The road to becoming a doctor is expensive, long and emotionally taxing. For those reasons, many students do not even consider the job a potential option for themselves. Many of those who do even give up before they complete.

On the contrary, becoming a doctor is an extremely rewarding job. Doctors have the magic touch – what seems like a short visit or a small gesture can go a long way and save lives. They are highly respected in society, and it is an occupational ambition one would have pondered at least once in their lives.

In conjunction with World Doctors’ Day, let us find out what makes even the process of becoming a doctor such an admirable one! If you aspire to become a doctor yourself, read on.

1) Starting Early

If you are about to start doing your pre-university (SPM, A-Levels or any other Matriculation), it is recommended that you take biology, physics, chemistry and mathematics. These are subjects required by the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) in order to pursue a bachelor’s degree in medicine. Most universities outside of Malaysia require similar – if not the same – subjects. If you are not thinking about doing a general pre-university course, a foundation in medicine can be a viable option for you.

Screenshot from the MMC website where you can find more information about medicine in Malaysia.

To add on, a good grasp of English is also needed for the degree. Depending on the university you are thinking of entering, you might need to take an English proficiency examination – examples would be IELTS and TOEFL – as well as excel in it.

Interviews are also a very big part of entering many prestigious medical schools. The scope of questions asked at every university is different, but all require you to demonstrate sufficient prior knowledge and passion for the years to come. Your personality will also be analysed – trust me, most the interviewers can see right through you – so, be genuine and confident.

If finances will be an obstacle for you on this career path, start your research on scholarships early! There are many different scholarships offered by institutions, GLCs, companies or the government. However, many of them have quotas or vigorous application processes. Some of the scholarships available in Malaysia can be found here and here.

2) Pursuing a medical degree

In Malaysia, most universities provide five-year medical degrees. A common degree name for this course in Commonwealth countries is MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery). However, in some countries, the degree is referred to as MD (Doctor of Medicine) or DO (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine).

The MBBS is typically divided into two parts – the first two years (pre-clinical) and years 3 to 5 (clinical training). During the first two years, students will learn the theoretical aspects of medicine. This includes biochemistry, physiology and many more. Learning about the psychology and legality of medicine is also typical in many courses.

In years three to five, students are given the opportunity to work directly with patients under supervision, in different specialist clinic areas. The student will be able to experience different sections of a hospital such as psychiatry, neurology or gynaecology. This ultimately helps the student figure out what they would like to pursue after graduating.

If you choose to pursue your medical degree elsewhere but would still like to practise in Malaysia in the future, click here to see which universities are recognised by the MMC.

3) Housemanship / residency … and beyond?

Upon completion of the medical course, students will have to apply to do a housemanship. The length of a housemanship varies from country to country – for example, a housemanship is 2 years in Malaysia, but is only 1 year in Australia. Wait, what is a housemanship? Well, it is a compulsory internship and is a prerequisite before being able to practise in proper facilities.

In Malaysia, residents must register through the MMC and Ministry of Health, attend an interview with the Public Services Commission. After that are residents only able to apply for the hospitals they would like to do a housemanship at. It is quite common to do a housemanship in the area of the university you attend, however, they do prioritise vacancies to locals or permanent residents. So, do not get upset if you are unable to find a spot abroad because the experience you gain is golden either way!

Image source: Glasbergen

During the housemanship, residents have the experience to work alongside qualified doctors to assist them, make notes and even attend lectures and conferences. Housemen also have to pick a specific field of specialisation for the housemanship. Some specialisations are more competitive, and can even require an interview. It is also common for residents to have to apply for several programmes before they find themselves accepted.

So, enough of the technical parts. Let us cut to the chase and evaluate these few things that are important before considering this path:

  1. Do you enjoy science?
  2. Do you enjoy studying and do you excel in it?
  3. Are you ready to be a student for the rest of your life, in an industry that is ever-changing?
  4. Can you endure a lifetime of long, irregular working hours?
  5. Do you feel passionate about health care?

If you check yes to all of the above, perhaps the medical route is the one for you. Even if it isn’t, now you know more about our “heroes without capes” – doctors – and what makes them so incredible.

Happy Doctors’ Day!

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