It is frustrating to know that many talented people are turned away and thus leaving them open to exploitation. It is also amazing that the Government continues to recognise the degrees from Russia despite these noticeable shortcomings. It is clear that Russia should never have been considered as it clearly is not aligned with Malaysia’s situation. Unfortunately, many still travel to Russia to pursue medical degrees. Shockingly, the Government continues to fund students to these schools.
The frustration of poorly trained medical graduates is felt in the busy wards where specialists are still in short supply. The notoriety of Russian graduates are clear and an unfortunate scenario. In some situations, housemanship is turned into a clinical training course, when much of these should have been covered by medical schools. If extension is enforced, some housemen can spend years ‘trapped’ in this period.
Medicine involves human lives and there should NEVER be any compromise in the quality of educating individuals who will be entrusted with lives of others. There should be no compromises. Sadly, many sieve through the system, which remains weak.
This desperate cry from Russia confirms the appalling situation of Russian medical schools. Malaysia, do something!
Saturday, 14 May 2016
Plea from Russian grad
LATELY, comments about incompetent medical graduates returning from overseas after completing their studies have been all over social media. Medical students especially from Russian medical schools cannot help but feel stigmatized every time they view these reports.
Soon to be graduating from a Russian medical faculty myself, I would like to share my thoughts on where we went wrong and how we should stop traumatizing our students studying in “incompetent” medical schools.
I became interested in medicine when I was eight years old after seeing my uncle collapse in front of me. He was declared brain dead a week later and I watched family members fumble for answers. I also saw my grandmother deteriorate to an unrecognizable state from cancer.
I come from a small town where English was hardly spoken outside of lessons in school. My parents are educators and both encouraged me to pursue medicine. I did very well in school, debating both in English and Bahasa Malaysia at state level, played hockey, was president of every club I could join and still maintained my grades with almost perfect scores.
I excelled in my SPM examinations, applied for all the government scholarships – JPA, matriculation, IPTA – and anything that could put me on my path to medicine. It was really heartbreaking to get no reply or just plain rejections without any reason.
And then the “leeches” came in. Unscrupulous, greedy and dishonest agents recruiting for medical institutions in countries like Russia, Ukraine, Indonesia and the Middle East see the opportunity to take advantage of a student’s dream and their parents’ desperation to fulfil that ambition.
I was 18, uninformed, fearless, and just desperate to see a path where medicine would be in sight. I jumped on the bandwagon, backed up with promises and hopes from agents and even family members studying in Russia. I should have been more careful or talked to more people but all I could think of was realising my dream of becoming a doctor without killing my parents who were already mortgaging everything they owned to send me to Russia.
In Russia, we were cramped in hostels with six people in a two-person bedroom, lived out of suitcases and were yelled at every day because we didn’t understand the language. When we tried to ask the agents for help, we were turned down unless we could provide a large sum of money for “handling fees”.
Believe me, I asked myself every day if I had made the right choice. I felt lost and helpless in a land where people didn’t think twice about telling you to pack up and leave. But if I called up my parents to tell them I wanted to come home, the money they spent on my first year tuition fees, plus my airfare, accommodation and documentation fees would be all for nothing.
So I learnt the local language, went for every class and painstakingly tried to communicate with local patients who would turn you down or tell you to your face that “you foreigners don’t belong here”. Humiliated and broken, it wasn’t easy to keep the passion for medical knowledge burning.
Students here develop immunity to criticism, yelling, being called names and marginalized. Some resort to drugs, partying and extreme socializing to mask the depression and frustration of being “outcasts” in this country.
On top of this, we don’t have the opportunity to pick up practical skills because, to put it bluntly, the university here doesn’t care if we graduate as incompetent doctors as we won’t be serving their citizens. It’s sad because there is excellent potential here, and given the right education and guidance, the students can be outstanding doctors.
When we do our practical rotations in summer in Malaysian hospitals, the first question asked of us is where we are studying. And we watch as the facial expressions show the disgust or distrust after we say Russia. And listen as the HOs, MOs, specialists and local medical students snicker about how we are the black sheep of the system.
Can you even try to comprehend the stigma that surrounds us? We suffer every day in extreme weather and social conditions here, only falling back for support from other Malaysians who are equally lost and trying to survive.
Were we told that the syllabus was in English and we would be given a well-rounded education? Yes. Is this the reality? No!
There are students here on government scholarship or Mara loans who have no passion for medicine. They do the bare minimum just to pass and go on exclusive trips to Europe or buy expensive gadgets. Some have even set up small businesses here.
Then there are the super rich Malaysian students who couldn’t qualify for other medical institutions. Forced into doing something very difficult, they skip lessons, do the bare minimum and still graduate as doctors.
Today, barely a month into graduating, I am writing this letter hoping for some guidance and compassion in dealing with medical graduates like me who are coming back already disheartened. We seek refuge in our own country, the very country we are proud of and want to come back to, to serve its citizens.
SOON TO BE DOCTOR