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Memorable Times for Best Final Year Project Winner

08 Feb 2018

There is a saying that “When writing the story of your life, don’t let anyone else hold the pen” and though it is true, I would still like to appreciate all those people who have passed through this phase of my life. January 2013 is the start of my pharmacy degree at the International Medical University, Bukit Jalil. During this time, we had many interesting lectures taught by truly inspirational lecturers. One of these that is still etched in my memory is the first few lectures on Muscles which were conducted by Dr Mayuren who presented the lectures with such enthusiasm. I also particularly enjoyed Prof Yeoh Peng Nam’s lectures on Schizophrenia and Epilepsy. Her teaching techniques with hand gestures, acted like the neurotransmitters between presynaptic knob and postsynaptic knob of nerves that activate learning for the students. Studying at IMU, however, was not only about studies. There are many extra – curricular activities and community projects that students can be involved in. One of these activities provided me a platform to continue my passion in arts. I had the opportunity to take part in the IMU Mental Health Week Arts Competition and the IMU Art Competition. I submitted an art piece titled “The Long-Necked Tribal Girl” for the IMU Mental Health Week Arts Competition and I won first prize. I also submitted my piece of art in 2016 for the IMU Art Competition. Arts have always been my passion and despite the tight study and exam schedules, I always allocated some relaxation time with arts to rejuvenate myself. A practice that is implemented throughout my entire study life. As a caring University, IMU has always encouraged its students to do community service. One such opportunity came to me when I saw a flyer about Myanmar-IMU Collaboration Community Project 2015 at Wet Chaung Village, Myanmar. I signed up immediately and the experience was unimaginable. The village is about 10 hours’ bus journey from Yangon, the capital of Myanmar. At the village, there was no Wi-Fi, poor telephone signals and the electricity supply only lasted for 2 hours daily with the help of a generator. We even had to bathe with rusty water from the old piping system. Even with the lack of facilities, the people at the village were humble and courteous. We did many activities with the villagers such as health screening, teaching English and playing football with the school kids. The group also took the opportunity to sightsee around Yangon and Bagan on the last few days of our trip to Myanmar. One day when I was scrolling down my Facebook newsfeed, I saw a flyer on “Antimicrobial Resistance Essay Competition 2017” by Asia Pacific Regional Office of International Pharmaceutical Students’ Federation. After my trip to Myanmar, the rusty water experience that I had made me to learn more about water purification. So I used this competition as a medium to express my ideas on that issue. I wrote an essay titled “THE TRAVEL PHARMACIST” for the theme “Efficient strategy to expand roles of pharmacists on lowering incidences of infection”. I felt very blessed when I was announced as the First Prize Winner. Fast forward to June 2016, I flew to Scotland with the rest of my MPharm cohort to continue our final year at University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. Living in a cold country with friendly Glaswegians, Scottish accents, the lecturers and the travels made the one year a wonderful and unforgettable experience. Still, the caring aspects instilled in me make me determined to explore and grab the opportunities that came my way to be a better person. During winter, the British Pharmaceutical Society Association co-organised the Responding to Symptoms Competition with Johnson & Johnson. The first round was at university level and I won the first place. The final year of our MPharm degree was no joke. We were racing against finishing assignments and sitting for class tests and exams. The Responding to Symptoms Competition fell amidst of these tasks. I used to wake up as early as 4.30 in the morning for almost 1 week plus before the competition to prepare for at least one hour at the beginning of the day. I made sure I had plenty of time for my assignments and exam preparations. I used to read books about “Patient counselling on treating minor ailments and self-care tips”. I watched YouTube videos on mock counselling session uploaded for OSCE to improve my communication skills. Winning first place then led me to the semi-finals which was held in Wolverhampton, Wales. My housemates were very encouraging. They allocated their time for me to practice patient counselling with them. Compared to university level where the topic was told a week before, in semi-finals, I got to know the topic a day before. It was about smoking. I had no choice but to print some notes and to bring it with me to Wolverhampton. It was my first solo trip in a new country. The journey took 7 hours by train. I revised my notes during the train trip. After the competition, I spent some time exploring the city before returning to Glasgow.

After a month, I received the good news that I was one of the finalists. My next trip was to Durham, England which was about a week before my final OSCE. The competition was in the morning. The topic was given 10 minutes before you were called into the competition hall. I attended the BPSA 75th Annual Conference afterwards. The competition was such as an experience and I got the opportunity to meet students from other UK universities, some of whom I still keep in touch with.

As with many other degree programmes, the MPharm students at University of Strathclyde are required to complete a final year project. For us, the final year project (FYP) stretched throughout the last semester. During my secondary school, my father once talked about Nano and its future, a topic which he had read about 30 years ago. That made it easy for me to choose a research topic for my final year project. My topic was “Which nanotechnology-based therapeutic strategies would be for optimising the anticancer efficacy of tocotrienols”. The project was conducted under the supervision of Dr Christine Dufes, who guided me throughout the entire project. My research was about how nanotechnology could be used to design delivery systems for tocotrienol, a nutraceutical with anticancer properties to specific parts of the body.

Art pieces drawn by Geetha for her FYP

The format of the writing was critical analysis which was very new to me. I spent a lot of time reading and jotting down ideas that popped up at odd hours i.e. in the middle of a movie, while reading a book or while walking around the cold city. My arts and visualising ability also helped me a lot in completing my FYP writing. Many a time, I spent hours trying to express my thoughts in visual forms. Though it was long hours of work, it kept me engaged with my research project.

I also took the time to discuss my ideas with my ever supportive housemates, Dibah, Liyana, Amalyana, Asdina and Shue. Whenever I explained my topic to them, it gave me a new perspective to revisit the points discussed. These housemates really made my stay in Glasgow truly memorable -we had wonderful times cooking together (even though I am not good in cooking), group studying and chit chatting.

Soon it was the final 2 months before heading back to Malaysia. We were very busy, yet great fun. Even though we were busy, I took the opportunity to witness the Malaysian Night 2017 at Strathclyde, organised by my fellow IMU classmates. It was a colourful night full of fun and great memories.

I came back to Malaysia in May 2017. A month after, I received an email from the School of Pharmacy of Strathclyde that I was awarded The Roger Wadsworth Prize for the best final year project in MPharm. I felt so blessed and glad that I made my parents, Maniam and Vijaya proud. Much love and appreciation to all.

When I completed the Master of Pharmacy with Distinction, I thought I have achieved my mission in life. Now, new thoughts have propelled me to think that that I have a bigger mission in life to achieve through the knowledge I have gained during the degree programme.

To me, Pharmacy is not a destination to be reached but a journey to be experienced. When it is viewed as a journey, every encounter is an opportunity to learn and explore different horizons in pharmacy.

Written by IMU Alumna, Geetha Maniam

 Geetha is the first Provisional Registered Pharmacist (PRP) under R&D Academic at IMU. She is currently doing her Master by Research under the supervision of Dr Mai Chun Wai and Dr Fu Ju Yen from MPOB. The School’s  Dean, A/Prof Mohd Zulkefeli is her preceptor. Geetha will be starting her clinical attachment soon at Hospital Pantai, Kuala Lumpur under this PRP scheme.

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