• Vol. 34 No. 6, 84C–86C
  • 15 July 2005

One Hundred Years of Physiology Education in Singapore

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ABSTRACT

Physiology is the study of normal function in the body and how genes, proteins, organ systems interact to maintain health. It provides a foundation for the health sciences profession and life science research. Physiology education in Singapore began soon after the establishment of the Federated States Government Medical School in 1905. The importance of Physiology to medical education was recognised by the appointment of a separate lecturer in Physiology in 1906, followed by the appointment of Professor James Argyll Campbell as the first King Edward VII professor and endowed Chair in Physiology in 1912. The teaching of Physiology in the early days was focused on the basics of normal function with little correlation to clinical problems and application. However, by the 1970s, first-year medical students were given the opportunity to visit hospitals where they were tutored by clinicians to help them apply Basic Physiology to clinical problems. Curriculum changes in the subsequent years emphasised a reduction in content, integration among preclinical subjects, independent learning and clinical relevance. Physiology is taught not only to medical but also dental, pharmacy and life science students. The teaching of Physiology to science students is a collaborative effort between the Department of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine and the Department of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science. A lot of the teaching of Physiology to life science students occurs not in classrooms but in the laboratories, where students work closely with research supervisors and mentors on research projects. There has been a very significant increase in the number of students doing research projects in Physiology in recent years, especially in the areas of Cell Physiology, Immunology and Neurobiology. The completion of the human genome sequence poses new challenges to understand function, especially how genes, proteins and organ systems interact to sustain function. Physiology education will be increasingly important in the undergraduate and graduate life science and medical curriculum. Further, the country’s vision of being the biomedical R&D and healthcare hub for the region means that Physiology education must remain at the forefront to prepare the next generation of doctors, clinician-scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs.


Physiology is the study of normal function in the body and how genes, proteins, organ systems interact to maintain health. It provides a foundation for the health sciences profession and life science research. Physiology education in Singapore dates back to 3 July 1905, when the Federated Malay States Government Medical School began work in the old Female Lunatic Asylum in Sepoy Lines, which had been renovated to house a Lecture Room, a Dissecting Room, a Physiology Laboratory, a Students’ Room and Offices.1 The first medical class comprised 23 students. Recognising the importance of Physiology to the medical curriculum, the School appointed a separate Lecturer in Physiology in 1906. The importance of Physiology was underscored by the appointment of Professor James Argyll Campbell MD, DSc (Edin) as the first King Edward VII professor and endowed Chair in Physiology in 1912.

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