Medicine – an Inalienable Right

Medicine – an Inalienable Right
by Dr. Musa Mohd. Nordin

Published in Malaysiakini and NST on the 7th June 2004

The straight As students and their families seem to think that 4As give them the “divine right” for a place in medicine. One dad had the audacity to write in the NST that his 4As son deserved a place in the University of Malaya medical school but was infuriated when given a place in the medical school of the University Sains Malaysia.. Everyone seems to be playing into the hands of the racial undertones of the mainstream media and the opportunistic politicians.

If you’ve been following the polemics in the United Kingdom medical schools, you’d realise that many are beginning to conduct their own mechanisms to select their “best choice” medical student candidate. Quite clearly 4 flat or straight As is but just one of the criteria; and not necessarily the pivotal criteria. The medical school in Cardiff only required 3Bs from me; and Sheffield even less 1B, 2C. Your teacher’s testimonial and forecast results, one’s extra curricular record, one’s leadership roles, one’s community service, one’s medical related activities, and one’s performance at the interview persuades the faculty whether you are a worthwhile investment and have what it takes. Then in the early 1970s, many did not survive the screening onslaught when foreign medical student selection were hyper stringent and medical places were scarce by today’s standards.

My orthopaedic colleague has written to the editor NST; suggesting that the 800 + 128 “budding docs” to just spend

2 weeks tagging the houseman on call and he is very confident that by the end of the fortnight at least 128 would have aborted this holy idea of ever becoming doctors !!!

I am appalled at how readily we bend our benchmarks in quality medical education to create more medical school seats.

How dare we compromise our educational gold standards and sway to the demands of the students, parents and society. The victims of all of these poorly thought, stop gap and quick fix measures are our unsuspecting patients, that is you and me. And we have not even begun to address the massive brain drain from the medical schools and the Ministry of Health to the “greener pastures” which is haemorrhaging quality teachers from these teaching institutions

I personally believe that many doctors in the private sector are keen to teach part time in the medical schools but the system is unfortunately not in place to harness and facilitate this process; a truly missed opportunity ! I myself will be doing 12 hours of teaching in the Law Faculty of UIA in their 6 months certificate in medical law and am presently engaged in teaching their master students in biotechnology and the law. So it has been done and can be done and most of us do not even expect any form of remuneration. It is simply the love of teaching which we have had to prematurely offset due to other considerations.

Why is it that our southern and northern neighbours can secure their best medical brains within the civil and educational service whilst we fail miserably? This is a classical case of human resource foul up.

In my daughter’s college, about 10 top notch students have failed to secure a place in the current UK medical school applications and have to either wait for clearing or apply locally. I dare say, that they are all much better and well rounded students in the program that they follow in the college compared to those doing form six who are obsessed with As and grossly exam centric. At the end of the day, the whole purpose and noble end points of education is lost in this adolescent rhetoric of As.

Dr. Musa Mohd. Nordin
Consultant Paediatrician & Neonatologist
Damansara Specialist Hospital
119 Jalan SS 20/10
Damansara Utama
47400 PJ
Tel/Fax : 03-77293173