Friday, April 24, 2015

New found motivation

To be honest, I was never that interested in 'medicine' medicine. Shocking, I know. Whenever I tell my colleagues or people around about it, they would be so shocked. "WHY?! It's such a noble job? You will save lives!" "But you're so good at it..." (not true.) The thing is you can be an expert in things you really don't give a damn about, especially in the academia. Just put in the hours, read, you'll get to the top. Maybe you weren't interested at first, but given the right guidance, you'll get to there. I don't hate, medicine. I was good in chemistry, biology and maths, and I am remotely interested in human biology, so when I was offered such rare, precious opportunity to do an interesting course in a prestigious, interesting place (+ an immensely quality lifestyle), I took it. Let's just say, I did it for the sake of, first, because my parents wanted me to; second, I had somewhat an ability to do so(?); thirdly, for the sake of proving social mobility is still possible in our society.

And satisfying those 3 points has got me quite 'happy' life for the past 2.5 years in Cambridge. No really, there were moments when I was truly happy to be here. 

But you know, people grow up and meet people, see the world. I saw there are actually so many others things which I am interested in the world. There are so many things that I want to do in the life! Life isn't that long you know. 2.5 years of this is fine. But I can't continue wasting time, doing what I am barely interested in any longer. I can't bear the thought of doing something I am not really passionate about for the rest of my life. I can't bear the thought of wasting my life just like that...So I started exploring what really resonates with me. It's a bit late, I know, to only do this when I am half way through a course and people have already invested so much money, time and energy in developing a hopeful-medic. But how can you expect every 17-years-old to know exactly what he/she wanted to do with his/her life when we don't even have sufficient life exposure, experience to know what we really like?! Gap year is a way to do it, so I had a gap year before but I still didn't know what to do by the end of it. 

"I am truly grateful that I have the opportunity to be in Cambridge. Not because it's one of the top university in the world, but because of the way we are taught."

I said similar thing while filling in the SAQ form during my university application without being consciously aware of what I was really talking about. I was just trying to please the interviewer. Halfway through my 6 years here, I became conscious of what that sentence really mean. I love the collegiate system. Because of how Caius forced us to dine in the hall almost every day during term time, we get to meet people from other courses. I also love how we can be involved in a society like CUMaS, where you meet all sorts of 'interesting' people from our country. People from different courses really do have different mindsets and opinions. And having the opportunity to talk to them on a daily basis opens up my mind to the world beyond medicine. I know you get to do that in other universities too, but over here, you essentially live, eat and breathe with experts from all sorts of fields. I see medics during lectures, I hang-out with engineers, economists and lawyers and my tutor is a linguist. I believe (or i like to believe) that these people have impacted the way I think in a very significant measure. 

Then I became interested in economics and sociology. The humanities used to be painted in very bad light in secondary school. Everyone was trying to get into the science stream in Malaysia's secondary school because that's where smart people go; because art stream classes are for less capable students.How far from the truth can that get!?I love how these disciplines touch on almost every aspect of life in so many different ways. The things they do are really meaningful and impactful on a larger scale, and not just on an individual basis in clinics. I started to doubt whether I am in the right course. I went "omg being a doctor is such an ineffective waysof solving problems. Omg I am in the wrong course, I hate my life, how do I get out?!" (Please don't get me wrong, I respect all doctors in every way. I just don't like the idea of doing the same thing for 40-50 years for the rest of my life.).I was reading the journal of a doctor who went to Sierra Leone under Doctors without Borders (MSF). After reading those horrifying accounts, I twitted back to MSF, "omg these doctors are so noble, sacrificing themselves and putting their own lives at risk to save those poor souls! But they are just putting bandages on a bigger, deeper problem! There's must be a better way to make lives of more people better, more effectively." I think designing and implementing good policies is the way to go. Don't get me wrong, we definitely NEED doctors to be at the front-line, otherwise those marginalised would not have any care NOW. I really salute the doctors in MSF and I look forward to be part of it one day. But I can't picture myself being that noble for long, and I really, want to do something more impactful in a larger scale with the short amount of time I have in my life on Earth. Then I realised I can't get out. I was in dismay. I started to explore again.

In our third year in Cambridge, we can choose to do any course we like. I, for some unknown reason, chose Pathology in Immunology and Microbiology and Parasitology. I had no idea what is coming up. I was taught about the molecular mechanisms of microbes, parasites and our immune systems. I was shown pictures of Ascaris lumbricoides (those icky spaghetti-like worms in the intestines) and hepatosplenomegaly while my family was enjoying Chinese New Year Eve's dinner in the far east. I was quite...frustrated.

Then we were taught epidemiology and public health. We were taught how to do simple math models and how to it has been used to affect health policies on a global scale; we were showed how our lecturer has helped WHO in planning vaccination programmes in Latin America, in Africa and in my very own home country, Malaysia. His math models have helped save billions in various cost- and time-effective ways. What the lecturer did really resonates with my interest. I went on to investigate the background of those working in WHO. I went on to check Margaret Chan's profile. Then I realised, they were all practising doctors for many years before they went on public health.

Today, I am able to see how a doctor/clinician scientist too, can impact billions of life, in very specialised, extremely demanded and significant ways, be it in research or policy-making. I see how we need to be trained this way: to know the science behind and to gain actual medical experience in the field, to really make a difference in the world. There is really a place for every personality in Medicine.

I often wonder why God opened these doors to put me here. 
 I can only pray that He reveals more and more of His will every day.


  1. Hi Christine. I am not sure if you know me but I do know you from my home church back in Miri. I somehow find Medicine even more interesting after reading your blog. This might sound a bit weird to you but frankly speaking, I am greatly inspired by what you have written in this blog. I am currently reading Mathematics and Economics as my undergraduate majors which seem to be unrelated to Medicine in most people's perspective. Thanks for putting your thoughts into words, I found them really encouraging.

    May your path to becoming a doctor be radiant with God's Grace and Blessings.
    All the best in your studies! :)

    1. Thank you so much, Terence. I am glad that you find this inspiring, I am just sharing a piece of my mind here, and if it resonates with any one out there, it's just great. :)
      I'm so sorry I have not noticed you before, which church are you from?
      All the best in your studies too!

    2. Hello Christine. I am from Mei Ann Methodist Church. :)