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