Post by Prannoy Paul, Medical Student at Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church Medical College (India) who completed a GEMx Elective at Penang Medical College (Malaysia)
Our institution, Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church Medical College, Kolenchery, Kerala, India, has always encouraged students to get more exposure in medicine by attending various medical competitions and medical student conferences happening around the world. It was in December 2016, that the GEMx coordinator of our institution, Dr. Anna Mathew informed me that I and my friend Kiron are selected for the GEMx student elective for the year of 2017 from our institution. I was really excited hearing the news, but I was also uncertain about how it is going to be or where should I be going.
While we were discussing about which institution to apply for the elective, it so happened that the GEMx representative from USA, Mr. Justin Seeling visited our institution for the promotion of GEMx. We had an opportunity to talk with him and he recommended that Penang medical College, Malaysia would be a good choice for us. So we contacted Penang Medical college, sent all the documents required and we got approved for the elective in the department of Surgery for the month of May, 2017.
Penang Medical College (PMC) is a private, Malaysian campus owned by two world-renowned medical universities in Ireland, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) and the University
College Dublin (UCD). PMC is affiliated to the Penang General Hospital, also known as Hospital Pulau Pinang, which is very near the medical college campus. Being the largest public hospital in Penang with 1090 beds, Penang general hospital is always busy with patients.
In the mornings, we had to go to the wards to clerk the patients and take cases. Patients spoke mainly Malay, Chinese and English. For the patients who spoke Malay and Chinese, we were provided with translators to help with our communication. The students there were also very helpful in our communication with the patients. I was able to see and understand many diseases that are not very common here. We discussed often about the variety of diseases and surgical conditions that present to the hospital, and how it was different in India.
In the afternoons, we had various sessions like seminars, tutorials, case presentations etc. Professors and students ensured that I actively participate in those sessions and asked me to explain how various procedures were done in my country and how it was different from that being done in Malaysia. Those sessions were filled with lots of fun along with gaining new knowledge .Our classes in the mornings would begin as early as 7 am on some days and the afternoon classes typically lasts till 5pm. Saturdays and Sundays were holidays. Apart from that, there are also many local holidays every month in Penang due to the rich cultural heritage of the city. Throughout the elective, our supervisors and student representatives were always in touch with us to know if they can help us with anything.
The GEMx student ambassadors at PMC were Syafaf Humaira Aman and Yik Chin Low. They were very helpful to us throughout our stay in Penang. They helped us with our academic doubts, took us to the major tourist destinations and also helped us try out some local cuisine in Malaysia.
Malaysia is a favorite tourist destination for tourists all over the world. On holidays, we were able to visit some of the major tourist destinations in Penang. Our friends at PMC and even the professors suggested good places to visit for the holidays. Penang is also very famous for the food. It is called the food heaven of Malaysia. The varieties of foods include Malay, Chinese and Indian cuisine. Penang is also very famous for its very delicious but cheap street food which is a very important attraction for the tourists visiting Penang.
The population in Malaysia is mainly Malay, with others being Malaysian Chinese, Malaysian Indians, and other indigenous people. Islam is the state religion while many other religions like Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity are also common. Languages spoken include Malay, which is the official language, English, and Tamil.
As most people, especially the younger generation spoke English very well, communication was not a problem for us while in Malaysia. People were very friendly and helpful. If we asked someone for the way to a place, they would eagerly tell us in detail. The hospitality of the Malaysian people made our stay, a very comfortable and enjoyable experience.
The elective to Penang Medical College in Malaysia was a wonderful experience for me. It helped me understand how the health systems and medical education work in Malaysia and how to interact with patients, medical students, and professors from another country. I also learned and understood the differences in medical conditions and health care in another country and achieved a broader, a global perspective in medicine. I recommend more students make use of the fantastic student exchange program provided by GEMx, it is very easy to apply to, and we are supervised in each step of the elective. The elective improves our academic knowledge, our communication skills, confidence, and our very perspective about medicine and about the world.