Kuantan: Spending A Week At IIUM’s Medical University

This week was absolutely interesting and different from any of the other weeks. Professor Faridah sent Divya and me to Kuantan for a week to work with Dr. Ailin. To be quite honest, I was not excited to go to Kuantan because I found out last minute, and I was provided with very little information and logistics about the 3-hour trip. I was also very reluctant to go to on the trip because it is a medical university, something that I am not interested in at all. Nonetheless, I decided to go on the trip because I figured I would learn a lot about public health in Malaysia, something that I am quite interested in. Divya and I did a lot and learned a lot in Kuantan. We shadowed Dr. Ailin for five days. We were able to watch a doctor perform surgery where she removed an ovarian cyst. Outside of work, we ate so much in Kuantan. I have to say that I prefer food in Kuantan over food in Kuala Lumpur. Kuantan has so many native and unique dishes that you cannot find anywhere else. Dr. Ailin and her assistant, Ariff truly made us feel out home by taking us on excursions and treating us to dinners.

My main task in Kuantan was to interview 10 doctors and or professors and write about them for International Islamic University Malaysia’s website and newspaper. Interviewing these professionals really broadened my perspective about medicine. I find it fascinating and inspiring that people dedicate years and years (basically their entire lives) to helping those in need. I find it even more inspiring that even though a lot of these doctors who work for the government get paid a lot less than doctors who work for a private hospital, they still love every minute of what they do and will continue to work for the government and make healthcare affordable for everyone. It was interesting to see the balance between men and women in the medical field. Unlike the United States where most doctors are men, IIUM actually has a refreshing mix of men and women. My biggest takeaway from the trip is that healthcare in Kuantan is not as accessible as it is in a busy city like Kuala Lumpur. Because the pay rate is so much higher in Kuala Lumpur, it is hard to find doctors for specific fields in less busy cities like Kuantan where doctors (private or public worker) get paid a lot less. This disparity can be seen in East Malaysia on an even larger scale as most doctors would rather not work in East Malaysia for many reasons that are unknown to me, but I can guess it is mostly because the pay is not as good and it is not a big city like Kuala Lumpur.

I am glad that I decided to go on the impromptu trip to IIUM’s medical university in Kuantan because I learned so much about Malaysia’s healthcare system that I otherwise would not have known. This trip has taught me that it is okay to be spontaneous and go into situations with an open mind. I am looking forward to going back to Kuala Lumpur though because there is no place like it!