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A Recipe to Success: Transforming Obstacles into Opportunities

06 Dec 2017

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both

(Robert Frost, 1874 – 1963)

“The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost was one of poems that I came across during the English Literature course back in secondary school. It has had a huge impact on multiple important choices in my life, even until today. Since my childhood, I’ve always done things differently from my peers. For example, I was the first girl to join the Taekwondo club in my secondary school. While most girls in my class signed up for badminton club, I picked up table tennis. So it was natural that when it came to the choice of Partner Medical School, I applied the same principle. I chose Canada. This was not a popular choice among my peers as Canada is geographically the furthest from Malaysia. Besides that, one would not be allowed to apply for postgraduate training without a Canadian permanent residency or citizenship. Regardless, I still packed my suitcases and landed in Calgary, Alberta exactly 10 years ago.

As it turned out, the journey since completing my studies at IMU has been exciting and fulfilling. After obtaining my MD from the University of Calgary, I was not able to apply for residency due to my immigration status. However, when one door closes, another opens and I went on to pursue a postgraduate Masters of Science (MSc) degree in cardiovascular sciences. The experience was so phenomenal that it taught me that life is not all about achieving goals with the shortest timeline as possible, but rather to take advantage of every opportunity to seek excellence. If you are lucky, not only will you learn, but you can enjoy the process and the pride it gives you along the way.

I obtained Canadian permanent residence status during my graduate studies and in 2013, I was extremely fortunate to gain a cardiac surgery residency spot at the prestigious University of Ottawa Heart Institute. This is definitely one of the best things that has ever happened as I have found my passion! By looking at my achievements so far, one might say that I am extremely fortunate as so many things happened in my favour. In fact, this is not completely true. I was born with moderate-to-severe sensorineural hearing loss and I wear bilateral hearing aids. At the beginning of my medical school, there was significant doubt if I could survive a clinical setting where physician-patient communication is critical. Whereas others thought I wouldn’t survive, I just perceived this as another challenge and I proved the doubters wrong. When the interest of becoming a cardiac surgeon first sparked in me, the sounds of doubt were even stronger. I was once told bluntly that becoming a cardiac surgeon can only be a dream for me, because I am a woman, and of course, because I am hearing impaired! Most people would feel discouraged and defeated in this situation. But I did not. I said to myself, “If I could overcome so many challenges in the past, why not this one?” I shrugged it off and moved on. In fact, I only remembered this comment on the day I found out that I was matched to the cardiac surgery residency programme in Ottawa. I have always believed that God is fair. It is true that when one sense is compromised, other senses will be enhanced imparting a wonderful opportunity that others may not have. In my case, my hearing impairment enhanced my ability of observation such that I am able to notice all the minor details in the operating room. This has helped me to gain confidence from my mentors which has been reflected by the most important compliment; trust in me as a colleague and as a surgeon. To me, life is all about making choices, and dealing with the consequence of each choice gracefully. There should not be any ‘what ifs?’ moments. Do not be afraid of any challenges coming your way, because they are inevitable and they will shape you into who you’ve aspired to become. Be confident in yourself. You might hear some doubts down the road, but it does not mean that you have to listen to them!

I leave you with one message. All of us have potential to achieve goals bigger than what we could ever dream. So, instead of complaining what you don’t have, focus on your advantages and strengths and don’t be afraid of choosing the most challenging path.

Last but not least, here is a little video clip that I would like to share with you all:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by,  And that has made all the difference.”

Written by: Janet Ngu, MD, MSc (ME1/05)

Note : Janet did her first two and a half years of studies at IMU before transferring to University of Calgary for completion of her degree. She was awarded the Young Alumnus Award – Academic Achievements at the IMU Alumni Homecoming 2017.

Related article: IMU Honours Four Outstanding Alumni

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