• Vol. 34 No. 6, 102C–107C
  • 15 July 2005

Teaching Community, Occupational and Family Medicine at the National University of Singapore: Past, Present and Future



Introduction: We describe how the curriculum of community, occupational and family medicine (COFM) has evolved in response to social and educational forces and local health needs. Challenges in the teaching of the curriculum are also discussed. Curriculum: The COFM Department aims to produce medical undergraduates and graduates with the skills to critically appraise evidence, prevent and manage diseases, and promote health in the community and primary healthcare setting. Its teaching programmes consist of the medical undergraduate programme and the Master of Medicine programmes in Occupational Medicine, Public Health and Family Medicine. The undergraduate modules consist of evidence-based medicine, public health in the community, disease prevention and control, occupational medicine practice, health promotion and behaviour, and communication with patients. The university’s first completely online module on SARS was jointly implemented by the Department and the Centre for Instructional Technology for the entire student population last year. The COFM curriculum has shifted from giving students factual information through lectures to developing students’ critical thinking and problem-solving skills through small group teaching, case studies and community health projects. Innovative assessment methods such as open-book examinations; objective structured communication stations with simulated patients; and evaluation of students’ participation in group work are used to assess students’ skills in problem-solving, communication and teamwork respectively. Conclusion: While the Department has made significant progress in developing a relevant and updated curriculum based on appropriate learning and assessment approaches, it will strive to do more to develop students’ critical thinking skills by using newer approaches.

The Department of Community, Occupational and Family Medicine (COFM), previously the Department of Social Medicine and Public Health (SMPH), was inaugurated in 1948 as part of the King Edward VII College of Medicine, the forerunner of the National University of Singapore. The Department’s mission is to excel in teaching, research and practice related to the causes, prevention and management of ill health in the community. It trains medical undergraduates and graduates in a range of skills ranging from the hard sciences of biostatistics, epidemiology and occupational medicine to the “soft” social, communication, management and behavioural sciences, so as to foster the development of a competent, holistic and compassionate graduate who is not only able to critically appraise evidence to prevent and manage diseases and promote health at the community level, but who is also able to communicate effectively with patients, community members and other healthcare professionals.

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