Medicine student

Encounter with elderly terminal cancer patient inspires NUS medical student to write award-winning poem

His poem has just won the prestigious poetry prize awarded by the Annals of Internal Medicine, one of the most cited medical journals in the world. The 23-year-old is also the only undergraduate to receive the award since its inception in 2003.

She is donating the entire US$500 (S$678) prize money to the NUH Children’s Fund, which provides financial assistance to needy patients at Khoo Teck Puat – National University Children’s Medical Institute (KTP-NUCMI) University Hospital national.

Dr Michael LaCombe, associate editor of the Annals of Internal Medicine and editor of the journal’s poetry section, said: “Ms Ng’s poem was considered by the judges to be the overwhelming favorite of all the poems published in Annals in 2021.

“Given the sheer volume of poetry submissions we receive each year, just to be selected for publication is an honor. To stand out among the publishing elite is a triumph.”

Ms Ng, who submitted her poem to the paper last year, was shocked when she received an email telling her she had won the award.

“I just thought that I had submitted my poetry, then they published it and that was it. I didn’t know that they had chosen the best poem among all those published. So I was already very happy”, she said.

When she first heard about her poem, she told her family and friends from medical school about it.

A friend from school, Ms. Tay Wei Xuan, 23, said that when she first read the poem, she found herself “nodding her head in agreement with every line.”

“It’s a love letter to our patients. Sometimes it’s important to step back and ask: are we treating the disease or the patient? And indeed, each patient presents us with their own unique story.”

After Ms. Ng finished her general surgery post, she could not meet again the “uncle” who inspired her poem.

But she plans to continue writing about her experiences as a medical student and her interactions with other patients.

“Medicine is something everyone has different encounters with, whether it’s yourself or loved ones. And it can be a difficult and traumatic experience for some, so I hope my poetry can offer some kind of comfort. or helping patients realize that they are not going through this alone.”