The Department of Community, Occupational & Family Medicine in 1987.

By Dr Lim Fong Seng, 

Head, Division of Family Medicine


Undergraduate training in Family Medicine in Singapore began in 1971 as a one-week posting to a general practice (GP) clinic and 10 lectures on Introduction to General Practice, which were organised voluntarily by the College of General Practitioners, Singapore.


On February 13, 1987, Family Medicine was given academic recognition by the Faculty of Medicine at the National University of Singapore (NUS). Resulting from a joint memorandum between the Ministry of Health, the College of General Practitioners, Singapore, and the NUS Department of Social Medicine & Public Health (SMPH), the Department of SMPH was tasked to teach Family Medicine as a formal discipline. With this, the Department of SMPH also took on a new name - the Department of Community, Occupational and Family Medicine (COFM).


Establishing Family Medicine as an academic discipline within the University reflected a global trend in medical education. Practising general practitioners (GPs) or Family Physicians were invited to be actively involved in teaching and promoting high standards of Family Medicine practice in Singapore. 

Among them was Associate Professor Goh Lee Gan, who left private practice to teach Family Medicine to medical undergraduates in NUS. In the 1980’s, at least half of all medical graduates became GPs or Family Physicians. For students who moved on to specialty training, a good exposure to Family Medicine practice allowed them to see the management of patients in the context of family and community as well as from the hospital to the ambulatory setting.


In addition to undergraduate education, the Family Medicine Academic unit became a base for the development of novel Family Medicine teaching programmes and postgraduate Family Medicine training, in the process raising the standards of teaching and the practice of Family Medicine in Singapore.


In 2008, the Division of Family Medicine was established within the Department of Medicine. The Family Medicine training curriculum in the Division continues to evolve and transform to meet the health needs of Singapore in delivering high quality, patient-centred care.


As 2017 begins, the Division of Family Medicine is delighted to commemorate 30 years of Academic Family Medicine in Singapore by organising a celebratory 30th Anniversary Dinner on February 25.