From relocating to a new country, experiencing new cultures, meeting new people to graduating, and realising my dream of becoming a pharmacist – my time at the International Medical University (IMU) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia has been a rollercoaster of emotions and a life-changing experience.
Growing up, I was introduced to healthcare at an early age. I was living in a medical household – my father owned a pharmacy, and my uncles were working as pharmacists in different companies.
After I graduated from high school in June 2013, I was given the opportunity to decide what I wanted to do next. I made the decision to leave my home country (Nigeria) and explore the world. I figured studying abroad was the perfect opportunity to do so. Traditionally, most Nigerian students who wish to study abroad choose countries like the USA, UK, and other European countries. In my case, I decided to look eastward and look up countries in Asia.
I remembered I had a cousin who was residing in Malaysia, I reached out to him to get some advice and information regarding studying in Malaysia, we talked a bit and I told him about my interest in Malaysia. He recommended IMU to me as one of the best medical schools in Malaysia and it has one of the best pharmacy programmes in the country. He then helped me with the registration process.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t get into the IMU pharmacy programme that year (2013) due to the scheduling of my high school results which was needed before the start of the programme (September 2013). Not to be deterred, I reapplied for the same programme the following year in 2014.
I received an offer to start my undergraduate pharmacy degree at IMU, I made travel arrangements and travelled to Malaysia. I was nervous and excited at the same time because this was my first time outside my home country.
My first semester was a little bit rocky for me because I was still adjusting to life as an international student but I made friends along the way who helped me to adjust better. It was an exciting experience for me because I was meeting people from different backgrounds, ethnicities, and religions.
By the time I was in my second year, I was more confident and more grounded with everything. My lecturers were very helpful and knowledgeable – they gave important and useful information which I was able to utilise in improving my knowledge, my confidence, and my abilities as a pharmacist.
IMU offers numerous opportunities and activities which were very important in aiding and nurturing my development as a young pharmacist. It ranged from the clinical and project-based learning sessions to the numerous community outreach drive which students and staff alike can volunteer for. IMU also provides support to students through the mentoring programme and senior programme where a senior student is assigned to help the junior student adjust better.
(L-R): Emmanuel Timilehin Atolagbe, Weng Hong Kok, Yoong Onn Low, Lian Chia Lynn, Wei Xuan Lim, Xin Er Tan
(L-R): Ong Yee Chen, Imelda Liew, a community pharmacist, Emmanuel Timilehin Atolagbe
As a pharmacy student, I felt more confident in my abilities, and with my interactions, for example my presentation skill. This skill has improved drastically as a result of giving several presentations over the years. It also had enabled me to refine this skill over the years at IMU. I was also able to experience first-hand most of the things taught to us in the classroom through the attachment programme at the hospital, community pharmacy, and industrial pharmacy, which in turn helped me decide which stream to go for in my studies after getting my undergraduate degree.
Pursuing Master in Pharmacy Practice at IMU
By the time I was done with the undergraduate degree programme, choosing to study the graduate programme at IMU became a no-brainer because of what I had experienced with IMU, it was such an easy decision coupled with the incentives that IMU offered.
Before pursuing my postgraduate studies, I discovered that the role of the pharmacist isn’t just limited to the community, industrial, or hospital. They are numerous opportunities available to us. I felt that enrolling in a master’s program would be a huge advantage for me as I could further acquire more skills. So, in 2019, I decided to pursue my Master in Pharmacy Practice under the Pharmacy Management stream. It felt like it is the right stream to me when I went through the module list and course description as it had all the necessary modules that I felt I needed then. During this programme, I really enjoyed the Pharmaceutical Marketing and the Entrepreneurial Leadership modules – they made me see the role of a pharmacist from a different perspective. I was also further able to develop my research skills with my supervisor Dr Palanisamy encouraging me to take up research on diabetes medication adherence.
My research semester during my Master degree was a very interesting journey because of the limitations due to the pandemic situation in Malaysia. Even though we were limited in some areas, we still made it work as we tried to reach all our deadlines. We completed all our objectives and by the end of the day, I was able to finish the thesis on time. I learned so many things during this period, interacting with our respondents. Preparing a google form from scratch in such a way as to capture all the required data was something I had to learn on the spot.
Now that I have completed my Master degree, I’m looking forward to pursuing my PhD because I feel my thesis topic has many potentials. My future aspiration is to be a medical science liaison and that opportunity won’t be possible without all the knowledge I have gained from IMU with the support from the lecturers, my family, and friends.
Written by Emmanuel Timilehin Atolagbe
Edited by Dr Palanisamy Sivanandy