Monday, September 14, 2015

Of Personal Love, Professional Passion & Philanthropic Mission

This picture was taken the night after Hospitals Beyond Boundaries launched its first clinic in Cambodia. Seen here is my dear fiance holding my cute little nephew, Imtiyaz while we were having a meeting at a Malaysian restaurant in down town Phnom Penh. I remember it as one of the happiest days of my life as we celebrate the launch of our very first clinic.

Life is beautiful when you have someone to share the most meaningful moments in life with. It is the more beautiful when that someone not only understands your passion for a cause, but even being a part of it. The first time my fiance saw me in person was in 2012. I was a 4th year medical student and during the moment that she saw me, I was drenched in sweat, presenting a research study on the epidemiology of tuberculosis in Kuala Lumpur. I did not notice her at the time as I was nervously focusing on the panel of judges, and we didn't get to talk to each other that day.

Few years down the line, fate intertwined our path and we meet again in Sungai Buloh Hospital where we worked. She showed me a picture of my tuberculosis research presentation she took 2 years ago in her cracked-screen Samsung S2 and asked: "remember this?". At that time I was working in the surgical department, and being too long in the world of blood and flesh inside the operating theatre, the picture brought back the memories of how happy I was working on something I was truly passionate about.

She went on reminding me of my "public-speaking  for a cause" workshops to raise funds for HBB, in which she registered as a participant but in the end had to pull out the last minute because of unscheduled classes. From that moment on, I knew I would want to spend the rest of my life with this girl. Someone who is not just supportive of my work but always reminds me of my life purpose. With her, I didn't have to compartmentalize any of my life's ambitions: personal love, professional passion or philanthropic mission. They all converged into a single goal.

Like my parents and siblings who are all into HBB, she would be a perfect addition to the family. My parents has been very supportive of our relationship, and all of this wouldn't be possible without my loving mother who did all the engagement and wedding arrangements (remember how I thought 'cincin belah rotan' was to be bought in a souvenir shop? She knows her son is hopeless). Getting engaged is only the beginning, there is still a lot to go through and of course, life after marriage is the real challenge. But I believe with the blessing of our families, we will make it through until our marriage next year, insyaAllah

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Best Job In The World - Part II

2 years ago, I unpacked my bags in a tent in the middle of the African savanna, waking up to giraffes, hippos and rhinos in my backyard. I took showers under the blazing sun, and gathered around campfires at night, writing in my journal about what I have discovered so far, with a good cup of coffee by my side, under the shining stars.

Being in the wild, it doesn't matter where I was, in Africa, Cambodia, Indonesia, rural Malaysia, I've always brought along my stethoscope and a first aid kit. I never ran into any misfortunes among my team members having a heart attack or anything, but, just in case. Those times, I feel like I belong.

I wish to become a doctor in these settings, not just treating patients, but being involved in the intricate ecology system that makes or breaks a disease cycle. Identifying mosquitoes, vectors, worms, bacterias, other parasites. Identifying patients affected by these disease, examining them and able to come up with an accurate provisional diagnosis on the spot, being able to treat them. 

Truly, the best feeling is when you see a person suffering from a disease in front of you and having the exact knowledge on how to alleviate that suffering. 

I would also love to have a team that travels around the world to identify disease outbreaks, mapping them on the map using GIS system, doing statistical analysis, or even identifying new infectious disease agents or vectors. Walking up hills over hills for a house visit, walking down rivers to find a source of contamination, and later putting them into research, publishing journals and contribute to the overall knowledge of the medical fraternity.

Too idealistic, I know. There might not be a job opportunity like that in Malaysia, but if there really isn't any, then I wish to create it with HBB. We've already started regular de-worming programs to the rural kids, at least once a year, every time our team comes for mobile clinics. We distribute free anti-helminths to those who often get infested by worms due to poor sanitation and inadequate personal hygiene.

I have been very very busy these past few months with clinical work, especially with the surmounting cases of dengue fever admitted to our wards. I admit for the past few months I haven't been able to attend much to my real passion. But I believe all of this is necessary for the knowledge that I gain on infectious disease. Last week I spoke to my infectious disease specialist and we came up to the topic of my future plans. I told him about my interest in tropical medicine and global health, epidemiology and stuff. His face gleamed with delight and said "You have come to the right place!". He meant being in Hospital Sungai Buloh, the center for infectious disease in Malaysia. He even told me that if there is anything he would do differently in life, he would have gone into the field of epidemiology.

My 2 years compulsory training in hospitals will end early next year, I am thinking of taking a long leave again to focus again on HBB, and with the knowledge I have gained, build our clinic up, growing from strength to strength each day, without the constrain of time, pressure of bosses, peers and colleagues. Purely driven by curiosity, passion and purpose. I will be back soon

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