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My Journey to be a Full Registered Pharmacist (FRP) Under R&D Academia Track at IMU

05 Mar 2019

What shall I do after I graduate with my degree in pharmacy? I started my studies in pharmacy in January 2013 at the International Medical University (IMU) and am now completing my final semester of the degree from the University of Strathclyde. This is the time for me to decide on where I would like to do my Provisional Registered Pharmacist (PRP) training, be it at a Ministry of Health facility or any Pharmacy Board Malaysia accredited private sector organisations. After much considerations, I made up my mind to do my PRP under Research & Development (R & D) in academia. Upon completion of my degree and returning home from UK in 2017, I started thinking of how I can apply for PRP at IMU. That was when I contacted one of the IMU pharmacy lecturers, Dr Dinesh Kumar via email and expressed my interest of doing the PRP at IMU. Dr Dinesh then advised me to contact A/Prof Zulkefeli, Dean of School of Pharmacy. I then attended the IMU 2017 Open Day with my father and met another of my lecturers, Mr David Chong, who introduced me to A/Prof Zulkefeli and Prof Mallikarjuna Rao Pichika (Associate Dean for Research & Consultancy, School of Pharmacy). Soon after that, I officially sent in my PRP application to IMU. My application was accepted and thus begins my one-year Provisional Registered Pharmacist (PRP) journey which was a self-crafted art mix. At the same time, I am also required to undertake the IMU Master Degree in Medical and Health Sciences (MSc by Research) full-time as one of the requirements for selection to do my PRP at the University. To start it off, I met another pharmacy lecturer, Dr Wong Pei Se for a discussion, who then arranged for a short meet-up with Dr Mai Chun Wai. At that time, Dr Mai was looking for a cancer Immunology research assistant and after the meet-up, he became my MSc supervisor. As my supervisor, Dr Mai referred me to Dr Fu Ju Yen, who is a Research Officer at Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB). Since my research interest was in formulation, meeting Dr Fu was very exciting. It was even more so as two out of four papers I discussed in my final year project at University of Strathclyde (UoS) was hers. Now, she is not only my MSc co-supervisor but also my mentor. This allowed me to spend most of my time in the MPOB lab surrounded by welcoming, loving and helpful colleagues, Doryn, Fu Shun, Chang Nong and Nabila. As per the requirements by Pharmacy Board Malaysia, I then completed my clinical training in Pantai Hospital Kuala Lumpur. It was a good exposure for me to work in a hospital setting. The full-time 3-month training together with being a part of the staff at the Hospital without any income taught me what selfless-service meant. I met many inspiring pharmacists there, including Ms Yunn Shuen who is an uplifting and influential person and I truly appreciate what I have learnt from them. At the same time, I am glad that I still keep in touch with one of the senior pharmacy assistants, Ms Sharmini, who would proudly share my achievements with other colleagues and is also my well-wisher too. Most challenging was the fact that I was self-financing unlike those doing PRP in government or private hospitals, community pharmacies and pharmaceutical industries. My typical weekday will be 8 am-5 pm lab work, an hour of driving back home, rest/exercise, dinner, 8 pm-10 pm giving tuition. I gave part-time tuition on Chemistry for SPM students and worked as an Extemporaneous Preparation-Pharmaceutics lab demonstrator at IMU to earn some pocket money. For this, I am extremely thankful to my parents Maniam and Vijaya who supported me in every way they could – I am very sure that if they knew how to do the lab work, they would have done it for me without hesitating. While doing my PRP in the previous one year at IMU, I grabbed all the unique opportunities that came knocking on my door. I took the opportunity to join a week-long community- service mission in Sri Lanka, Project Connected 2018. The community-based project took place in small village in Polonnaruwa with mostly bare grounds and humble people. It was an experience that I will always cherish and a good platform to develop inter-professional interactions among the participants of the project who were from different healthcare courses (Chinese Medicine, Pharmacy, Medicine, Psychology and Chiropractic). Some of the IMU Sri Lankan students also joined us in this project.

Within this PRP period, I also had the chance to participate in IMU Learning Resources Festival Education 4.0. In this event, I took part in a video competition with the theme “Healthcare Education” and showcased my video “Water Health” which was a topic that was inspired by a piece of my writing “The Travel Pharmacist”. The journey of making the Whiteboard Motion Graphic video itself was very self-rewarding and winning a 3rd place was definitely a bonus. Many questioned why I am spending so much of my energy and time doing these things while I was busy with my PRP, MSc and paper writing. How can the time I spent building myself through volunteering, experimenting with new ideas and interest, creating arts and reading my favourite books be considered a waste? If they say it is wrong, I don’t mind being wrong here. This is because for me, I saw getting a FRP license and completing Masters as self-chosen obstacles that I had to overcome and they are not my goals, instead they are just spices that I added to my chai latte journey. Looking back, PRP under RD was never about the right or wrong decision that I made, it was a very good experience I must say. However, it is not without any challenges. I have encountered some unhappy days doing lab work. Once in a while after placing my formulation for 5 hours of ultracentrifugation, I take myself to the movies to de-stress. Crying in the washroom was also a good way of releasing tension. The 12-month of PRP training was definitely not a straight road. It was filled with many occasions of self-doubt and idleness but I never had the thought of quitting. Being the first PRP under RD was not an easy journey. I had no strict guidelines to follow other than the PRP Training Logbook. However, my preceptor, A/Prof Zulkefeli and research supervisor, Dr Mai were always there to guide me.

My journey was certainly not a bed of roses, it had thorns too. But getting over the thorns made my efforts worthwhile. Despite these obstacles, today I have completed my PRP training and obtained my Fully Registered Pharmacy license. On top of that, I have published a mini-review in Frontiers in Pharmacology with co-authors, Dr Mai, A/Prof Zulkefeli, Dr Christine (my FYP supervisor in UoS), Ms Doryn and Dr Fu.

I recall that whenever I talk or it can be said as complain to Dr Fu about my PRP journey, she reminded me of an enchanting excerpt from “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost, “I took the one less travelled by; And that has made all the difference”.

I end my story with a small paragraph from “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell:
“It is impossible for a hockey player, or Bill Joy, or Robert Oppenheimer, or any other outlier for that matter, to look down from their lofty perch and say with truthfulness, “I did this, all by myself.” Superstar lawyers and math whizzes and software entrepreneurs appear at first blush to lie outside ordinary experience. But they don’t. They are products of history and community, of opportunity and legacy. Their success is not exceptional or mysterious. It is grounded in a web of advantages and inheritances, some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky – but all critical to making them who they are. The outlier, in the end, is not an outlier at all.”

Surround yourself with positivity in any form you can.

Written by IMU Alumna, Geetha Maniam

Related articles: Memorable Times for Best Final Year Project Winner (Experience Studying at IMU and University of Strathclyde) Educating and Empowering Sri Lankan Primary School Children – Project Connected 2018: Sri Lanka (Community Project in Sri Lanka)

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