Still called the College of Medicine Building, it now houses the Ministry of Health. But it began its life in 1926 as the King Edward VII College of Medicine Building. I had another look at the foundation stone, and was surprised that although the stone was laid in September 1923, the building was opened by the Governor, Sir Lawrence Guillemard on February 15, 1926. Tomorrow is actually the 83rd anniversary of that glorious building!!
Does anybody care?...sadly, no...
I was particularly sad because the College and the campus that surrounds it was once home to several generations of medical students. We lived here, worked here, loved and got married here. Students have died here. The Medical School itself began earlier in 1905 and is now coming to 104 years old.
But that Medical School is now gone, and all but forgotten. The National University of Singapore, who inherited the school, in its rush to modernize, has all but lost the glorious heritage of the school. Now sited on a glass and steel campus on Kent Ridge, it cares little for the heritage of the school. The old Sepoy Lines campus was handed over unceremoniously to the Ministry of Health in the 80's when the school moved over to Kent Ridge. The site, where it all began, the old female asylum, was callously torn down and replaced with a carpark!! How souless can you be?
In more recent times, the NUS unilaterally, without any consultation of any sort with her alumni, changed the name of the school to the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine. This was a real duhhhh moment....! I mean who was YLL, other than a man with money?? None of the alumni could identify with this change, and consequently, many have just lost interest in the Medical School. Sadly, the NUS has failed to see that the alumni spirit, based largely on a culture linked with geography and landmarks, can easily be lost. And once lost will be almost impossible to regain. Our old teachers and role models have been crassly tossed aside, in favour of distinguished scientists and Nobel Prize laureates with whom no medical student can identify. Recently when the great Medical School icon, Prof Wong Hock Boon passed away, there was barely a ripple at the new YLL Medical School.
Sometimes, we wish that Singapore, as it becomes more affluent, will be able to spend a bit more effort to develop her soul. But this may be too much to ask. As we rush towards globalization, greed begets more greed, and we crassly abandon all the things that enrich our souls, and remind us of our humanity. Instead of providing us the appropriate leadership, the NUS appears to be leading us deeper into the state of self absorbed disinterest.