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My Journey Back to Alma Mater: From a Student to a Lecturer

29 Dec 2021

Lim Goon Month, IMU Chinese Medicine alumna and lecturer (right) with Prof Guo Rui Hua 

In 2012, I first stepped into IMU as a student and in 2021, I am again stepping into IMU but this time as a lecturer. I could never imagine my first step into IMU would lead me towards this path for the next 10 years and even more. Standing exactly on the same spot today but playing a totally different role. I am back!

If I were to describe my Chinese medicine path, I would use the word ‘adventurous’. To be frank, studying Chinese medicine was not my first ambition. I was keen to pick up my study as an early childhood educator. However, life always surprises us.

Due to family reason, I joined the IMU Chinese Medicine programme in year 2012. At first, I just aimed to finish my study at IMU and get a second degree for my ambition.

However, I eventually fall in love with the beauty of Chinese medicine.  Chinese medicine is such a lively subject which all the theories behind are linked so closely to our daily lives.

Throughout the four years at IMU, combined learning of modern medicine and Chinese medicine had brought up questions and doubts in myself as a student. However, lecturers (who are my current colleagues) had been very helpful in guiding us to break through the barrier, allowing us to grow our critical thinking skills, forming our own mindsets.

Final semester at the IMU Chinese Medicine Centre (ICMC) student clinic was the most unforgettable semester for me. With opportunities provided for us to manage our own patients, it turned all the theories to solid experiences, which I could feel and see on my own. Mistakes done had really reminded me to keep on learning without being afraid to fail. “Once you wear your white coat, you must set aside all your emotions and problems, focus only on your patients”. This is a saying of a preceptor during our internship at Tung Shin Hospital, which has always kept me alert up until today whenever I put on my white coat.

Besides gaining a solid foundation of Chinese medicine, we are also well trained in clinical skills at IMU, especially in the practice of ethics and professionalism, which I would never have expected it to be so outstanding when it comes to my final year internship in China.

My Internship and Master’s Degree 
In my fifth year of study (2016), I continued my internship in one of IMU’s partner university, Shandong University of Traditional Chinese Medicine (SDUTCM). This is where there are a few twists to the plot. Rotation in twelve different specialised departments in a TCM hospital was a very eye-opening experience. I got to see how extensive Chinese medicine is in clinical applications. As compared to China’s undergraduate final year students, our clinical skills and professionalism seemed to be very well trained. This has to be credited to our lecturers in IMU for guiding us throughout the four years. At the same time, I become aware that what we learned from textbooks is only the tip of an iceberg. With this reason, I have decided to continue pursuing my master’s degree in SDUTCM learning paediatric Tuina systematically. It is what I wished to do since I was still studying for my undergraduate degree at IMU.

Three years of master’s degree study was a very fruitful and happy experience for me. I was given opportunities to represent the International College of SDUTCM to participate in a few competitions, including competition of Internal Classic of Chinese Medicine, competition of China College Students’ Internet, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and also trainings for the competition of Clinical Skills in Acupuncture and Tuina. Stepping out of my comfort zones, these opportunities had in fact given me a totally different view. Undergoing trainings and discussions together with China students and international students from other countries was a unique experience. After all, these experiences again told me that failures do not mean anything when the gains from such experiences are maximised.

I am thankful to have met a lot of amazing and caring persons, the preceptors, clinic assistant, seniors and juniors, dorm mates, fellow friends, and others. All of them are the most precious part of my memories while in Shandong. I would say I was lucky to meet Prof Guo RuiHua and my supervisor, A/Prof LiJing. I was introduced to Prof Guo by Dr Chep Lee (former lecturer of IMU), and I was introduced to my supervisor by Prof Guo. Throughout the four years in Shandong, Prof. Guo has given me lots of care and advice, be it in academic or in life. She is now a retired professor from SDUTCM.

I went for private internship in her clinic every week, learning gynaecology and internal medicine. She is always willing to share with students whatever she knows. In life, Prof Guo and her clinic assistant have always been treating me as a part of the team. We often gathered to celebrate festivals and birthdays, cooking meals, wrapping dumplings, going for short escape trips around Shandong and etc. With them, I experienced cultures from different cities in Shandong and also the warm-heartedness of Shandong people.

As for A/Prof LiJing, she is an experienced lecturer in SDUTCM and a clinician in an affiliated hospital. Together with my seniors and juniors, we have learned a lot as a student and as a human being.

She taught us Tuina steps by steps, monitored our progresses and eventually allowed us to manage patients on our own. When she knew that I intended to join IMU as a lecturer after my graduation, I was given the opportunities to teach on her behalf to local undergraduate students in the university, allowing me to practise on my lecturing skills.

Furthermore, she is a great role model showing me the value of mutual respect, be it in medical field, or in life. “Every treatment method occurs for its own strength and uniqueness. We shall not be bias but to understand the reason of their existence”, said A/Prof LiJing. Her words inspired me to open myself for more possibilities ever since then.

Both preceptors have always been trying to engage in both theories and clinicals, either to prove the ways theories apply in current clinical practices, or to link and explain clinical experiences with the theories learned from the books. Their passions in exploring Chinese medicine knowledge impress me a lot. With their influences and encouragements, I made up my mind to join IMU as a lecturer, to continue this enterprising spirit which I saw in them.

My biggest joy during my master’s study is that I was able to study the specialisation of my choice. Interactions with babies and young children could always get me a high satisfaction level. Their naivety would remind me to keep things simple whenever it comes to reality as an adult. I enjoyed so much doing Tuina treatments on these little patients, observing their recoveries and their enjoyment during the treatment. This is so far what I found to be my best motivation to continue adventuring in the field of Chinese medicine.

I am grateful that my specialisation in paediatric Tuina is somehow similar to my first ambition as an early childhood educator. Douglas Adams’s saying, ‘I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be’ could have best described my path.

This is just the beginning of my long journey
 As a physician I will continue to do my best benefitting children from the aspect of their health instead of their education.
As a young lecturer I will continue enriching myself to have more to share and pass on to the students. The art of effective communication is a homework I set for myself all this while since joining IMU.

Learning will never come to an end. Being new in academic line is definitely another adventurous skill-unlocking journey for me. I am glad to have this opportunity joining IMU again on the path to cultivating our future professional healthcare providers.

Written by Lim Goon Month, IMU Chinese Medicine alumna and lecturer.

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