Vince Lombardi once said, “Winners never quit, and quitters never win.”
‘Never give up on my dreams’ was the mind set which helped me come this far. Currently, I am a second-year medical student at the International Medical University (IMU). Some of my friends and relatives wonder why I hoped to become a doctor who faces endless working hours. It has been my ambition to become a doctor since I was just 6 years old, inspired by my paediatrician as I fell ill often in my younger years. With his excellent diagnostic skills and treatment plans, I was able to reduce the frequency of falling sick and thrived like other healthy kids.
In primary school, I joined the Malaysian Red Crescent Society, where I learnt first aid skills such as wound dressing and bandaging, CPR, choking, and transportation of casualties, but the exposure was minimal as we were still young. When I progressed to secondary education, I joined the St John Ambulance of Malaysia (SJAM) to hone my skills in first aid. We had weekly activities because SJAM members were required to take examinations annually to improve their knowledge and skills, and maintain their efficiency as a member. We provided first aid services in events such as marathons, concerts and carnivals. Besides that, we organised community service trips to the orphanage, old folks and handicapped homes where we cleaned their living quarters and conversed with them. Eventually, I was given a chance to lead my school’s SJAM members of my school as the chairperson during my final year. I worked with committee members to deliver the best experience for members to learn and enjoy our activities. Upon graduating from secondary school, I went to Taylor’s College to pursue my pre-university qualification, Cambridge A-Levels (CAL). I continued my journey in SJAM at the district level, hence I was given an opportunity to attend an advanced first aid course where we focused on trauma and disaster management. I also conducted a few first aid courses upon obtaining my first aid trainer certificate. My journey reached a roadblock when I was faced with the decision of either retaking CAL or pursuing another pathway, because my CAL results did not meet the entry requirements for IMU’s medical credit transfer programme.
At last, my decision was to enrol into the IMU Biomedical Science programme, although it would extend my journey towards graduating as a doctor. Upon reviewing the curriculum, I believed that it will help me establish a strong foundation before entering medicine. I was rather worried of whether I could cope when I enrolled in 2016, because CAL was 100% examination-based, whilst the Biomedical Science programme requires submission of assignments and reports. Fortunately, with the support from lecturers and friends, I was able to manage both my assignments and revision. My time management skills were put to the test where we needed to prioritise based on assignment deadlines. The Biomedical Science programme was eye-opening and paved the way to a multitude of careers, such as haematology, microbiology and forensic science.
One of the greatest opportunities I was offered was to learn the conduct of scientific research during my final year. I worked under the supervision of A/Prof Chye Soi Moi, and the research project was to justify whether melatonin, a hormone produced by the pineal gland, could be used as an adjuvant for treating leukaemia. Throughout the project, I honed my skills on basic cell culture techniques, cell viability tests, fluorescence analysis, Western Blotting and statistical analysis. I thought I would be mentally prepared for the workload, but I was overwhelmed by it. There seemed to be endless troubleshooting and experimental repeats to ensure we obtained accurate results, hence it was very stressful because at the same time I had to focus on my studies too. But despite the stress, I felt more productive upon resolving the challenges. I was also given a chance to represent IMU at the 10th Malaysian Biomedical Science Symposium as an oral presenter and managed to secure a second runner-up trophy for the “Best Oral Presentation” category. Furthermore, I performed my 6-month internship at the National Heart Institute where I learned the workflow in the diagnostic laboratory. My favourite part of the internship was the opportunity to draw patients’ blood under proper guidance and supervision by laboratory staff. Upon completing the biomedical science programme, I enrolled into the IMU Medical credit transfer programme within the same year of graduation.
I would like to encourage all to work hard, and to never give up on your dreams. It is better to have tried wholeheartedly to accomplish your goals than to look back and regret. Also, never compare yourself with others, as everyone walks a different path. All the best to those who are fighting to achieve their dreams! When you feel like giving up, always remember the reason why you started this journey and that there are people who believe in you no matter what.
Written by Chang I Shuen, IMU Medical Student and IMU Biomedical Science Alumnus