THE Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) is committed to help Penang realise a long-term plan of setting up a college of health sciences.
RCSI registrar and chief executive Prof Datuk Kevin O'Malley said RCSI would assist University College Dublin (UCD) and Penang Medical College (PMC) towards jointly developing and implementing the plan.
“We will be partners in this new college, where we hope to continue offering twinning programmes as practised in our present arrangement with PMC,” he said in an interview at PMC recently.
Prof O'Malley said the college also hopes to jointly expand into other areas of expertise, now in the preliminary stage.
He said he is confident that PMC would continue to have regard to the healthcare needs of Malaysia, besides seeing where the deficiencies are, in terms of staffing in the various professions related to medicine.
He noted that by 2007, PMC would be able to produce an average of 100 medical graduates a year, adding that it is a positive sign towards addressing the shortage of doctors in the country.
Since PMC was established in 1996, in collaboration with RCSI and UCD, it has produced 104 graduates, including 24 who received their scrolls at the third convocation ceremony on July 13.
Both RCSI and UCD are constituent colleges of the acclaimed National University of Ireland (NUI). PMC students spend 21/2 to 31/2 years in Dublin for their pre-clinical years.
Next year, PMC is expected to churn out 40 medical graduates.
Prof O'Malley noted that PMC graduates are similar to those at RCSI and UCD, who go through a five- or six-year programme, in terms of education syllabus and examinations. “Many of them have done extremely well and we are certainly proud that they are now part of our alumni,” he said.
NUI registrar Dr John Nolan noted that external examining ensures that the achievements of Malaysian students are on par with that of their counterparts in RCSI and UCD.
“The Malaysian graduates of this programme are treated the same as graduates of the Irish medical schools to maintain high quality. This also gives them an opportunity to pursue post-graduate studies with the same college or elsewhere,” he said.
UCD president-cum-NUI vice-chancellor Dr Art Cosgrove said he was particularly delighted with the success of PMC's medical programme.
“We are very pleased with the programme's success. We owe a great deal to the Penang Chief Minister (Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon), for his encouragement in making it work through a 'win-win-win' formula,” he said.
He added that Penang should be proud of its graduates, noting that it was very gratifying to know that PMC was close to attaining its target of producing 100 graduates a year.
“I see this as one of the greatest successes of my presidency at UCD,” said Dr Cosgrove, who would be retiring as UCD president in December, after serving a 10-year term.
Keat Ween, who also won first prize for Paediatrics, said without the scholarship, he would not have had a chance to pursue medicine.
To those who aspire to be doctors, he said: “A dedicated doctor must have a heart to help others. I wouldn't recommend anyone to opt for a career in medicine if he is in it for the money.”
He added that he hoped to pursue a Master's Degree, but had yet to decide on the field of study.
For Jamie, the scholarship was a God-send during the 1997/1998 economic downturn. She said her interest in medicine grew from her love for science, adding that she enjoys reading books and magazines on science.
Two new recipients of the Star Education Fund scholarships will be leaving for Dublin to begin their pre-clinical studies in September.
Johor-born S. Harivinthan, 19, would pursue his studies at UCD.
He said he hopes to volunteer as a Red Cross doctor one day to help alleviate the pain and suffering of the poor.
“As an Interact Club member in school, I followed a group of volunteer doctors to several Thai villages to provide medical aid. From then on, I wanted to study medicine,” he said.
Scholarship holder Chin Yi Zhe, 20, from Kuala Lumpur, will leave for RCSI.
He said that without the scholarship he would have had to borrow money from relatives to study medicine.
“I always believe that money can be earned back,” he said, adding that becoming a doctor was all he ever wanted.
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