Sunday, December 15, 2019

Still here

We took an evening stroll down the Tonle Sap river at Chroy Changvar today. The exact same place I described in this blog post where I wrote about ‘the kind of day I wish to live all my life’. Well, guess what? 3 years later, I still get to live that kind of day, but with more fun company with my wife and son by my side. We’ve been spending the last 4 months in Phnom Penh, with some periods of time back in Malaysia (our visa only lasts for 1 month per entry), and so far, it has been a pretty fun stay!

Walking along the Tonle Sap river

I am here for my doctoral thesis project to enable value-based health care at HBB Clinic. For that, I implemented a cloud web-based electronic medical record (EMR) that I had developed myself (learned coding from scratch, JavaScript to be precise – React.js to be even more precise). I had to develop it myself because currently there’s no EMR that captures all the data needed to assess value of care all in one system - including clinical data, patient-reported outcomes, activity-based costing and timing data. 

Screenshot of sample patient from my EMR
Phnom Penh might not be the most convenient city to live in, but I guess it is the activity that we do here every day that made the stay more meaningful than living in a big city with a better amount of resource. There is a different kind of satisfaction when you wake up in the morning and know exactly what to do and being aware that every decision will make an observable difference. Another huge plus-point is being able to do all this while being flexible with our time - very important for a family with a one-and a half year old!

I usually wake up early to make sure I wake up before Umar does. I could get a solid couple hour of work done at this time. When Umar wakes up, we get ready for breakfast. Kamaliah usually prepares breakfast while I take Umar for shower, but sometimes we just get ready for the day and go to a nearby ‘Mamak’ restaurant when we miss eating ‘roti canai’ and ‘the tarik’.

While here, Kamaliah manages a hearing care center called HCC, started by my family a year ago. She’s in charge of 3 full time staffs working there, so sometimes she will have meetings with HCC staffs in the morning, so we depart to HBB later in the afternoon.

Prof Sharaf, Malaysian Orthopedic Surgeon and long-time family friend, visits HCC
So, I am back to doing what I was doing 3 years ago, in charge of the 5-staffed HBB Clinic. HBB is around 30 minutes away from HCC. We always go there together. At HBB, I help the staff use the newly implemented EMR, listen to their suggestions, teach them a bit on value-based care and do meetings to discuss about HBB in general while Umar plays with the cat and Kamaliah looks after him. Sometimes, we get visitors from Malaysia, so we take them for a tour around Phnom Penh and HBB.

Teaching the staff to use the EMR

During this time, I also oversee a renovation of the clinic. It has been 4 years since the clinic was launched – it’s time for a new look!



In the late afternoon, we take walks, sometimes along the river like today, sometimes in shopping malls, or if we’re too lazy to walk we’ll just hangout at one of the new hipster caf├ęs or Boba tea joints. The shopping mall is Umar’s favorite place because he gets to play at the indoor play area called ‘Kidzoona’ which has all sorts playing props.

Umar playing doctor-making-burger
We are almost at the end of our stay in Phnom Penh. While I won’t say that it is absolutely the best times of our lives, it is certainly a valuable moment that we will cherish. I mean, life is Boston is good, it has everything (thanks Amazon) and access to knowledge and learning is unbeaten anywhere else in the world. But I can’t be totally flexible with my time because of class, meetings and appointments. Nothing beats life back home in Malaysia too. Nothing can replace the satisfaction of being close to your families and being home where you truly belong. 

But living here in Phnom Penh is a unique experience, where most of it has to do with the amount of time we get to spend as a family. While doing work, we get to see every second of Umar growing up, learning new things. Everything we do involves the whole family. It hasn’t been all smooth, Umar has his tantrums and we get totally exhausted some days, each of us had times when we got really sick. But all in all, it is very unlikely that we will forget the times spent here. With HBB Clinic being here to stay, I guess we will always be coming back.


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