It’s been almost a month since I updated my blog. I was extremely busy with the soft launch of my book as many orders were coming through my email. I am still working on getting these books into major bookstores in this country. At the same time I was also busy editing and preparing a short movie for my hospital’s Annual Dinner this Friday. Numerous meetings were also conducted for the whole of this month as everyone is trying to do everything before the fasting month starts.
Over the weeks there have been many discussions in main stream media regarding the job status of medical graduates. As we all know the waiting period for Housemanhsip is close to 6-8 months from the time you graduate. Our Deputy DG came up with a brilliant idea that medical graduates should look for other jobs in the government. It seems that MOH is in talks with JPA/SPA to offer such jobs for those who are not interested in doing clinical medicine. Shouldn’t it be decided before someone spend 5 years and money to do medicine! That’s the reason I finally decided to publish a book to educate the public/students on reality of being a doctor. It also confirms yet again that we are short of post. The worst is yet to come as the number of medical officer post is coming to almost NIL. I was informed that nursing post are being borrowed to convert to MO post. 4 nursing post is being converted into 1 MO post. Meanwhile, as expected, another 5 years moratorium will be extended starting this year, expiring in 2021.
2 days ago, there was an interesting letter written to TheStar by a Russian university student(see below). I had always maintained that all good students should be offered a place in local universities. Cases such as this is nothing new. Being in the same shoe many many years ago, I just had to take the more difficult path of doing STPM to get into UM medical faculty. Trust me, the more difficult path that you take, the better person you become. Those who enjoy smooth sailing life are the one who will fall apart, the moment life gets tougher. While he should have done his homework before falling into the hands of these unscrupulous agents, the situation in some of the Russian medical schools is nothing new. I had spoken to many who graduated from certain Russian medical schools and what this letter has described is exactly what they had told me. However, there are some Russian schools which are better. This is the reason why I keep telling all budding doctors that they should know what they are getting themselves into.
Whatever said, life is never easy. Most students do not know what life is at the time they pursue their studies as they have been supported by parents all the way. Only when they join the work force they realise how difficult life is. We are living in a capitalist world where people will do whatever they need to make money. That is what the agents and some medical colleges are doing. Our ignorant society is partly to be blamed. Unfortunately, I still see and hear multiple advertisements on papers and radio promoting easy route to fulfill student’s dreams in doing critical courses such as medicine, dentistry, pharmacist etc! The government on the other hand never takes any action as long as there are no complains. Which student will complain to get themselves into trouble? That’s why I salute this student for being bold and brave enough to tell what is happening, in a main stream media. I am sure he has genuine passion to be a doctor but life never gets any easier………
Plea from Russian grad
Soon to be graduating from a Russian medical faculty myself, I would like to share my thoughts on where we went wrong and how we should stop traumatizing our students studying in “incompetent” medical schools.LATELY, comments about incompetent medical graduates returning from overseas after completing their studies have been all over social media. Medical students especially from Russian medical schools cannot help but feel stigmatized every time they view these reports.
I became interested in medicine when I was eight years old after seeing my uncle collapse in front of me. He was declared brain dead a week later and I watched family members fumble for answers. I also saw my grandmother deteriorate to an unrecognizable state from cancer.
I come from a small town where English was hardly spoken outside of lessons in school. My parents are educators and both encouraged me to pursue medicine. I did very well in school, debating both in English and Bahasa Malaysia at state level, played hockey, was president of every club I could join and still maintained my grades with almost perfect scores.
I excelled in my SPM examinations, applied for all the government scholarships – JPA, matriculation, IPTA – and anything that could put me on my path to medicine. It was really heartbreaking to get no reply or just plain rejections without any reason.
And then the “leeches” came in. Unscrupulous, greedy and dishonest agents recruiting for medical institutions in countries like Russia, Ukraine, Indonesia and the Middle East see the opportunity to take advantage of a student’s dream and their parents’ desperation to fulfil that ambition.
I was 18, uninformed, fearless, and just desperate to see a path where medicine would be in sight. I jumped on the bandwagon, backed up with promises and hopes from agents and even family members studying in Russia. I should have been more careful or talked to more people but all I could think of was realising my dream of becoming a doctor without killing my parents who were already mortgaging everything they owned to send me to Russia.
In Russia, we were cramped in hostels with six people in a two-person bedroom, lived out of suitcases and were yelled at every day because we didn’t understand the language. When we tried to ask the agents for help, we were turned down unless we could provide a large sum of money for “handling fees”.
Believe me, I asked myself every day if I had made the right choice. I felt lost and helpless in a land where people didn’t think twice about telling you to pack up and leave. But if I called up my parents to tell them I wanted to come home, the money they spent on my first year tuition fees, plus my airfare, accommodation and documentation fees would be all for nothing.
So I learnt the local language, went for every class and painstakingly tried to communicate with local patients who would turn you down or tell you to your face that “you foreigners don’t belong here”. Humiliated and broken, it wasn’t easy to keep the passion for medical knowledge burning.
Students here develop immunity to criticism, yelling, being called names and marginalized. Some resort to drugs, partying and extreme socializing to mask the depression and frustration of being “outcasts” in this country.
On top of this, we don’t have the opportunity to pick up practical skills because, to put it bluntly, the university here doesn’t care if we graduate as incompetent doctors as we won’t be serving their citizens. It’s sad because there is excellent potential here, and given the right education and guidance, the students can be outstanding doctors.
When we do our practical rotations in summer in Malaysian hospitals, the first question asked of us is where we are studying. And we watch as the facial expressions show the disgust or distrust after we say Russia. And listen as the HOs, MOs, specialists and local medical students snicker about how we are the black sheep of the system.
Can you even try to comprehend the stigma that surrounds us? We suffer every day in extreme weather and social conditions here, only falling back for support from other Malaysians who are equally lost and trying to survive.
Were we told that the syllabus was in English and we would be given a well-rounded education? Yes. Is this the reality? No!
There are students here on government scholarship or Mara loans who have no passion for medicine. They do the bare minimum just to pass and go on exclusive trips to Europe or buy expensive gadgets. Some have even set up small businesses here.
Then there are the super rich Malaysian students who couldn’t qualify for other medical institutions. Forced into doing something very difficult, they skip lessons, do the bare minimum and still graduate as doctors.
Today, barely a month into graduating, I am writing this letter hoping for some guidance and compassion in dealing with medical graduates like me who are coming back already disheartened. We seek refuge in our own country, the very country we are proud of and want to come back to, to serve its citizens.
SOON TO BE DOCTOR