Thursday, February 2, 2012

Get private sector doctors to teach

WITH reference to “MMC to be corporatised” on the front page of The Sun Daily (Jan 25), as chairman of the Society of Medical Students, MMA and on behalf of Malaysian medical students, I welcome the news and hope that an amendment to the Medical Act 1971 to corporatise the Malaysian Medical Council will be passed. As the ones who will be working in the midst of the resultant outcome of policy decisions today, we hope the amendment will result in a better professional body that monitors the quality of healthcare and medical education as independently as possible from individual interest or government bureaucracy. In moving towards developed nation status, the corporatisation will hopefully result in a body as effective in maintaining standards of healthcare as those in first world countries such as the General Medical Council of the UK.

We also welcome the news from Health Ministry director-general Datuk Seri Hasan Abdul Rahman that the list of recognised universities is to be shortened and reviewed more frequently to maintain standards. We hope that once the amendment is passed, issues similar to this that involve the accreditation of medical schools will be decided more independently. Although the issue of the houseman glut has quietened down, there is always the issue of a glut in medical officers to look into. With the increasing number of housemen and limited spaces for postgraduate study to become a specialist, this will be an issue that we as medical students today will face in the future. There are currently 35 medical institutions producing undergraduates, but only three produce postgraduates – UKM, UM and USM. We hope the MMC will look into this issue.

As a student, my ideas might be naïve, but may I suggest that the government with the support of the MMC start encouraging the private sector to be involved in postgraduate medical education. As the Economic Transformation Programme announced by the prime minister places the private sector in a vital role to transform the economy, medical education should follow suit. The private sector has more than enough resources in terms of the numerous private hospitals and doctors that far outnumber those in public service. In terms of teachability of doctors, as a student in one of the top public universities in Malaysia, I have seen very talented lecturers going out to private practice for better pay in order to support their families. The teaching spirit is still in their hearts, but as per the Malay saying “jangan monyet di hutan disusukan, anak di rumah mati kelaparan”, they would of course prioritise supporting their families over teaching. Not given the chance to teach, that spirit might slowly die away, which would be a waste of the country’s talent. I am sure that given the chance, many doctors in the private sector would be willing to teach postgraduate students.

I believe successful people succeed because they do what interests them and what they are passionate about. With the limited number of spaces to pursue medical specialties, many would have to choose a specialty not because they are interested in it, but because it is the only one available. If the private sector can fill this increasing demand, better productivity in terms of healthcare awaits the nation as doctors give their all and produce better research in areas that interest them. Adam Smith changed the economy by recognising the benefits of specialisation of labour in the production process. The same goes for healthcare.

In the end, as in many first world countries, healthcare, research and education would have to go hand in hand – as is practised by world class private medical institutions like John Hopkins and Mayo Clinic in the US. To reach developed nation status, both the private and public sectors must play their part in nation building.

As medical students, we are unable to be directly involved in policy making, but we hope our views are taken into consideration and our voices of concern heard. We wish the best for the future of our healthcare and medical education, so that one day when we become a part of the system, we can proudly tell the world “I am a Malaysian doctor”.

Lutfi Fadil Lokman


Society of Medical Students, MMA

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