Tuesday, July 26, 2016

My year with MMI

MMI stands for Malaysian Medics International 
As stated on the website
MMI, is a student-led organisation founded in 2013. With its rapid expansion and growing successes, MMI is anchored in its three pillars: to connect, to educateand to cultivate. We are dedicated to providing a professional environment for Malaysian medical students to network, keep themselves updated with healthcare issues and develop skills essential for their career. The group also provides information and ad- vice to prospective Malaysians who wish to pursue a medical degree in Malaysia.

My first encounter with this organization was when the founders of the organization organised the 'Medicine in Malaysia' conference. I was a naive second year medical student, unsure about my future after graduation, whether to stay in the UK, come back to Malaysia or to go elsewhere. I joined the conference, learned a whole lot more about the pathways of career development in Malaysia but still clueless about what should I do about my future. However, I was super inspired by the organizing team. I never thought that medics could come together and discuss about important things that will affect each of us as well! I thought, medics just..well..hermit and study. So I interviewed for the VP or Sponsorship officer position. I had no experience in both these position before, but I am willing to learn and give it a try. 1 week later, I got appointed as the first Sponsorship Officer in the first MMI UK branch committee. 

My first year in MMI It sure was fun starting a completely new committee in a foreign country. We had no money, no potential sponsor and no one knew about us. Heck, I don't even know how to be a sponsorship person. I don't think many of us in the 9-persons committee actually know where this organization is heading to, at the beginning too. We just planned activities and hoped things work out. Things worked out not too shabby that year. Considering it was our first year in the UK scene, we had 2 big events and there were actually participants!  That year, I am super grateful for: 

  • The original committee of MMI - for taking me in, even though I had no idea what I was talking about during the interview. 
  • My friend, Livia, from CUMaS, who thought me everything about being a great sponsorship officer and gave me templates of invoices and agreements to start with.
  • A super dedicated MMI UK committee. Though we had no cash AT ALL in the UK, each of us forked out GBP100 from our personal account to make sure our first event, 'The Physiology Challenge', was even possible. And we did it. And the money did came back to our personal account in the end. Albeit later than expected. :p 
  •  An opportunity to learn how to sell something. We made booklets, agreements and went down to London to meet potential sponsors. And Mr Lau from Sunway Medical Centre, was extremely generous and fuss-free. He agreed to sponsor us after a friendly chat. The corporate communication person I liaised with was super patient with correcting the first agreement I sent over too (It was a disaster, don't ask). And they still sponsors us till today. :) 
  • An opportunity to learn that failure isn't something to be afraid off. Many events we made and many sponsors I've approached, did have outcomes as expected. It's hard to accept at first, given that we've put in so much effort to do it, why can't people see it? But we learn from feedbacks, reflections and made ourselves better. 
  • Friends, future colleagues around the world, whom without MMI, I'd never meet. Esp friends in medical schools all around the UK (the gold mine mmmmm :) ) Without MMI, I'd still be hermiting in my Cambridge bubble, without realising how big this world actually is. 
  • An opportunity to pursue something bigger than myself (or my academic results), which leads to my second year in MMI. 
I was nominated (somehow, dk by which silly person from the first comm) to run for the Vice President of MMI UK and Co-chair of the MMI Executive Council at the end of my first year in MMI. I was not sure about this at all because I had no experience in being a president or VP for anything ever since I was born (captain in girls' softball team in high school doesn't count). I was afraid of taking up this responsibility because who am I to lead this organisation with links of thousands of medical students around the world. Who am I to steer this ship and make sure it doesn't sink after just 1 year since it started sailing? My mom encouraged me to give it a try. And I thought, since I am still not sure where my future actually lies, why not? 

Praise God, I was given the chance to take up that opportunity. Though I still had my qualms after the election and almost give up the position, I talked to Zhi Yang in Coffea Coffee and he somehow, managed to convince that I really should take it up. Kevin also asked me to consider this opportunity carefully. So I reluctantly took it up and I prayed real hard about it. I prayed that Lord, since you've given me this opportunity, please use me to glorify your name through this that people may see this organization or at least, see me, and they see your love and your kindness, Lord. Please guide me and look after me, as I embark on this journey and starting my first clinical year.  

The first few months as the VP of MMI UK
The first few months in this position of great responsibility was hard. It was after all, only our second year of existence. People still don't know us enough to let us perform our role to serve as a representative body of Malaysian medical students. Joanna and I had a long discussion to plan for the year in June; Vikki and I had another long discussion to plan for the year. We identified the problems in the year before, restructured the organization, drafted the constitution with our dear Executive Council and recruited a new team in both MMI Malaysia and UK. I was first convinced that I needed to stay and watch something great happening when Joanna and I were interviewing our new committee members in 1Utama's Coffee Bean. They told us so many great plans they have for our new year, plans that I've never even thought about before! These candidates were so inspiring, enthusiastic and ambitious in building this organisation, which belongs to ALL medical students, it made me wonder, who am I to shy away?! I want to be part of this great society too! 

The rest goes down to history. We organised so many events, online campaigns (which involved talking to other international medical students society as well), attended even more events to connect with other students organisations. One thing I realised early on during our office year was our new committee's dynamic was very different from the year before. Maybe because Joanna and I chosen each member of the team on our own, it felt really really great working in the team. It was almost a dream team any organisation could ask for. We did not have meeting very often, but through FB messages and posts, we managed to get things done very efficiently. Thank God really, for such an independent, pro-active team. We would not be able to make MMI UK's events come true while maintaining our grades in medical school, if not because of a our DREAM-TEAMWORK... :) 

Oh, forgot to mention - during this period, I talked to Joanna and Vikki so much that they almost replaced my boyfriend. Just kidding, dear! Now I'm back! :p 

Global connections
I am also super grateful to be able to be the co-chair, which allows me to handle the connection with other branches and try to set up more MMI branches in other countries. A failure I must admit is I have no managed to set up a full-fledge new MMI branch at the end of my term. However, it was not all in vain. Eric from Otago and Edwina from Russia have worked very hard to start events under MMI's names in their respective universities and cities. MMI Otago even had a gathering and mock OSCE session! Through them, I learned that, the same group of people can gather at anytime to do the same thing, but by putting a name and an identity on to the effort, this gathering will be remembered by an entity much greater than that gathering itself. The successors within the same entity, though not knowing the predecessor personally, can then remember, replicate and improve that effort. And I think noble effort such as this should be preserved. Thank you, Eric and Edwina. 

"You are my future colleague?! I fear." 
Another lesson which I learned throughout the year was - to manage people and to manage time. These skills are crucial as a doctor, especially if you wish to move up the ladder in your future career and have a family life, but are never taught in school. Through my journey with MMI, I've learned to find a fine balance between clinical school, MMI, family and friends time and personal time. It wasn't easy, and I still neglected opportunities to catch up with many of my friends!  Besides, I also learned how people behave. There are bound to be people who doesn't work in a team - I call them the politicians, ''talk only, no action'' - and there are people who works very hard. Many times, I got so frustrated and angry over those politicians who gave empty promises that I almost cried. But slowly, I've slowly learned to expect them to be just the way they are. So when they give empty promises, I learned to arrange someone else to do the same job simultaneously. At the end of the day, what do I have to gain to be angry over them? I wish I could tell them in directly in the face about this, but I could not bring myself to - We are all future doctors, future colleagues, if you are not taking your responsibilities seriously at this stage, how could we trust you to be a responsible colleague in the future?   What if, one day, I work in the Day Team, and you work as the night shift doctor, how can I trust you to look after my patient and when I return, my patient will be alive and well? Integrity. 

Managing expectations
The flagship event of MMI is the annual conference/summit. It is, as if, almost an unspoken rule that this event MUST be done, or MMI doesn't exist in the public's eyes (though that's not true, we do many other things to prove we exist too - like spamming your FB newsfeed with random stuff :p) Our super smart organizing committee planned all the details and it looked super great on paper. We even planned to introduce the workshops-circuit (how workshops are commonly run in UK medical schools) to the Malaysia. 

There were many hiccups and obstacles in the process of organizing this MAMMOTH event, or so we thought. We were expecting 1000 participants this year. But as the registration date closes, the number did not rise very much, so we lowered our expectation to 500 (which is almost the scale of previous conference). 1 week before the registration closes, the number was still terribly low. I began to lose hope, half-heartedly managed the ticketing system, let Vikkinesh (my crazy superhuman co-chair) and Joanna handle all my responsibilities, while I prepare for my Year 4 exams. Thank God for them so I could studied. I don't understand - we did all we can to make sure the events' interesting, the ticket price's affordable and the publicity crazy - why do we still not have many participants?! Thank God for Kevin, for helping me manage my expectation when I was so disappointed. 'Then make it a great conference for the 200 participants you have!' he said. Very true, we shall make this an event that impact the participants so much, they would never forget about it and never regret they joined it. I prayed that each of our participants would be able to bring something back with them, some message to bury deep within them at the end of the summit and spur them to be great doctors and leaders of our generation. 

End it with a BANG. 
1 week before the summit, I finished my Year 4 exams, went to Portugal and flew back to Malaysia. The jet lag struggle was real. I could not sleep at night, but during the day, I had to go to Summit venue to help out, because if I don't, the summit will still happen, but I FEEL BAD FOR THE LOGISTICS group for not helping thus far. So I slept for about 2-3 hours every night for a week leading to the Summit. My brain's slow and I was irritable. I lose my temper very easily. I truly apologise if I was being very mean to you, my dear comm. I really, really didn't mean to. And thank God, when the 400 chairs in the hall were arranged and the banners were hung up, the summit felt real. 

When the Malaysian Medical Students Summit weekend came, it happened really fast. It was nuts, the number of things we all had to deal with at any one time. I was riding on the adrenaline rush all the time. I shall not say too much about it now because it was just 2 days ago and I haven't had time to really, thought through it yet. But I must say, without the SEGi medical society and the whole MMI team, this is just impossible. And I am so so so so glad when the delegates said they enjoyed it and learned a lot. It made me feel like 'Sleep-deprived? It's all worth it.' :) I had so many firsts during this summit - my first time wearing a saree, my first time moderating a forum, my first time running a symposium, my first time walking on red carpet with the VIPs (lols), my first time nodding off to the DG when he was talking directly to me in my face (oops) etc...  

I felt asleep the moment I sat on the couch that evening. 
And now...all that's left are the handovers... 

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