• Vol. 34 No. 6, 79C–83C
  • 15 July 2005

Teaching Biochemistry to Medical Students in Singapore – From Organic Chemistry to Problem-based Learning

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ABSTRACT

The medical faculty in the National University of Singapore started in 1905 but the Chair in Biochemistry was only established in 1927. For many years the biochemistry course consisted of the teaching of the organic chemistry of substances of physiological importance, nutrition, metabolism and hormones. In 1961, clinical biochemistry was introduced and in the 1980s, genetics and molecular biology were included. By then, most of the organic chemistry content had been removed as greater emphasis was placed on clinical correlation. Laboratory classes consisted of mock glucose tolerance tests and the measurement of various enzymes. By the 1990s, students were no longer interested in such practical classes, so a bold decision was made around 1995 to remove laboratory classes from the curriculum. Unfortunately, this meant that the medical students who might have been interested in laboratory work could no longer do such work. However, the new curriculum in 1999 gave the department an opportunity to offer a laboratory course as an elective for interested students. This new curriculum adopted an integrated approach with Genetics being taught as part of Paediatrics, and a new module (Structural and Cell Biology) comprising aspects of cell biology and biochemistry was introduced. This module is currently taught by staff from Anatomy, Physiology and Biochemistry. Some biochemistry content is now incorporated into the clinical problem scenarios of problem-based learning such as jaundice, diabetes mellitus, anorexia nervosa, etc. So the evolution of teaching biochemistry to medical students in Singapore has paralleled worldwide trends and moved from the didactic teaching of organic chemistry of biomolecules to problem-based learning using clinical cases.


The medical faculty in the National University of Singapore was started in 1905 and a Chair in Biochemistry established in 1927. Biochemistry was taught only to medical and dental students until 1960, when a degree course in Biochemistry was introduced under the Faculty of Science.

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