Straits Times
Being a good doctor not just about scoring As

WHILE I congratulate Muhammad Haikal Abdullah ('He's 13 and ready to enter university') on scoring As in A-level physics, chemistry and biology at such a tender age, I am concerned over his intention to study medicine at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

He is very intelligent and gifted, but he is still a child.

There are many life experiences he has yet to savour. Do not rob or deprive him of his childhood.

He is currently at the NUS High School of Mathematics and Science, probably an ideal place to stretch his potential and allow him to grow up as a normal teenager.

Being a doctor does not only mean being able to score straight As. One requires a fairly large amount of emotional quotient, plus compassion and maturity.

For instance, if a 13-year-old enrols in a five-year course to study medicine, he will graduate when he is 18. Add two more years of national service, and he will be 20 when he is eligible to start practising medicine.

Is that old enough? How would a 20-year-old doctor explain to family members that their father is brain dead and that his kidneys would be harvested, for example?

It would be unfair to all parties: the patient and his relatives, the doctor himself and his colleagues.

I urge NUS to proceed with caution with regard to this application.

There is no rush for Haikal to apply to NUS now. He can always do so later. Who knows, he may decide to pursue other career options later.

If such a precedent is set, what is to stop a stampede of eager parents pushing their children to sit for their A levels and get a five-year head start in order to earn a place to study medicine locally?

Dr Claire Ang

This article was first published in The Straits Times.

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