EXPERIENCE gained through volunteering for humanitarian causes was what inspired Harivinthan Sellappan and Chin Yi Zhe to pursue careers in medicine.
As a secondary school student and Interact Club member, Harivinthan followed a group of doctors to a rural village in Chiangmai, Thailand.
This proved to be a turning point in his life. “We visited a home for the mentally disabled and did a study on what medical services were needed and how to provide them,” said the 19-year-old.
Similarly, 21-year-old Yi Zhe's involvement in a community service programme, where he made home visits and mentored young children, altered his perception of what he wanted to do in life.
“I wanted to be more than just a volunteer. Becoming a doctor will allow me to directly help even more people and will give me the job satisfaction that other careers won't provide.”
Currently enrolled at Penang Medical College (PMC), both Harivinthan and Yi Zhe, will be heading for a two-and-a-half year medical stint in Ireland with 108 others.
During a recent pre-departure orientation at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Harivinthan and Yi Zhe also received partial scholarships from University College Dublin (UCD) and Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) where they will be continuing their medical training.
Presented by Irish ambassador Daniel Mulhall and PMC president Datuk Dr R. Ratnalingam, the Star Education Fund scholarship recipients will be receiving ?26,250 (RM107,600) each.
The money will cover half of their tuition expenses for the entire duration of their stay. Recipients are selected based on academic performance and on the basis of need.
“It is definitely a huge help for my family as both my parents are government servants and this will ease their burden,” said Yi Zhe who will be leaving for Ireland on Sept 25.
In his speech, Mulhall told students to keep in mind their “ambassadorial role in representing Malaysia.”
He also talked about Irish weather, food, language and the country's cultural and religious beliefs and traditions.
“I hope your time at the university will create for you a lifelong connection to Ireland. Enjoy the experience of living in a different country and try to get to know the Irish and their language,” he added.
Dr Ratnalingam said the five-year programme requires students to spend the first half of their medical degree doing pre-clinical subjects before returning to Malaysia for clinical studies at the Penang General Hospital.
“Although both UCD and RCSI have very good medical facilities and laboratories, it's much cheaper for the students to do clinical studies in Malaysia. It is also important that students familiarise themselves with local disease patterns,'' he said.
He added that Ireland has a long tradition in medical studies and Malaysians have been going there since the 1940s.
PMC only has one intake a year which is limited to 100 students because “it's important to maintain a high quality in the standard of teaching.”
Dr Ratnalingam noted that the numbers of PMC students going to Dublin are equally divided between UCD and RCSI.
“Accommodation is provided on campus and students are told what to expect through the pre-departure orientation,” he added.
At the talk, students had the opportunity to ask the Irish ambassador just about anything and everything pertaining to life in Ireland. They formed groups of 10 and Mulhall went to each group in turn.
The questions ranged from the best way to get around in Dublin to whether Gaelic was widely spoken in Ireland.
Scheduled to leave on Tuesday, Harivinthan is all geared up and ready to go, bringing with him instant noodles, curry powder, and several traditional Indian costumes.
“I want the Irish to know that Malaysians are friendly and have a rich cultural heritage,” said the Johor Baru boy, who plans to join the International Red Cross in the future.
Said Yi Zhe: “I want to gain as much experience in Malaysia, then go to needy countries in Africa, places in northern Thailand or war-torn countries where help is badly needed.”
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