Monday, June 15, 2009

Training doctors to tackle local diseases

A UNIQUE feature of University College Sedaya International (UCSI) is its offer of a totally homegrown medical programme tailored and customised to effectively tackle local diseases.
The programme is written and approved by locals with no foreign influence or interjections either wholly or partially.
Explained Medical Science Faculty dean, Professor Doctor Jammal Ahmad Essa: “Its customisation to local conditions and situations enables doctors to treat local patients more effectively.”
He said anatomy was the same everywhere, adding that all doctors, either trained overseas or locally, shared basic knowledge but not of diseases.
“The only difference between homegrown and foreign programmes is the peculiarities of diseases. In our rural areas, we may have more parasite-related diseases than Europe and because of that, parasitology is delved deeper into in our programme. In foreign programmes, the subject may not be even included.”
He added that homegrown programmes provided students with more practical training crucial in the medical profession.
“The more the student practises, the better he becomes. A doctor needs good knowledge and practice. Knowledge alone won’t make him a good doctor,” Dr Jammal said.
The programme also allowed interactive learning whereby students were expected to source for the materials they needed and the lecturers were there to guide them, he added.
“Student-centred programmes are designed to foster and encourage students learning in the most effective way.
The university is imparting knowledge through making the students responsible for their own learning. Lecturers will be guiding the students in their pursuit.
“Year One and Two students will be taught largely by basic medical scientists supported by clinicians. Early clinical exposure will allow students to further develop their interviewing and physical examination skills.
“Hospital visits will provide them the avenue to practise their training, which, in turn, benefits them in their transition to a clinical environment.”
Doctor Jammal said when they found the answers on their own, the students learned better than when they were being spoon-fed by the lecturers.
He pointed out that failures were minimal in the medical school because the programme was not exam-oriented.
“There is no huge exam to evaluate the understanding of the students at the end of the year. Instead assessment is done in the students’ daily course of training.
“It’s a continuous evaluation outside the programme … a continuous assessment.”
Doctor Jammal explained that the seminars and workshops the students attended and their interaction with people were all being assessed and the marks accumulated to the end of the year.
He also emphasised that it was the attitude and aptitude of the students he was looking for when they came for the interview.
Students interested in joining the profession have to go through an interview after being shortlisted.
“It is that we in UCSI do not emphasise academics. The students must obtain either Bs or As in these major subjects — biology, chemistry, physics and any maths-related subjects in STMP, A levels or any equivalent. These students will be called for interview,” he said.
He pointed out that it was not the academic ability that would make a good doctor but the attitude and aptitude towards the profession that was crucial or rather the determining factor.
“Students with good academics minus passion will be robotic doctors whereas those with passion will genuinely care for their patients. Students are not selected on the basis of their technical knowledge only.
“I’m more interested in their passion, attitude, how they interact with people, what do they think of other human beings. To be a good doctor, you must be able to give rather than to take. It must come from the heart not the brain.”
Doctor Jammal is interested in training thinking and caring doctors.
The passion for the profession and the very stringent selection of students also contribute to the few failures in the medical school.
The faculty has a capacity for 100 students but Dr Jammal is not looking at numbers as he is keener on quality.
UCSI has a total of 19 lecturers in the Medical Science Faculty, not counting the specialists and consultants of major hospitals in Terengganu very much involved in the students’ training.
Part of the course is psychiatry, which is greatly emphasised by the Health Ministry.
“This is due to the stressful lifestyle of modern times. Students get to practise in the country’s biggest and most reputable psychiatric hospital at Tanjung Ranbutan in Perak,” Dr Jammal said.
The Doctor of Medicine (MD) programme is a five-year integrated full time programme at the UCSI Connnaught Campus in Kuala Lumpur. The first batch of doctors will be graduating in July next year.
The programme is further divided into two phases — Phase One for pre-clinical training, including Basic Medical Sciences for the first and second year, and Phase Two for clinical training at the UCSI Clinical School, Kuala Terengganu, attached to the General Hospital, Kuala Lumpur, and district hospitals and health centres within Terengganu.
This phase is for year 3, 4, and 5 students.
In due course, the faculty will be adding two more programmes — automatric and esthetic medicine. Both have been submitted and are currently awaiting approval.
Two other medical-related courses — pharmacy and nursing — are also in the offing. Pharmacy is a four-year degree programme while in nursing, there are three choices.
The early part of the degree programme of the School of Pharmacy focuses on the fundamentals, starting off with integrated courses where four main disciplines are taught in each body system together with related diseases and the drug therapy involved.
Prerequisites for entering the School are Grade C in chemistry, maths and biology-physics at A levels or Grade B for similar subjects in STPM, Grade B3 in chemistry and maths and B4 in biology or physics in UEC or its equivalent. A strong SPM credit in biology or O-levels is compulsory.
This year will see the university’s first batch of pharmacists.
The Bachelor of Nursing (Hons) is a four-year (eight semesters) full-time programme. Aimed at upgrading the education of nurses, the programme gives equal emphasis to the profession’s art and science and prepares students to qualify as registered nurses.
To be eligible, students must have at least three principals in science subjects, a credit in Bahasa Malaysia and a pass in English at SPM level.
The Diploma in Nursing is a three-year (six semesters) full-time programme, preparing students to qualify as registered nurses. The emphasis is on the art of nursing (caring) for individuals.
The science is integrated throughout the programme to enable students to understand the rationale behind the care given to patients. The programme is open to students who have completed secondary school at SPM level.
UCSI gives due recognition to students who excel in their studies but who also require financial assistance. Hence, the university offers scholarships and academic awards through various avenues open to all students.
These scholastic awards also come in the form of students recognition every semester under the provision of the Dean’s Lists, Achievement Awards, President’s Awards and Chancellor’s Award.
Study loans from PTPTN and many other financial institutions are available for eligible students.

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