5 Nov 2019 A Little Push in the Right Direction for IMU’s Award Winning Graduate
When someone asks me why am I doing Medicine, I will jokingly tell them that my family decided it for me and I am often met with stares! Well, it is partly true and I am eternally grateful for that! Growing up, I had not one ambition. I wanted to become a teacher which soon turned into archeologist after watching one too many Indiana Jones movies. When I was 16, I decided to embark in any career related to science and worked really hard to secure a scholarship. Coming from a middle-income family, I realised that a good tertiary education is a hefty sum to pay and I wanted to help relieve my parents’ burden in any way I can.
I managed to secure 10A+ in my SPM and was awarded as one of the top students in SPM 2011 by the state of Penang. I was offered a bursary by the Ministry of Education to pursue my tertiary education. At the same time, I was offered two scholarships, one for Mechanical Engineering and one for Economics. As tempting as it was to pursue my education abroad under these prestigious scholarships, my sister who is my biggest role model and was reading Medicine at that time convinced me to do Medicine because she saw a great potential in me and was able to envision me as good doctor. I, on the other hand, were terrified to pursue Medicine because of the heavy responsibility that I would have to shoulder as a doctor, meddling with people’s lives every day.
Of course, being eighteen, it was difficult and incredibly scary to make an important life decision such as this! However, I carried out hospital attachments in both private and government hospitals and discussed about my options with my family, my teachers from my alma mater and even some doctors I knew. After much consideration, I decided to read Medicine because I do enjoy working with people and the medical field seemed intriguing. I was also inspired and motivated by the people around me who were assuring and confident that I would do well in Medicine. Looking back, I have no regrets as I developed a strong passion for Medicine during the course of my study and now I could not imagine myself being anything else but a doctor!
When I was studying my Cambridge A-Levels at Taylor’s College Subang Jaya, I was in a turmoil again when deciding which medical university to enrol in that would best prepare me for my career as a doctor. I applied to both international and local medical universities and was finally offered a place to read Medicine in several local universities. Without hesitation, I decided to pursue Medicine at IMU under JPA scholarship because it is the most established private medical school in Malaysia with excellent reputation and had years of experience in providing one of the best healthcare education in Malaysia. Many told me that doctors graduating from IMU were faring well at work, which reflects the adequate training and exposure that IMU provides to their medicals students.
|My Journey at IMU|
|Looking back, my journey in IMU was a roller coaster ride. There were personal and academic struggles that I had to endure in these five years but my family and my friends helped me in many ways that I am grateful for. From day one, I met acquaintances who turned into the closest friends I have ever had and they sure made studying Medicine bearable especially during those tough clincal years! My memorable moments were the times I spent with my friends, studying and practicing OSCE and viva together until the early mornings, motivating each other when we were tired and frustrated, helping each other to cover patients in the ward, cooking meals together and being caught once by our lecturer when we sneaked out of the ward for an early lunch!
I was involved in several volunteering projects since Year One of my medical school. I was selected as the Public Relations Officer for AMSA-IMU 2015/2016 and was given the responsibility of leading the ‘Dream Bigger, Reaching Out Community’ Project where we organised weekly teaching sessions for children from Myanmar Refugee Centre under United Nations’ Human Rights Council Malaysia. I was also the student leader for a NGO called EMPOWERED MALAYSIA, a cancer advocacy society in Malaysia where I led the students volunteering for the 2015’s Colorectal Cancer Awareness and Screening Campaign. I was also given the position of External Liaison for Kampung Sebir’s Education Project from 2017 to 2019 where we carried out weekly tutoring for indigenous children and helped with the educational trips to Petrosains and Kidzania.
Volunteering in small communities opened my eyes to the needs of the people around me which cultivated a sense of responsibility towards our society. I fostered good friendship with the colleagues I worked with and we learnt about leadership and management skills from each other. The difficult part was of course to juggle between my studies and the responsibilities I was entrusted with but it taught me to prioritise my time, plan ahead and to not be afraid to say no when you have too much on your plate.
IMU has provided me with plenty of oppurtunities and support which helped improve my curriculum vitae. I was privileged to carry out my electives in two different countries, in Waterford, Ireland back in Semester 3 and in Christian Medical College, Vellore, India in Semester 8. I was also given financial aid under IMU’s Student Mobility Programme which was of great help.
At the University, I had excellent mentors who were both encouraging and inspiring. A special thanks to my research mentor, Dr Ong Jun Jean who helped my team and I publish our research entitled Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices of Medical Students Regarding Influenza Vaccination in the Southeast Asian Journal of Tropical Medicine and Public Health, Volume 50 Number 5. This achievement would not have been possible without my mentor’s assistance and motivation.
Top Student and Recipient of Dr John Joseph Bosco Memorial Gold Medal
I was on my way to Seremban with my friend when I was announced as the top student in my graduating cohort as we were travelling from Penang the morning of results day. My friend video-called me from the John Bosco Auditorium immediately after the announcement. It was hilarious as I waved awkwardly to my colleagues and lecturers through the front of my camera! I was surprised upon receving the news because I did not realize that I stood a chance to win this prestigous award!
My motivation stemmed from the support of my family especially from my sister, my dedicated lecturers (special thanks to Dr Ng Kian Seng from IMU Kluang), my closest friends and confidants whom I shared good memories with and gave me a shoulder to cry on during my bad days and my senior (who was a gold medalist too!). They really believed in me and pushed me to be the best version of myself.
My accolade is a reminder that success is not achieved alone but with the help and support of the people who truly love and care for you. I will always be indebted to their kindness and encouragement that has propelled me to success.
Other Achievements at IMU
I was awarded with the Dr Saidi Hashim Memorial Gold Medal (an award given in honour of the late Dr Saidi Hashim Tahir, one of the founders of IMUpresented, top student of the convocating class who will be continuing their studies either to the IMU Clinical Campus or Partner Schools overseas) by IMU for Phase 1 of Medical Programme in 2017 and have received Distinction Awards in all my professional exam in clinical years.
|My Training as a Preparation for my Future as a Doctor|
|The knowledge and experience that I have attained over the five years studying in IMU has prepared me for the challenging and demanding nature of this profession. Being trained at Ministry of Health (MOH) hospitals by lecturers who have a vast experience in the medical field has given me confidence to be a safe, ethical and caring doctor in the future.
For example, I was given the chance to present cases to my lecturers during their morning ward rounds with the MOH team which was an invaluable experience as I recevied constructive feedbacks which improved my presentation skills.
My 6-month senior clerkship in a district hospital of Kluang also gave me plenty of opportunities to assist and attempt various procedures. I am so grateful to the MOH staff who trained and equipped us with the knowledge for us to become competent doctors.
I love Internal Medicine and I am hoping to specialise in it in the future with a few field of sub-specialisations in mind. I am planning to sit for my MRCP UK once I start working and hopefully secure a specialty training, either locally or abroad.
Taking a Break From My Studies
I just had a six-week long vacation in the United Kingdom and am still recovering from the change in the biological clock! I’ll be flying to India soon for another family vacation. Currently, I am enjoying my free time at home with plenty of detective novels and movies!
|Advice to Students Interested in Studying Medicine|
|The best advice I can give you is to talk to experienced people about the career pathway you are about to embark on.
Senior medical students are always the best source of information if you would like to know more about their experiences in medical school. Try to find out about the structure of the course, the core syllabus that is taught and your future working oppurtunities to be better prepared for the challenges that you might face once you have embarked on this journey.Carry out hospital attachments especially in government hospitals to have a glimpse into the everyday working life of doctors.
Finally, cultivate good habits and have a positive outlook when you start your journey to become a doctor. Surround yourself with good friends and enjoy the ups and downs of medical school together! Remember that medical school doesn’t just give you a degree but provides you a platform to discover yourself and build a better you so that you can serve the community well as a doctor.
Studying medicine has been a fulfilling journey to me. I discovered myself, found my strengths and limitations and made lifelong friends along the way. My beliefs are strengthened and I owe it all to God for this and hopefully more successes in the future.
Written by Sharmathi Dhanapal