Duke-NUS leaders and faculty donned aprons and flipped pancakes to raise funds in support of students’ community service projects.

St. Valentine’s Day this year started with the sweet aroma of freshly made pancakes and maple syrup, filling the nine-floor high atrium of Duke-NUS Medical School as students, staff, alumni and even colleagues from the School’s Academic Medicine partner, SingHealth, entered the Khoo Teck Puat building.

The date—14 February—coincided with Duke-NUS’ annual tradition of Deans’ Pancake Breakfast, which returned after a three-year hiatus to raise funds in support of students’ community service projects.

“We haven’t done this since 2019, so it’s a nice sort of revitalisation of our community. It’s great to see everybody here and I’m glad to see it come back,” said Duke-NUS Dean Professor Thomas Coffman.

At this charity event, Prof Coffman, together with the vice-deans, faculty, alumni and Education team, donned aprons and chef hats to flip pancakes in the spirit of fundraising. The delicious pancakes were served with a side of fried eggs and sausages in the true American style. This year, bananas were added as a healthier option.

This annual fundraiser was first conceptualised in 2008 by the faculty when the inaugural cohort of students approached the Dean with hopes of instituting community service projects.

“I’m really grateful for this fundraiser because it paves the way with great opportunities for students to explore their interest in global health or in community service,” said second-year student, Ms Dana Chow from the Class of 2025. She was part of a team introducing the different community service projects—such as Camp Simba and Project DOVE—to attendees at the event.

The idea to raise funds with pancakes came from Professor Robert Kamei, Duke-NUS’ first Vice-Dean for Education, who drew inspiration from the pancake breakfasts organised by American firefighters to raise funds for their local communities. More importantly, he thought that the Deans’ Pancake Breakfast would show students that the School cared about them by making time to give back and in turn inspire students to do the same for the community.

“Back then, we thought it would be a good idea to bring this sort of traditional American breakfast to this new American-style medical school and it became a tradition of bringing the Duke-NUS committee together and to raise money for our students,” said Prof Coffman. Each year, his stall is typically one of the most popular ones, making him a regular celebrity pancake chef.

Professor Fong Kok Yong, who is a member of the Duke-NUS Governing Board as well as SingHealth’s Deputy Group CEO for Medical and Clinical Services said, “The Deans’ Pancake Breakfast is a meaningful and fun way to give back to society. Our SingHealth leaders are glad to be a part of the event and contribute to the causes that our Duke-NUS Medical School students advocate for. It was especially heartening for me to see this event return after the pandemic and witness generous donors enjoying the pancakes that we’ve prepared for them!”

Having benefitted from the fundraiser when they were students, Duke-NUS alumni were also excited to do their bit and donned aprons.

“This cause is particularly close to my heart as I used to be very active in our School’s community service projects and previously served as the Student Council’s Vice-President for community service,” said Dr Anu Pandey, an alumni from the Class of 2015 and the current president of the Duke-NUS Medical Alumni. “I also had the opportunity to meet the current president of the Student Council and we are excited to find ways to keep our alumni engaged with our students and their projects.”

A special highlight of this year’s Deans’ Pancake Breakfast were the very delectable smoked salmon crostinis made with love by Assistant Professor Suzanne Goh, who is Associate Dean for Student Affairs, and her husband Mr Paul Chan. Assoc Prof Goh said, “My husband and I bonded over food, and food is a very big part of who we are. To us, it’s a matter of reaching out to people through the love of food. So, this is the way we show our love—by feeding people, feeding their minds, feeding their hearts, feeding their bellies.”