29 Mar 2018 Tremendous Student and Peer Support Attributed to Outstanding Clinical Instructor Award 2017

How it all began?

Who would have thought that the fictional character of Dae Jang Geum, from the popular Korean drama in 2003 – Jewel in the Palace, could have inspired Ng Kar Foo to become one of the best in the field of Nutrition and Dietetics. Although that is the only the secondary reason, it cemented Kar Foo’s determination in excelling in this field after having lost his beloved mother to breast cancer in 2004.

Kar Foo has always been interested in health-related careers since secondary school and was keen to help those around him to improve their health. He knew right from the beginning that medicine, dentistry and pharmacy were not his calling as he wanted to have something to do with food science, without actually knowing that there was such a subject.

Why IMU?
When asked why he chose to do a degree in Nutrition and Dietetics with IMU, he said, “The answer is simple. IMU is the only private university offering dietetics degree that can be completed in Malaysia.” But the decision has not been easy as the tuition fees would have added more burden to his family’s financial stature. Kar Foo had to take a loan in order to cover the tuition fees, and worked part time to cover his living expenses. Despite all the negative comments that he had received, he persisted.

Some of the things that Kar Foo enjoyed the most during his time in IMU were the assignments and group activities. “The assignments and projects triggered my interest to read more, and think deeper. I learned the most from my group during Problem-Based Learning (PBL) and case study discussions. The thought process and logic behind helped me view things and come up with ideas from different perspectives.”

Kar Foo joined the first cohort of the Nutrition and Dietetics programme (now known as the Dietetics with Nutrition programme) at IMU in 2008 and graduated in 2012.

Journey after graduation
“I couldn’t wait for my graduation from the first day that I stepped into IMU. I was so desperate to practice dietetics! In fact, I got a job just a few weeks before my final examination in the final semester.

My first job was not in the healthcare settings. Instead, I chose to work in a local sports supplement store i.e. EGOnutritions Sdn Bhd. I started as a nutritionist advising clients on fitness nutrition and the use of ergogenic aids in improving exercise performance. It is through this job that I gained a deeper insight on exercise and sports nutrition. I enjoyed talking to my clients because of their spirits in fitness. They were full of positive vibes and conversations were always encouraging. I learned a lot from them sharing about their fitness journey. Granted, not all clients were easy to deal with. Some were arrogant, others were fussy, but each experience trained my customer service and communication skills.

I was fortunate that I gained much trust from my clients and superior. My career progressed quickly in the company. I was promoted to become an outlet supervisor after 6 months, where I was trusted to manage one of the highest sales achievement outlets. 4 months later, I was offered a managerial position where I then became responsible for training the staff and sales assistants in all the stores, ensuring that they are equipped with good knowledge in basic nutrition and sports supplements, through a series of training that I have developed and implemented.

It was one of the most unforgettable experiences for me because my superior allowed me to name my own job title, to which I have named myself a ‘Corporate Dietitian’, and drafted my own job scope. It was indeed an honour to have so much trust given to me. There were plenty of the other opportunities given to grow and showcase my capability with the company.”

An offer from IMU

“After working in the corporate world for about 2 years, I received an offer from my ex-lecturers to return to IMU and work as a clinical instructor to venture in dietetics education and clinical teaching. The position was new at that time and being the adventurous me, coupled with the fact that I would be given a chance to train my juniors, I accepted the offer without a second thought. 2014 was when I begin my foray in the education sector.”

Teaching is something that is very close to Kar Foo’s heart. He enjoys sharing his knowledge and passion in dietetics with the students as well as his belief in a dietitian’s ability to make a difference in one’s health and life. Nothing is more honourable than being given the chance to train and groom his juniors with such a noble profession!

“After graduating from IMU, I still keep in touch with my juniors and offer my support. I view IMU N&D as my family and I have the responsibility to take care of this growing family. With that, I have initiated the annual NDT Reunion since 2013, aiming to create a platform for the N&D graduates and students to stay connected.”

A dietitian with 2 hats

All dietitians in IMU are given a platform to practice and offer outpatient dietetics counseling either in IMU Healthcare Diet Clinic or in Outpatient Diet Clinic, Hospital Tuanku Ja’afar Seremban. “These places allow us to stay in touch with current dietetic practices and enhance our core skills as a dietitian. The experience in servicing the clinic is also worth sharing with our students and makes our teaching more practical and relevant. It helps us in setting a role model for the students and proves that we are not an ‘armchair’ dietitian.” said Kar Foo.

“Fortunately, the dietitians at IMU are very cohesive. We run the clinics on a rotational basis and we also cover for each other whenever one’s schedule is not feasible for the dietetic services. The team spirit allows us to manage both education and service well.”

Difference between clinical teaching and healthcare servicing

When asked of the difference between clinical teaching and healthcare servicing, Kar Foo said: “In the healthcare setting, I often deal with one party only i.e. patients (and/or the caretakers). Communication is a lot easier. In clinical teaching, I deal with two parties i.e. students and patients (and/or caretakers). These two parties come with different aims: students are there to meet their learning objectives, while patients are there to achieve their health goals. However, I have to manage them simultaneously. While clinical teaching takes place, I have to constantly remind myself about my role as a teacher and I should give the students opportunities to practise and learn under supervision. If I were to put on my dietitian’s hat, I will very likely take over the session where the student learning may be compromised. I am still learning to cope with the painful struggle in switching roles between a teacher and a dietitian while conducting clinical teaching in a healthcare setting. But having said all that, I am not one who can tolerate monotonous work as I enjoy multitasking. If I can have them all, I will definitely be greedy and put them all in my basket.”

Passion and patience

“I enjoy learning together with the students, then witnessing their progression and advancement under my teaching. Certainly teaching is not easy with the process being really tough. Every teaching moment tested my patience and passion. Nonetheless, the outcomes (measured through students’ progression) always moved me, as long as I put in the effort and sincerity to teach the students. Aristotle was right: ‘The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.’” That was Kar Foo’s response when asked what he loved most about his job.

Continuous learning

“For my current position, the most significant learning at IMU is about clinical teaching. I have learned that being a good clinical teacher, the ultimate objective is not to have taught the students; instead it is to ensure that the students have learned, and are then capable of practising safely and having the ability to reflect for continuous self-improvement. To attain the objective, IMU has offered many training programmes to equip us with those teaching skills and philosophy. I enjoyed attending those teaching workshops especially when listening to lecturers and attendees from different fields shared their teaching experience that are beneficial in student learning. Even as simple as giving feedback to students, there are actually certain scientific techniques that we can use to make the feedback more meaningful and impactful for students so that they can improve and advance themselves.

What would you advice someone who aspires to be a dietitian?

If you like it, just do it. There is nothing better than doing what you love.
If you are worried about the job prospect, I dare you to mind the box you cast within you.

Postgraduate studies

“I definitely have a plan to further my studies but it is not the top priority for now. I am currently seeking opportunities to gain practicing and managerial experience. Postgraduate studies will only be considered when I am more viable financially.“

Future plans

“My dream is to become an entrepreneur cum life coach in the field of nutrition and dietetics. I want to inspire more people to enjoy healthy eating, instead of viewing it as a torture. I also hope that I am able to guide young dietitians to unleash their potential and then, together, we promote healthy eating!”

Aside from being the gold medalist for his cohort, , Kar Foo has also collected a string of achievements and accolades under his belt.

#1 – Book Prize for Best Clinical Dietetics Student 2012 by IMU
“I was really surprised when I was called to receive this award because I was not the top academic achiever in the class. I still remember what my lecturers disclosed to me- ‘You won it not because of your academic achievement; It was your passion in dietetics that made you worthy of it.’”
#2 – Elected as the Council Member of the Malaysian Dietitians’ Association (MDA) in 2013
“There were more than a hundred dietitians that attended the AGM and hence, the election was not easy. Being a fresh graduate, the support and trust given by the previous Council Members and my lecturers were so strong that I could get in. The journey in MDA has groomed me well and it brought me to become who I am today. I am also grateful to be in the Council, serving my profession and witness how the profession expanded and grow over time.”
#3 – The Outstanding Clinical Instructor Award 2017 by the Malaysian Dietitians’ Association
“Frankly, I was over the moon receiving this award because this is the first time that the Association acknowledges the role of a clinical instructor, which is a young position in the profession. It was a competition among the clinical instructors from 7 local universities that offer the dietetics programme and student-written testimonials gave the most impact in the selection process.”

“The moment that I was called to the stage to receive this award was unforgettable. It was not the award that made me proud. In fact, it was the tremendous cheers from my students, friends and colleagues that brought the most excitement! Even YBhg Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Bin Abdullah, Director General of Health who was giving out the award was amazed by the cheering and the support.”

Kar Foo is also currently the Treasurer of the IMU Alumni Association.

The Alumni Relations Office in IMU is really proud of Kar Foo’s achievements and we would like to take the opportunity to thank him for his time and effort in answering the interview questions. We are looking forward to hear more from him in the future as he makes greater waves in the fields of nutrition and dietietics.

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