She was on track to becoming a bioengineer, averaging a grade point average of 4.67 out of 5.0 at the start of her third year at the National University of Singapore (NUS).
But two years before graduation, undergraduate Tan Wen Qi decided she needed to find something extra.
"I was doing mostly biological research, but I wanted to do something to help others more directly," she said.
After she graduated in 2011, she took the plunge into medicine.
Yesterday, the 27-year-old graduated with a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree, after four years at Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School.
"I think I had it easier than some of my classmates, as I had the relevant knowledge from my undergraduate degree," said Dr Tan.
She added that many of her peers in engineering have progressed in their careers.
"I might have taken a detour, but I have no regrets."
She was one of 49 students to collect their MD degrees at the medical school's graduation and hooding ceremony. It also included the school's first batch of eight PhD graduates in integrated biology and medicine.
Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who was guest of honour at the event, said that Singapore has to grow its pool of healthcare professionals, including doctors, to provide accessible, quality and affordable healthcare.
He noted that the local training intake for doctors has risen by close to 40 per cent over the past five years to 442 last year, and will continue to grow to reach 500.
Mr Teo added that Duke-NUS, one of the three medical schools here, has provided an important pathway for students to pursue medicine later in life.
Close to half of Duke-NUS' medical students had over a year of working experience before starting their medical studies. About a quarter of them joined with non-science degrees and 17 per cent have engineering degrees.
MD graduate Choo Min, 28, who has an engineering science degree from NUS, said: "It is humbling because in the hospitals, the doctors are younger than me but they are in more senior positions. However, there is no end to learning and it is never too late to pursue your passion."
This article was first published on May 31, 2015.
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