Not everyone has the funds to see them through a medical degree. At International Medical University (IMU), scholarships and bursaries help deserving students to achieve their dreams and fly higher than they ever expected. Dr Chew Chien Yung (MBBS, 2003- 2008) shares how the IMU scholarship helped him start his journey to a fulfilling career and taught him to always give his best. Now an Occupational Health Physician at PETRONAS Bhd, Dr Chew Chien Yung was born and raised in Sarawak where his father—the family’s sole breadwinner—was a secondary school teacher. Determined not to let his humble origins deter him from his dream of working in the medical field, Dr Chew (“Jack” to his friends) excelled in school and scored well in the STPM examinations, winning a place at a university in his home state to read Marine Biology. “This was not what I wanted in life,” he says. “I was totally not interested in Marine Biology—not to mention the fact that I didn’t even know how to swim! I wanted to save lives and help people, especially the underprivileged. But because of my family’s own financial situation, I couldn’t enrol in a medical course at a private medical school, so I had to find another way to achieve my burning desire to be a doctor.” Dr Chew scoured the internet and local newspapers for notices advertising scholarships and educational loans that would help him get into a medical school. Finally, he chanced on an advertisement for a scholarship at IMU in Peninsular Malaysia. “I talked to family friends who had children studying at IMU, and I learned that it was one of the best private medical schools in the country. I printed out the application forms and filled them up right there in my dormitory.” The scholarship application process was divided into two stages. First, Dr Chew had to submit an essay stating why he wanted to study medicine. Only after this essay was shortlisted would he receive a call to face an interview panel consisting of IMU Deans of Faculty as well as various consultants. “Frankly speaking, this was one of the toughest interviews I have ever had in my life. I was competing with 500 applicants, and the interview took two or three hours. I was questioned by the best minds at the IMU: Prof Peter Pook, Prof Dato’ Dr P Kandasami, Dr Mei Ling Young, Prof Dr Paul Chen, and others. “When I was informed that I had been awarded a scholarship to study in IMU, it took me half a day to digest the news. I looked up at the sky and said ‘Oh God, what have I done to deserve this scholarship?’ It was unbelievable.” Receiving the scholarship “changed my life forever,” Dr Chew said. “I learnt to treasure every moment of my life in achieving my goals. I knew that this scholarship was the best chance I would ever get to pursue my dream of becoming a doctor.” He quickly learnt exactly what planning he needed to do for his five years of study to stay on track until graduation, and by force of discipline he became good at managing his time and planning his activities. “Overcoming the fear of losing my scholarship was one of the best things to happen during my student days.”
The life of a medical student then was much simpler than it is today, Dr Chew says. There was a strong focus on academic work balanced by many outdoor activities organised on campus. “We were encouraged to be involved in community service from the beginning of our student lives, and there wasn’t much distraction or screen-time compared to what students have today.”
Gaining a scholarship to study at IMU “brought out the best in me and made me a better person especially in terms of focus and results,” he says. “The hardships I faced during the scholarship application process made me learn that no matter how hard a situation is, keep focused and keep on going—keep on learning and appreciating what life has to offer, even in the smallest things. This mental resilience is what brings us far in our careers.
“My personal advice to prospective students seeking for scholarships from IMU is: research the field that you want to apply for. Have some basic understanding of what the field is all about. Secondly, be sincere and tell the story from your own perspective; and finally: give it your best shot as if your life depends on it. All the best!”
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