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One from the Heart: My Passion Filled Journey to Becoming a Doctor

08 Oct 2020

Felicity Ng started her journey towards being a doctor in 2014 when she became a Foundation in Science student at the International Medical University (IMU). SIx years later, she is a House Officer at University Kebangsaan Malaysia Medical Centre (PPUKM) in Kuala Lumpur. Felicity tells us more in this interview.

Why I chose to become a doctor?
I was one of the lucky ones growing up. Surrounded by family members who have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of Medicine, my passion in the field began at a very tender age. My childhood was painted with beautiful stories of men and women at the front lines – from the tales of ground-breaking medical discoveries to the joys that came from helping those in need. My strong and early exposure helped me recognise the nobility of medical care and its impact on the humanitarian front. Coupled with my inquisitive nature for the sciences, I embarked on a journey towards making medicine my lifetime commitment.

Why I chose IMU’s Foundation in Science?
Young and wide-eyed, after high school, I was eager to start on my degree and eventually serve as a doctor. I knew the journey ahead would take me at least 5 years, so there was always a race against time. Having explored many pre-university options which required at least a good 18 months, the prospect of a one-year course like IMU’s Foundation in Science (FiS) seemed too good to be true. I first heard about the programme when it was in its initiation stages, at my high school’s career fair. Not only did the course accelerate you through pre-university, it was also an in-house programme that catered its syllabus to their degree courses. This was so that it ensured students a seamless transition to their preferred undergraduate programme following completion. It was definitely a promising path to take as it ticked all the right boxes for me, but it had a catch – I would be in the pioneer batch to join and this meant not knowing what to expect. I definitely had my doubts about the programme, but after thorough research and countless discussions with IMU staff, I took the leap of faith and never looked back since.

My student life in IMU IMU gave me the best 6 years I could have ever asked for. Fresh from school, Foundation in Science was my stepping stone to university life. Surrounded by many senior degree students, the class of FiS114 was quick to learn the ropes around campus culture. As we were the youngest ones around, the friendships forged amongst ourselves were like no other. We were a tight knit group who endured all our ‘firsts’ together and have made memories that will last us a lifetime. However, nothing was without its hardships and FiS proved itself an uphill battle for me. It was a whole new ball game compared to high school and had required so much more from me. Assignments were quite a heavy part of our assessments and there were a lot of ‘thinking outside the box’ approach and self-directed learning. Getting used to this routine was a challenge at first, but through endless support and guidance of peers and lecturers, I eventually picked up. Finally, after one full year of passionate, dedicated work, I scored my seat to enrolment with IMU’s MBBS programme!

I embarked on my medical journey together with 200 others on the 23 February 2015. The first two and a half years, also known as the pre-clinical years were very much focused on the theoretical aspects of medicine. Besides learning theory, we also had practical sessions that helped develop our skills. This was a very crucial time as it was in preparation for the next phase of our medical course – the clinical years.

The move to IMU’s Clinical Campus at Seremban, Negeri Sembilan marked the beginning of our clinical years. I had a daunting start to this second phase of medicine as I saw myself meeting a different set of expectations and responsibilities. Being on the scene, training in a hospital meant playing the part of an actual doctor. Therefore, there was then an added duty to my patients.

As excited as I was to finally be on the ground, I found myself struggling to keep up. Days turned into weeks and before I knew it, I found my confidence again and began enjoying the process. I would spend my days on end with the primary team and my patients, learning and communicating at my level best. There is a saying that the best way to learn is to be by your patient’s bedside, and I believe it with all my heart. There was always something to take home at the end of the day and the experience was always so fulfilling.

While we were busy playing doctors, we also had our academics to focus on. Bedside teaching sessions were my favourite. We would present patient cases to our Professors, identify the key signs and symptoms, go through the fundamentals of the condition and discuss management plans specific to each of these patients all by their bedside. It was a very holistic approach to learning that focused on patient centred care. Part of being a medical student also involved preparing for assessments – be it an actual test, or one that is completely random. There was always some form of assessment every other week and it took a lot of getting used to, especially the stress and anxiety that came with it. In the end, it was all about proper time management and discipline that helped me pull through. Despite the never-ending workload and stress of meeting expectations, I had a great group of friends who always reminded me to have some fun every now and then. When we were not spending our evenings teaching and learning with one another, we were organizing dinner or movie nights together. My friends were my greatest support system throughout the entire duration of my university life and I am grateful that we aimed and strived for excellence together. Finally, after many years of hard work, I graduated from the class of 2020 on 13 February with a Distinction.

Beyond books – Extracurricular Activities As you have already guessed, Medicine was my be-all and end-all. This, coupled with the very nature of the profession – one heavy on the books and harder on the emotions, it started taking a toll on me after the first year. My routine circled a lot around studying, and while it did score me my grades, it also made me a very unhappy person. The phrase ‘‘all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” suddenly felt surreal and I decided that I needed to diversify before the routine consumed me. Felicity Ng shares her journey at IMU - from Foundation in Science to graduating from a medical programme. As a person who believes in the power of the voice for the benefit of others, I found the role of President of IMU’s Student Representative Council (SRC) very fitting and contested for elections. I was then successfully elected as head of the council, leading 15 members and representing over 3500 students in 4 campuses. While it was a far reach from my intended purpose of pursuing a mere past time hobby, the role, although very demanding was an incredibly fulfilling one. Initially, there were concerns with taking up such responsibilities while juggling academics but I saw it as a challenge and took the leap. Since then, I have acquired many skills set that have contributed tremendously to my growth as a person. It has also opened many doors to opportunity for me till this very day.

The Student Representative Council, batch 2016/2017.

On the international front, I was selected to attend the University Scholars Leadership Symposium, organised by Humanitarian Affairs Asia, representing my institution and the country twice – in 2016 in Hanoi, Vietnam and in 2019 in Kuala Lumpur. The 5-day youth empowerment symposium saw the gathering of more than 1000 delegates from all around the world, discussing key issues surrounding global affairs. It became a platform that provided purpose to every youth leader that walked through its doors, reminding us to achieve greater things beyond ourselves and I am more than glad to have been a part of this journey.

Felicity Ng shares her journey at IMU - from Foundation in Science to graduating from a medical programme.Felicity Ng shares her journey at IMU - from Foundation in Science to graduating from a medical programme.

My participation at the University Scholars Leadership Symposium in Hanoi and Kuala Lumpur.

My biggest extra-curricular achievement came from being nominated to represent not only my country but also Asia as a speaker at the Ottawa 2020 Conference for Medical Education. The 5-day event, held right here in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, hosted close to 1700 delegates from across the globe. Here, I had the privilege to speak on the best practices of medical education and the key areas for future development. It gave me the opportunity to contribute from a student’s perspective on issues that I felt strongly for on an international platform.

Speaker at Ottawa 2020 Conference for Medical Education

What was your biggest motivation? The passion to practice Medicine. The quote “to begin with an end in mind” was what I lived by. Every day was a chance to better myself in my art, in the pursuit of my ambition. When the going got tough, I always reminded myself of why I began in the first place. I also had wonderful mentors who not only inspired me to achieve greater heights but also truly believed in my cause. Every small win was a great achievement to me and the fact that I was learning more every single day for my patients kept the flame bright and burning.

How did your degree prepare you for the future?
IMU placed a lot of emphasis on self-directed, independent and continuous lifelong learning. Although it was initially tough finding a rhythm, especially being so fresh out of high school, the process made me a more inquisitive and matured learner. It made me want to ask questions and explore beyond what was taught in the classroom. While our Professors were the catalyst to our thoughts and discussions, at the end of the day, we were our very own drivers towards success. I wish to continue on with the very same spirit and enthusiasm in my practice for decades to come.
What are you currently working?
I am currently a House Officer at University Kebangsaan Malaysia Medical Centre (PPUKM) in Kuala Lumpur. I am also appointed as an external ad-hoc writer and editor for the Obstetrics and Gynaecological Society of Malaysia’s (OGSM) newsletter. Such ad-hoc appointment is the very first of its kind for OGSM.

A joyous moment for a group of IMU medical students who are graduating with their degree.

The beginning and the end of a beautiful chapter- first day, 23 February 2015 (extreme left) and last day, 13 February 2020 (extreme right) as a Medical Student at IMU.

What are your future plans? I developed an interest in dermatology during my clinical years. It was very fascinating to know how certain skin conditions could tell so much about a person’s health. I plan to specialise in general medicine first and then subspecialise in dermatology. I find the work-life balance of a dermatologist is very appropriate too, especially when I decide to start a family in the future. I also wish to write and publish more articles both locally and globally than what I have been doing now in contribution to the medical field. My ultimate goal is to branch into the field of aesthetics and establish my very own private practice. The journey ahead is an uphill battle but I am excited to see where passion and dedication takes me. What is your advice to students interested in Foundation in Science and Medicine? Perseverance is key. I have always believed in the power of sincerity, passion and dedication. Put your heart into all that you do and be resilient in the face of adversity. Tough situations only make the strongest people, so find your purpose and aim for the stars.

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