WHEN final-year student Matthew Low graduates from the National University of Singapore (NUS) Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine next year, he will enter the medical profession with greater confidence in dealing with clinical scenarios.

The 23-year-old is one of many medical and nursing undergraduates who have experienced the Centre for Healthcare Simulation (CHS) as part of their studies. It is part of the Centre for Translational Medicine (CeTM), which was officially opened by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean yesterday.

In a speech, Associate Professor Yeoh Khay Guan, dean of the NUS medical school, called the CHS 'the most comprehensive simulation training facility in Asia' which allows students to practise their skills in a safe environment with 'life-like conditions'.It is equipped with facilities such as an emergency room, an operating theatre, an intensive care unit, a labour ward, a paediatrics acute ward, clinical wards and consultation rooms.

At the centre, students are given scenarios set by the school's lecturers. These are critical situations that a doctor would not commonly face in real life, said Associate Professor Suresh Pillai, director of the simulation facility. In the labour ward, for example, the dummy can be programmed to have post-delivery complications. The mannequin can also suffer seizures and cyanosis, a condition caused by lack of oxygen in the blood, and even shed tears.

A team of student doctors and nurses are expected to treat the 'patient' - a dummy or a person acting as one - as a real person. Their actions are observed by doctors behind a one-way mirror, and captured on film for review.

Such training currently makes up about 10 per cent of the school's curriculum. There are plans to increase this to up to 40 per cent over the next three to five years to enhance training, said Prof Pillai.

Besides teaching facilities for students of NUS medical school, the $200 million CeTM also houses research institutes such as the Cancer Science Institute, the Cardiovascular Research Institute, and the Clinical Imaging Research Centre.

'This deliberate blending of education and research allows our students and faculty to work and mix like never before,' said NUS' vice-provost of academic medicine, Professor John Wong.

DPM Teo said yesterday that CeTM's translational and clinical research programmes 'address some of the most pressing challenges in biomedical sciences for Singapore'. The work done here would also benefit those in Asia, he added.