• Vol. 34 No. 6, 98C–101C
  • 15 July 2005

The Evolution of Teaching and Learning Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases at NUS



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Infectious diseases were rife during the early years of the Singapore Medical College, which was established in 1905. The current Department of Microbiology in the National University of Singapore (NUS) has its historical roots in the Departments of Bacteriology and Parasitology, which were established in 1925 and 1950 respectively. With the achievements since its inception, and with its present research focus on Infectious Diseases, Immunology, Applied and Environmental Microbiology, it is poised to face the microbiological challenges of the 21st century. Over the decades, the structure of the medical microbiology course in NUS has modernised, culminating in the current emphasis on its practical utility in clinical practice. Coordinated by the Department of Microbiology, the Microbiology and Infectious Diseases module and the Immunology module both adopt integrated multidisciplinary approaches that aim to introduce students to the language and fundamental concepts in microbiology, infectious diseases and immunology.

The Straits and Federated Malay States Government Medical School was founded in 1905. Dr Chen Su Lan, 1 of the 7 graduates in the first class to qualify in March 1910, reminisced in 1965 on his training experiences: “Among the ‘killer’ diseases were malaria (there were 20 deaths a day in the Singapore Municipal area alone in 1911), dysentery, beri-beri (its aetiology then unknown), tuberculosis (no specific treatment for it), venereal disease (in almost every Straits-born home and long before the discovery of penicillin). The graduates were expected to grapple with and alleviate these monstrous diseases.” His second anatomy dissection was on the corpse of a young woman “who had the scars of all stages of syphilis”. Infectious diseases were rife during those early years of the medical college.1

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