A Life Science Graduate’s Unconventional Route to Becoming a Doctor

Posted on: 26th July, 2022

When her world turned “upside-down” during the final year of her Bachelor of Science (Molecular Biology and Pharmaceutical Science) degree course offered by La Trobe University at PSB Academy, Danielle had to temporarily abandon her plans to enter a medical school in order to head back to work to help support her family. Eventually, with determination, support from her school and lecturers, and an opportune advice from a colleague, she succeeded in her application to study medicine in Singapore.

PSB Academy had the pleasure of interviewing Danielle, a medical student and a former medical device specialist, to find out how she achieved her dream of becoming a doctor despite an adversity she faced during her studies.

Hi Danielle, thank you for taking the time to talk to us! Firstly, how did you decide on the choice of programme at PSB Academy?

 After I graduated from Nanyang Polytechnic with a diploma in Pharmaceutical Science (Clinical Trials track), I was looking for opportunities to further my education. A former classmate recommended the La Trobe University (LTU) life science programme. It appeared to be a viable option because I found it to be most relevant with regard to my previous studies. Also, I have always wanted to pursue medicine, but I was advised to get a degree first before doing that. I decided to enrol in PSB Academy because there is no difference between studying locally and studying overseas, as no employer will differentiate you based on just one factor.

What were you doing prior to your degree, and what motivated you to pursue higher education?

After graduating with a diploma, I spent two years working full-time in order to save enough money to pursue higher education. I had some working experience in medical and pharmaceutical companies. When I signed up for my degree course in 2017, my intention was to develop my own qualifications beyond that of a diploma, and I also hope to delve deeper into the different aspects of pharmaceutical science.

What did you like most about your course of study at PSB Academy?

I really enjoyed the various projects given to us for each module, during which we learned the real-world application of the subjects we were studying. I appreciated how the various research assignments enabled us to be in touch with the reality on the ground by dealing with the problems and questions that are relevant to the scientific community today. For example, the Wakefield study helped us to examine whether there was a possible link between the combined measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism.

LTU’s curriculum was well balanced, and I particularly enjoyed the MED3ABS – Applications of Biomedical Science module. While things were slightly hectic due to the decision to take as many modules as I could during this short period, I liked the balance of laboratory work with lectures and tutorials.

How did your course at PSB Academy help you to perform better in your current working environment or enable you to have an edge over others career-wise?

The fast-paced environment at LTU really helped me to adapt well to working in similar conditions, and the abundance of opportunities to work with others has shaped the way I approach teamwork in a professional setting. La Trobe also has a diverse age range of students from different backgrounds, which is essential in the working world.

How would you describe your life on campus?

 I had the opportunity to make wonderful friendships with my fellow classmates, both local and international. I especially enjoyed studying with my classmates Maga and Jia En, and they remain my close friends even until today. Towards the end of my studies at La Trobe, we had classes conducted at the city campus at Marina Square – which is beautiful!

Danielle with her friends Maga & Jia En

We heard that you enjoy doing illustrations as your pastime. Would you mind sharing more with us?

Indeed, in my free time, I enjoy drawing illustrations. In fact, to help myself facilitate my learnings better, I would do certain medical illustrations. Such illustrations were also used in webinars and presentations.

Danielle’s Medical Illustrations

How did PSB Academy support you in your course of study? We understood that a family situation happened in your final year of study. Please tell us more. 

 From the very beginning, Liesa Desisca, the programme consultant at PSB Academy, has been immensely warm and supportive. She took the time to answer all my queries when I was signing up for this programme and throughout my studies. I’m really touched that she still remembers me even 3 years after graduation!

In the final year of my studies, my dad, the sole breadwinner of my family, met with a traffic accident while he was travelling on a motorcycle. He was badly injured, and subsequently became temporarily bedridden and wheelchair bound. As a result, I had to bring him for medical appointments while juggling with school work, so as not to disrupt my graduation.

PSB Academy supported me with the option to customise my study schedule and take on the modules required for me to have a timely graduation. I’m also grateful to my lecturers, especially Dr Seah Seng Wee, who is a passionate and forward-thinking lecturer who wanted to pioneer remote lectures even before the COVID-19 pandemic. He was very accommodating towards my family situation and provided guidance and support during this difficult time.

Danielle with Dr Alexis Chon & Dr Seah Seng Wee

How did you eventually get back on track to pursue your dream of becoming a doctor?

My plan to enter a medical school after my degree was derailed after my dad met with an accident, and I had to go back to work to support the family. But after that, the situation became more stable, and I also met a mentor at work who advised me not to give up on my dream. It prompted me to take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) last year, and my score was among the top 12%, which allowed me entry into the Duke-NUS Medical School. I’ll be starting school in July this year.

Thank you for your time today, Danielle! We wish you all the best in your studies as you pursue further education to contribute to the medical field.

Thank you for having me too! I’m very grateful for all the help that PSB Academy has provided me for the application to study medicine, and also to Dr Seah for writing a recommendation letter for me and giving me strong support throughout my application.