Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Academician


We come to a crossroads at the end of our housemanship. Although we aim for posts with less work, most of us continue on with district MOship; others get admin jobs at health-related departments. Me? I took the road less traveled, quit  and joined my alma mater, USIM, to serve as an academician in Paeds.

Joining Paeds justifies having toys at your desk.
 It's not a popular move at HoSHAS (only 1 HO joined a university since 2 years ago), given the fact that the pay was not that good at that time, the job scope was unclear and that most of us still like hands-on work and disliked research. But I joined anyway. I love my university; despite not agreeing on certain elements, I still need to take care of it.

Damn, why am I so handsome?
Looking back, the first batch was often reminded to join and serve the university since Year 1 of medical school. The seniors knew that every first batch has a certain unwavering loyalty to the medical school (given successful past examples). A loyalty forged from hardship - the lack of teachers, the infantile administration, the uncertain future. We struggled as a trial-and-error batch and from that hardship, the faculty prospered into what is it today. After all that hard work, nobody wants to see it destroyed or neglected.

The Oath of the Muslim Physician.
So, after settling thick paperwork, I'm now back to Menara B, Persiaran MPAJ; only this time, I have a cubicle on Level 13, complete with a computer and telephone. I was also joined by my sidekicks - Hafiz and Miqdad - who, like me, are USIM graduates who just finished housemanship. Our job for now, according to the Deputy Dean, was to "help around, taste the academic life, understand that it's publish-or-perish!" and then, do clinical attachment in our field of interest before joining a postgrad programme within 2 years. 

Helped around, we did.

Every one I know is working their asses off and I'm just sitting here.. contemplating.
The first week was a culture shock. We were used to running around the hospital and being active, but after joining, we sat around doing nothing for the first week, punching in and out punctually daily while our colleagues in KKM continue to improve as MO's. I admit that I was a bit jealous and worried about being stagnant and rusty, but that worry slowly faded as work piled up little by little.

Baby Balqis also helped to give marks.
We briefed the Year 1 students about medical school life. We helped to teach systemic physical examination to the Year 3 students. We attended the clinical lectures (Hafiz even delivered one lecture!) and seminars. We followed the ward rounds and highlighted important clinical management and items that the students missed or were too shy/afraid to ask the specialist.

I shadowed a professor as he conducted short cases during the end-posting exams.
We  looked for patients for clinical exams at Ampang Hospital, managed the clinical exams and invigilated over the written exams. We also marked the case write-ups and tabulated the end-posting exam marks. We also squeezed out brain juice during a workshop to update the curriculum.

Don't ask us any questions because we don't know the answers ;-P

As for extra-curricular work, we attended the Medical Students Club annual meeting, set up the faculty Hari Raya booth at Nilai Indoor Stadium, got involved in the USIM Annual Health Conference (I was made to be the MC because I was handsome) and most importantly, played futsal with the students. 

We are also planning to set up a USIM medical graduates alumni soon. 

Baby-friendly meetings.
Oh, also, locums.

Of course, not all of the first batch mates are interested in joining USIM back. Some wanted to delay to get more hands-on experience first; some got extended during HOship; some sent the CV late because they underestimated the horrors of district posting life; some don't want to leave Kuala Terengganu. 

But no matter how much negativity we took from the undergraduate life, all of us still want to serve USIM within our means. Because we love FPSK USIM.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Perhentian Pitstop


I went to Pulau Perhentian for my end-of-housemanship holidays.

As an outdoor enthusiast, I sought basic services for the minimum price - to rekindle those mountain-climbing hardship days.. and because I'm a cheapskate too (saving money for a PS4). After searching on FB and jumping from one holiday blog to another, I decided on a fairly cheap snorkeling package to Pulau Perhentian for a group of three adults (me, wife and Bro #2) and one cherubic baby.

Why snorkeling? Because my wife has never snorkeled previously.

Why bring the baby? Because the breastfeeding lady has never snorkeled previously. 

Why bring Bro #2? Because he's the baby's caretaker while Daddy accompanies Mommy on her virgin snorkeling experience.

Why Pulau Perhentian? I've been to Pulau Redang; it's beautiful but very commercialized. Pulau Perhentian on the other hand is relatively untouched.

Why this package? I'd like to think it as giving the local entrepreneurs a fighting chance against those big resort companies. Sure, some things are substandard or relatively expensive but a little sacrifice is always needed to help the underdog. Think of it as sadaqah.

It was a 3-day, 2-night package (2 rooms, 1 snorkeling trip, 1 lunch) for RM800.


We started our trip from Kuala Besut jetty. A pretty standard 30-minute boat trip for me; but it was a whole new experience for the little lady. Initially, she was uncomfortable by the wind blowing in her face and the occasional sprinkle of seawater, but later she acclimatized. She even dozed off during the last leg of the boat trip!

So many chalets to choose from.
White sandy beaches, cool sea breeze, de-stress.

Upon arrival at Coral Bay at Pulau Perhentian Kecil, we were greeted by clear azure waters, cool white sand and a gentle breeze.. in the middle of the afternoon heat! We quickly registered at Amyn's chalet and stayed indoors until the sun forgot about us and began its descent into the west.

Happy nucleus family :-)

The rooms were basic - they each had a queen-size bed, a bathroom, a flimsy desk, a chair, a ceiling fan and standing fan. Why two fans? Because it almost sweltered in the rooms during daylight. To make it worse, there were no windows. That translates into poor ventilation. A sweating baby is an uncomfortable baby; a crying baby means unhappy parents. Did I also mention that there were occasional power outages due to depleted diesel for the generators? No electricity means no fans.

Anyway, that evening, we crossed over to Long Beach, the west side of the island - a 10-minute walk along a trek across some shrubbery - to view the sunset and let Princess Balqis have her first experience swimming in the sea.

"Sea water tastes funny, Ayah!"

 There were many orang puteh sunbathing at Long Beach. With a windmill in the distance, the scene was like being in a foreign country. Too bad it was not a nudist beach.


The main programme started on Day Two - a marathon snorkeling trip over five points, starting at 9am until 3pm.

I was eager to snap some underwater photography. In my unrestrained excitement, I foolishly dunked my Fujifilm X10 (wrapped in cheap sealer bag reinforced with cloth tape - don't laugh, it seemed plausible at that time) into the water to snap some pictures. I took two pictures before the screen fizzled out on me. %^&$!*

I was saddened by the loss but I didn't have time to wallow; I still wanted to snap some underwater pictures, so I rented an underwater camera for RM70 per day from an IT shop operated by some OA.

A waterproof camera in an waterproof casing.

The first snorkeling point was Turtle Point. When the boat came to a stop, the guide pointed to a flock of snorkelers following something underwater and said, "Turtles.". Honestly, that word was enough to get my attention. I immediately jumped into the sea and chased after the superstar. I unceremoniously left my wife on the boat with the baby - I was supposed to accompany her on her first snorkel!

I chased and chased after the turtle until I was able to stroke its shell. From a physiological POV, my fingers felt a mossy sensation from all the sea flora growing on the shell. From a psychological POV, I TOUCHED A TURTLE WOOHOO!!

Just like AC4: Black Flag.

The next point was Shark Point where we were supposed to see some sharks. We saw none. But at least, wifey gets to do some snorkeling.

After snorkeling for a few minutes, she forgot that I ditched her for a turtle.
The next point was Coral Point. There were some corals here; mostly dead ones. Some curious fishes. Standard snorkeling stuff.

Then, we took our lunch break at the fishermen village on Pulau Perhentian Besar. I saw a school, police station and a Klinik Desa on the island. Man, it must be cool to live and work on the island. Instead of rempit, you go island-hopping.

No, it's not a mamak stall.

We continued our adventure at the Diving Point. The guide stopped the boat at a mini lighthouse, stripped to his trunks and began climbing the lighthouse. Then, he jumped 15 metres into the sea. It looked fun! So, I thought, why not? 

Climbing up was uneventful but once at the top and looking down - and seeing how small the boat was - that was when I experienced a tinge of fear of heights. But before I had second thoughts, I jumped. 


I safely landed on my butt.

It was only when I was back on the boat that I realized that my knees were shaking with fear and adrenaline. Slightly tachycardic and nauseated, but otherwise conscious and enjoyed every moment of that leap of faith. Despite the excitement, I wasn't going to jump from anything for a long time.

The last point was Romantic Beach. A long strip of beach on Pulau Perhentian Kecil that has calm sea water, some corals and plenty of colourful fish. We snorkeled to our heart's content, knowing that this'll be the last snorkeling point for a long time.

The curious brown fish.


We went back to Kuala Besut in the morning. It was a very enjoyable holiday and I'd recommend Pulau Perhentian to anyone considering a nice relatively isolated place to de-stress. I didn't buy souvenirs because I don't really believe in them. It's like saying, "I've been to this place; here's something to remind that you haven't been here."

* BTW the camera repairs costed RM385.