Humans of MMI

Real people. Real stories. Discover about the mad Med life of Malaysian medical students from different parts of the globe.

#humansofmmi

Humans of MMI Contest Story #1

“I was a third year medical student in Moscow when my life took an unexpected turn. I was involved in a fire incident which left me scarred badly, both mentally and physically. At that time, I really thought that I would never be able to overcome the fact that I might not look the same ever again. But here I am 6 years later, a final year medical student. I never went back to Moscow but I did want to finish what I started so with the support of my wonderful family, friends and well-wishers, I again began my journey to become a doctor. After a year of medical leave, I was ready to embark on this journey in a new environment. Of course, life was never the same again. If I wanted to be a pessimist, I would probably pay attention to the fact that everywhere I go, people notice my scars and ask me about it before even seeing my face. Or the fact, that patients that I clerk or examine often are either curious or uncomfortable with my scars. I have narrated my story uncountable times to so many people. From strangers at bus stops or patients at the hospital and even doctors during ward rounds. But I naturally have always been an optimist, so I decided that I am not going to see the downside of the tragedy that occurred to me. I am not saying that I don’t complain now and then, but I do try my level best to put everything behind me and think that there must be a bigger cause for all that has happened. I believe that whatever that happened would indeed make me a more understanding and capable doctor in the near future. I know that it did make me a much stronger person. When the going gets tough, the tough get going!”

Rinusha Manogaran,
5th Year Medical Student
AIMST University

Humans of MMI Contest Story #2

” “If your dream does not scare you, than it’s too small” Well, I guess I dreamt big and on my way succeeding it with fear. At an age filled with mysterious magical journey, I loved hospital visits rather than funfair. The smell of medicine was my favorite scent. This was creepy, but now everything makes sense. I was getting used to my working environment at an age of 6 years old.

My journey to where I am now was worse than hiking up Mount Himalaya. I was dragged down few times, fell from high cliffs and was injured badly. I almost gave up everything, but there was always a voice of hope whispers, try again. I woke up from my failures, and yes I looked like a loser, but I had a dream of my own. I beat against all odd. I move on everyday like it was my last chance. Insecurity was my biggest enemy, and it followed me like a shadow of mine. But I was lucky that my family was always there and had never judge me based on marks written on a piece of certificate. They knew I was more than that.

Enrolling into a medical school, somewhere far away from your comfort zone almost shattered me into pieces. I took an escape route to find the new me, to build my personality and most of all to test my capability of handling a situation independently. 5 years of journey was amazing. It grew up gradually and every single opportunity helped me to be wiser. It was hard, I’ve never taught I was capable of doing so, and with guidance of amazing Professors I was learning. I finally found the new me, and realized what my calling was for.

My whole life changed during my 4th year. I was selected by my university to present a research at International Student Congress of (bio) Medical Sciences, ISCOMS. That was my first international presentation, and I almost fainted. Standing there, in front of the Head of Pharmacology of University of Groningen and was awarded the best poster presenter under Pharmacology department kept me speechless for a whole day. During my 5th year, I was given an opportunity to work along with Dr.Siew Sheue Feng, Forensic Pathologist to conduct a small research under the sub-category of cardiomegaly in natural death. And again this time I would be presenting it at ISCOMS.

What I have learned so far was enormous to share in just few pages. But trust me, if you have faith on yourself, that’s the biggest weapon for your enemies. Take on weird opportunity, do not back off. If you failed, wake up. Don’t give up. Remember that you worth more than a certificate.”

Prrinisha Kanabathy,
5th Year Medical Student
I.M. Sechenov First Moscow State Medical University

Humans of MMI Contest Story #3

“My life as a medicine student is normal yet unique in the sense that I take the initiative to participate in many event organisations. Ever since young, I have too many interests. I like to learn as many skills as I can, to be involved in as many new experiences as the time allows. This has drove me to be part of the organizing committee of many big events in my university, International Medical University (IMU). In order to achieve that, priority is very important. In short, our life can be divided into three different elements: work, social, and rest. For me, I prioritise work and rest, where most of the new generation thinks social plays an important part in their life. This enables me to finish my tasks on time, Therefore, to be frank, my life is quite dull to most of the people. Nevertheless, I think as long as I can live to my fullest and I think I have done my best in achieving all the goals I have set for myself, I should just be myself and practice it. Last but not least, I will share my life motto, which is “Everyone has the right to choose to their responsibilities, it applies to me too, but once I have decided, I will try my best to carry out the responsibilities as perfectly as possible.” ”

Tan Jiak Ying,
2nd Year Medical Student,
International Medical University

Humans of MMI Contest Story #4

“When the beat hits and when I move to the music, it is the most wonderful feeling in the world. Dance has been my solace through hard times in medical school and when I hit my lowest point in life. The only challenge is, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis when I was nine and it was debilitating. Itstarted with a stiff left wrist and at one point, both my legs were affected and I had trouble moving from place to place, let alone dance. Hitherto, I cannot recall any dormant period of my RA; it was always either this joint or that joint or joints.

I’m not going to tell you a miraculous story of how I recovered and won dance championships but I hope this will inspire you to be bold in chasing your dreams. Throughout eleven years of dancing, I was fortunate enough to work with special children occasionally. I taught dance to children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder besides dancing alongside incredibly talented children with Down’s in workshops. How they responded to dance and how fast they progressed amazed me. I vividly remember a very special performance put up by a paraplegic man in a wheelchair. He danced beautifully despite his disabilities and he touched everyone’s heart. It struck me that if they can persevere for their dreams, why can’t I? What is to stop me from the one thing I love most?

Many asked me, “Why are you spending so much time in dance? Why aren’t you studying? Isn’t your curriculum heavy?” Well, I work hard to maintain my grades but I take up extra training as I almost went mad when I gave up dance during the start of medical school. So, even if it is not the healthiest option to give up my social life to make extra time, I did; for my ardent love towards dance. I figured if I were to do something I love, I should put in every bit of effort. It is definitely not easy to dance contemporary with swollen and painful joints. I went on to tumbling training even though thrusting my whole weight onto my hands before I push off for a handspring is excruciating but I have to do what is necessary to go further.

Recently, my arthritis flared up in my right wrist. I took a steroid injection right into my joint space and the swelling has subsided but I still cannot use my wrist to its maximum capacity. To make things worse, my right ankle is now inflamed and I limp everywhere. When I asked the doctor when I can get my normal wrist back, he told me I might never fully regain my wrist function because the aggressive nature of my RA has eroded my bones as shown on X-ray films. To rob a dancer of two out of four limbs is cruel. Absolutely devastating. I had to watch other people in class dance gracefully and could only dream of doing what they can do with their perfect, mobile joints. Sometimes, it infuriates me to see lazy dancers because I want to improve so much but I cannot and they are wasting away that opportunity I’d kill to have even for just a day.

Like I said, this story has no happy ending (yet) but something you should know is, after so many years, against all odds, I have learned to adapt – what I cannot do with my wrist I do with my fingers. I realise I will never be able to have a career in dance but I hope to use what I have learned over the years in my future medical career. I know I haven’t spoken much about medicine but trust me, I love it equally and I hope to pursue Dance Movement Therapy no matter which field I specialise in. I hope to use what has been therapeutic for me and those special children to help those who need a little extra joy in their lives. Please do not feel bad for me for having RA because if there is one thing dancing with RA has taught me, it is resilience. It has only taught me to be more grateful of what I still have and to dance when I still can because I never know which joint will be affected next. It has made my journey in medicine happier and it has shown me that if I love something and if my heart is in the right place, come what may, I will stay.”

Tan Sue Fen,
2nd Year Medical Student
International Medical University

Humans of MMI Contest Story #5

“I entered medical school in 2014, finally beginning to embark on the long-awaited journey of becoming a doctor. Naturally enough, I unlocked a new chapter of my life with a head full of conjectures and expectations of the academic rigor and hospital attachments. Never in my mind though, did I expect to encounter something so commonplace yet most challenging for me to surmount: anxiety.

My anxiety initially manifested as a seemingly harmless concern of my ability to cope with the new academics. However, it did not stop there. The anxiety festered to become crippling self-deprecation, to the point of constantly attributing to myself as the cause of all negative occurrences happening to me and around me. My self-confidence and esteem were therefore superseded by a persistent fear for failure coupled with the tendency to catastrophize events. As a result, my first year in medical school was a devastating one. Sudden awakenings from sleep with gripping panic and days of insomnia were not uncommon.
Attempts to revise for knowledge consolidation and exam preparation were thwarted completely. Interactions with peers became impossible to sustain, due to the necessity to maintain the appearance of being fine and incessant apprehension for my friends’ opinions of me. All in all, I was like a tortoise that withdrew into its shell, being able to do nothing but continue to be engulfed by helplessness while desperately hoping that the incapacitating anxiety pass away quickly on its own.

As I proceeded to second year, the situation remain unimproved. Despite that, I was able to regain some courage within myself to do whatever it would take to surmount that anxiety. To do so, a change in mindset to one of appropriate attribution in accordance with the circumstances and positivism, as well as a realistic allowance of time to complete the change were in order.

One positive baby step taken into this journey of self-transformation was my decision to approach the counsellor to talk over my experience. The step meant the world to me in the beginning, because the fact that I unconsciously cast aside my previous fear of being judged by others spelt the positive possibility of further progress towards recovery. After that, the journey along that path was almost unendurable. The counsellor advised that for the mindset change to take place, a reflection of the past was necessary, in light of the possibility of past incidents as the main cause of my anxiety development. I was thus compelled to reminisce on what happened back in college which I wished so much to forget. For reasons which I still cannot conceive, I lost the friendship of my best friend, who was everything to me. It was painful to reminded of how life became a void after that, that I was subsequently overwhelmed by that sense of agony due to failing to rectify the situation, and that I eventually resorted to blaming myself for causing the estrangement. I remembered how much more I suffered during the 8-month break prior to entering medical school, when that stream of negative thoughts was unhindered due to unemployment. Only after having gone through this harrowing reflection, I was then struck by the parallels in behavior that can be drawn between the past and my current experience, by the fact that I have subconsciously associated the current anxiety and fear with what I experienced after the estrangement. Most importantly, I realized that to truly move on from what happened in the past, I need to learn to stare at it in the face and really believe in what I say to myself, which are these: “This happened because of a combination of circumstances. Even if the fault was partially mine, I have done all I could to rectify it, and the rest is out of my control.”, “Failure is not about the outcome; it is about not giving my best in anything I do.” and “What truly defines me is not whether I have succeeded in achieving something, but the actual journey that leads to it.” “

Tan Tze Khiang
3rd Year Medical Student
International Medical University

In Russia, there are x-ray machines to scan our bags at every train station. I don’t really go out much nowadays but even if I do, I’d try to avoid the peak hours. Having said that, Russia, especially Moscow is vulnerable as target for terrorism.

Studying medicine in Russia may not be as easy as what is perceived. It is not an English-speaking country and the weather can be very nasty, going to -30˚C. To be honest, some of the Russians may not be as friendly as you would think especially towards foreigners, but I do see more positive changes throughout my time of studying here.

The Russian medical literature (university curriculum) here is quite of a difference to UK and Malaysia. They have their own management guidelines for certain diseases. I’ve been reading up on the Malaysian guidelines on my own. Some surgical and management techniques which can be seen as old techniques yet still being practiced by the surgeons in Russia. But I have seen many of my seniors have who have gone through housemanship and become medical officers and specialists. We just need to have the will to learn and to have the right attitude.

Low Wei Quan
Final Year Medical Student at Moscow, Russia
#humansofmmi

After high school, I realized that I was interested in learning human sciences and healthcare, therefore I decided to embark in this great journey towards becoming a doctor.

I went to a college in Penang, after being offered a scholarship to complete my degree there. Alas, a year later, the college shut down. My scholarship disappeared along with it, and so did my sense of security of pursuing medicine. All of us were mad and we wanted someone to blame. But the only thing we could do was to accept our fate and plan our next step in life.

After much support and encouragement from my family, I applied to IMU. My whole world returned when I got that letter of acceptance. I have lost a lot of friends and I dearly miss that place I once thought would become a great chunk of my life.

I believe when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When faced with obstacles, everyone would like to throw a tantrum. Dear friends, instead of blaming others, accept what has happened and continue on with your journey. This journey has been tough and it will continue to be challenging. However, this is the choice which I have made and I will not regret.

Dev Ananthraj
Second Year Medical Student at IMU, Malaysia
#humansofmmi

Surviving Egypt, we can survive anything and everything.

Everywhere we saw people walking. Everywhere, everyone was trying to catch a passing vehicle. We had virtually nothing on us. We were so unprepared, an infant thrown to survive in a raging sea. The nearest rumah bkan in Chiro was more than an hour away in which we walked. All the while, panic overtook all my emotions. We were like an empty casket without a brain, trudging along with just one goal, to get to some place safe. Chaos was all around with fully armed military tankers and soldiers. It was dusk when we arrived and slowly regained ourselves.

Money, we needed money. Where could we find an atm? A rare gem in Egypt. Oh no, we did not bring clothes nor bought any from the mall. Food, we had none back in our hostel.

The next day shed some light when we found out about the riot. We were sent off using the train in which we thanked god that it was still opened. God knows what would have happened to us if it wasn’t. Our hearts were pounding. What shocked us the most was when bricks were thrown at the train! Nonetheless, I forced myself to stand and do what I needed to, i.e. hurrying to stash up daily essentials, calling my family.

For days we waited in the dark, with only candles as our source of light distributed by the International Student Body on their occasional knocks on the door. Doors closed, windows tightly shut, no line, no wifi, a total isolation from the world outside. We knew of nothing except of what we were being told by that Student Body, “Egypt is having a riot. The curfews end at 9am and start at 6pm. Do not open the door and act like no one’s home or they will break in and hurt you.” I wondered if we would survive through it.

Our prayers were answered when we were told that the Malaysian government had sent for all Malaysian students studying in Egypt to be flown back. 5 days we were in transit at Jeddah. Upon arrival back home, we were embraced affectionately and that was when we knew how bad a situation we were in. After 6 months of unintentional holiday, we were back at where we started, seeing only the minor traces of the riot. Pictures of students killed were pasted everywhere. Memorials were set up. Lecturers were talking about those students.

I am extremely grateful for the kind Egyptians who had showed us the way, for without them, I doubt I will be where I am today. 5 years now and the mere shocking realisation now that I was there in the riot, having a day trip that turned into an overnight horror adventure still shakes me to my bones! It was only one week but it felt like an eternity.

Sarah Rafar
Medical School Graduate from Tanta University, Egypt
#humansofmmi

When I first applied to my university, I did not expect to get in. I only applied because my friends applied and this university gave everyone who applies an interview in Malaysia, instead of having to go all the way to UK just for an interview. Besides, I was curious to find out if the rumours about the ridiculous interviews are true, so I thought: Hey, let’s have fun!

On hindsight, it probably was not the right time to have fun because the interview was one day before my Biology A2 and Mathematics A2 exam, and the BMAT was in the middle of my A2 exams. When I finished my 30-minutes interview, I thought my one and only chance was gone. I, very unimpressively, answered every single question wrongly.

I went home and cried while preparing for my A2. However, the interviewer told me the answers and taught me so much on the spot that I never knew one could learn so much in 30 minutes! So, I thought the experience was not a complete waste.

When I was here for my first year, I learned that my interviewer was one of my lecturers. After his lecture, I walked up to him and we had a chat about my interview.

“Giving the correct answer is important but in this era, facts are always changing. I asked you questions that I knew you would not be able to answer because I wanted to see how you could logically solve the problems, instead of purely regurgitating facts.”

Since then, this is a public secret I share with all my juniors before their interviews.

Christine Wong,
4th Year Medical Student at University of Cambridge, UK
#humansofmmi

Growing up, I was fascinated by both the marvels of the human body and the many technological advancements we are now used to, like the Internet and mobile computing.

My subsequent interest in the human body has led me to the study of medicine at university while on the other side of the spectrum, my deep curiosity about technology has recently led me to learn how to code. My pursuits have truly opened up windows of opportunities for me. I started off with learning to build apps for Android last summer, which was organized in the form of an Android app development course by a Google student ambassador with the help of his friend at my university. At the end of the course, I built my own app called MedCal (a simple medical calculator) and published it on the Google Play Store.

I soon began to participate in hackathons, which are events that gather programmers, designers, and others involved in software development and hardware development to build anything they want (from apps to websites to robots). They are great events to take part in to make friends and learn from.

I am currently also a student ambassador for Doctorpreneurs, the global community for doctors, medical students, and other professionals interested in improving healthcare through innovation and entrepreneurship. I’ve recently co-founded a society at uni, called MedTech Sheffield. This society is for individuals from various backgrounds interested in the crossroads of life sciences and technology. We are about generating ideas, as well as encouraging, and building innovative solutions to solve problems in healthcare.

Toh Tzen Szen
Second year medical student at University of Sheffield, United Kingdom
#humansofmmi

Until this very day, I am still astounded by the spike in the number of the daily steps I take when I’m in Dublin. Of course, there are those yellow double deck Dublin buses to count on but where walking is still feasible, you might as well leg it. More often than not, as you parade with fellow pedestrians to your journey’s end, it is not uncommon to be greeted by the unforeseen rain. Indeed, Ireland is known for its unpredictable weather as you can encounter four seasons in a day here, they say.

We are trained in an era where patient-centred care is the highlight of the Irish healthcare system. We are constantly reminded that the purpose of the examination is to ensure that “students are safe” to practise medicine. I think the encouraging learning environment is worth mentioning too. Compliment, which the Irish are generous with extends beyond, “Good!” or “Great!”. More often than not, you get an exaggerated uplifting validation such as, “Perfect!” or “Brilliant!”. Not surprisingly, not all feedbacks are positive but we will stick with the ones that made you feel like someone has just pinned a medal on your shirt.

I acknowledge that Rome wasn’t built in a day and establishing such healthcare system requires various input at many different levels as well as having patients with adequate awareness and knowledge to be actively involved in their care. But I believe that appreciation for this principle can still be instilled at an early stage, especially among medical students and that this may gear up a change to our medical practice in more positive ways.

I appreciate how Dublin has taught me how things,”will always be grand” at the end of the day, and if the reassuring doesn’t help, a warm cuppa would always make things a little better. (P.S. ‘grand’ means ‘just fine’ in Ireland setting)

Clancy Carrerra,
4th year medical student at University College of Dublin, Ireland.
#humansofmmi

As I had the privilege to be exposed to many things since young, I developed a diverse range of interests throughout my life – graphic designing, building plans, video-making, song writing and dance choreography, just to name a few.

This continued as I went to university – I developed an interest in organisational operations management and structure after a two-month internship with the Ministry of Health, and after my stint as Secretary of the First MMI UK committee. These experiences led me to think of ways I can improve MMI UK as a newly-found organisation with hardly a template to adhere to.

After being elected as President of MMI UK, I experienced a complete change in my perspective of how organisations are run. I gained insight into operations, processes, and organisational behaviour, from both reading articles and books, and from the actual experience of being President of the organisation. I translated the theoretical knowledge gained from reading into practical changes, by restructuring the organisation, putting SOPs in place, and people-managing.

It was difficult and at times I felt like giving up (and had given up), but for the most part there was something that kept me illogically and irrationally going in the wee hours of the morning. I did not know what that was. However after much pondering, appropriate with the season of almost stepping down from my role as President, I realised what it was that kept me driven – my love for Creation.

The thing organisational management has in common with graphic designing, building plans, video-making, song writing and dance choreography, is the element of ‘Creation’. Above all these, I realised one thing; the beauty of Creation motivates, inspires, and encourages improvement and positive change to the people and environment around us. My biggest hope for my future self, is that my awe for Creation never leaves me.

Joanna Wong
4th Year Medical Student at Imperial College London, UK
#humansofmmi

In 2012, I had a 9-year-old friend. Let’s call her Emma. Emma was always a bright and highly optimistic girl who was never shy nor scared. When I got to know her, she had been diagnosed of osteosarcoma and was scheduled for an upcoming surgery. We played Twinkle Little Star together and I taught her Do Re Mi.

Finding her after her surgery, she asked me if I would like to see her leg. Being over enthusiastic, I eagerly said, “Yes! Yes!”. She removed her blanket and there was no leg! That was when I realised that her surgery involved a leg amputation. I had no idea what to do or say. I quickly switched to my most comfortable topic of discussion – food. Excusing myself from her bed, I went to the hospital cake shop and got her a fat slice of chocolate cake.

Only after she lost her leg, did it hit me that although cancer may be curable in some cases, it would still leave a scar on you. Cancer would become your identity. People would identify you based on it. Emma was probably more affected by her illness than I am.

At that moment when she showed me her amputation, I was confused. Should I have felt sorry for her? Did she need my sympathy or encouragement? Should I have said that the amputation was a good or bad thing? What could I have said to make the situation more pleasant? I hated the moment when she was more cheerful about her condition than I was. Was she optimistic because she did not know much about her illness or was it because she knew?

A brief period it may have been, but I swear I will never let myself ever respond to a situation like this ever again. I hope that by the time I finish med school and become a doctor, I will be more prepared physically and emotionally. When I’m a doctor, I do not ever want to be in a situation where I will be of no help.

Vikkineshwaran Siva Subramaniam,
5th year medical student at MAHSA, Malaysia

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