Cut out for medical school

DO you really have to cut up dead bodies in your first year of medical school? Thanks to an amazing technology called plastination, medical students these days do not have to dissect a cadaver to learn anatomy.  

“You can even take it home and put it in your pocket. These are still human parts but this technique has made anatomy more enjoyable and manageable,'' said Dean of Universiti Sains Malaysia's Medical School, Assoc Prof Dr Zabidi Azhar Mohd Hussin. 

He gave the hundreds of doctor wannabes packed into Bilik Redang during the Star Education Fair 2003 a glimpse of what a modern, integrated medical education was like. 

At USM, for example, students learn ethics and communication skills by watching movies like “Patch Adams”, where a medical doctor played by Robin Williams uses laughter to heal patients. 

Dr Zabidi said he believed there needs to be a reassessment of what type of individual is accepted into medical school.  

“Why do people want to become doctors? Is it because of their inherent caring nature or are they attracted to the pay, prestige and glamour associated with the profession?'' he asked. 

“Because of intense competition, only top scorers get into medical school. But you don't have to be brilliant to be a good doctor. A doctor is someone who cares for other human beings. The sense of fulfilment when you deal with patients is overwhelming. 

“There are 10 medical schools in Malaysia, six public and four private. To get into a public university medical school, a CGPA of at least 3.75 is required. Last year, the lowest ranked student admitted into medical school at USM had a CGPA of 3.85,'' he said. 

He also put right a common misconception about the subjects required to get into medical school. Biology is not compulsory. 

The USM dean also spoke about the process of becoming a specialist in Malaysia.  

“There are 23 specialties offered by three medical schools, USM, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and Universiti Malaya. Specialist training takes four years and can only be embarked on after three years of service as a medical officer.” 

He also warned students to be careful of four-year medical degree programmes and graduate medical schools, as these were not recognised by the authorities here. 

Consultant cardiologist Dr N. Arumugam also reiterated the point that medicine needed more caring individuals.  

“Medicine now is a highly technical field. It is no longer a one-man show. It's about teamwork. You have to work together with a group of people, as such you need to get along well with people.” 

He also advised students to think long and hard before deciding on medicine as it was a “profession for life.” 

“Other people switch jobs but not doctors. After spending so many years and so much money doing medicine, it's difficult to give it up.” 

Based on statistics from the Malaysian Medical Association, Dr Arumugam said there were 16,800 doctors in Malaysia. 

Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society president John C.P.Chang said there was a dire shortage of pharmacists in the country. 

“There is no such thing as an unemployed pharmacist. There are 3,500 registered pharmacists in the country. By 2010, the country will need 7,000. A big number, 82%, work in the private sector.” 

The shortage has been alleviated somewhat with the setting up of eight pharmacy options at both public and private schools.  

“Make sure when you do pharmacy, you enrol in an institution that is recognised by the Malaysian Pharmacy Board.” 

As professionals, a lot was expected of pharmacists. “In healthcare, there is no room for error as any mistake can have serious implications. Professional integrity is vital. All pharmacists must subscribe to a professional code of ethics and must be registered with the Board before they can practise,”said Chang. 

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