Saturday March 6, 2010
All psyched up
By KEE HUA CHEE
Dr Sharifah Eliza Jamalullail, first recipient of the Mahadevan Travelling Fellowship at Harvard University, came back from her one-month stint in the United States enlightened and inspired.
Sharifah Eliza Jamalullail, niece of the Sultan Selangor and Raja of Perlis, could have led the easy life of a royal. Instead, she opted to pursue the noble profession of healing.
Now a certified physician, Dr Sharifah Eliza graduated from Guy’s, King’s and St Thomas’ School of Medicine and Dentistry in London in 2004.
After a year of housemanship in Britain, she returned to Malaysia to work at University Hospital in Kuala Lumpur until 2009.
Currently she is working as a family physician at the Twin Towers Medical Centre in KL. Her colleagues describe her as compassionate, down-to-earth, practical and patient.
Last year, Dr Sharifah became the first Malaysian doctor to be picked for the Mahadevan Travelling Fellowship at Harvard University in the United States. The fellowship — set up in 2009 by Tan Sri Dr M. Mahadevan, a pioneer in psychiatric care in the country, under the Chester Pierce International Psychiatry Division — entails a month of study at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Harvard University.
She spent last November there.
“I am honoured to be the pioneer, and what I learned at MGH has armed me with increased knowledge in psychiatry and mental health, which I hope to put to good use,” Dr Sharifah says.
“I was given a jam-packed timetable with clinics, research meetings, ward rounds, child consult visits, acute psychiatry services, lectures and community visits. Massachusetts General Hospital is a 907-bed, state-of-the-art medical centre with 30 buildings. Some days, I travelled to Boston. I also visited several other hospitals.
“It was very hectic but I enjoyed the experience!” Dr Sharifah says.
During her time there, Dr Sharifah was supervised by psychiatrist Dr David Henderson and frequented many of his schizophrenia and clozapine clinics.
She also visited depression clinics and urgent care clinics. This gave her exposure to live cases, ranging from post-partum depression to obsessive compulsive disorder and schizophrenia.
“You could feel the positive vibes and fervour when attending teaching sessions with resident lecturers and professors. These students were on top of their game, debating and quoting journals with their supervisors. They were far more argumentative and researched-inclined than English students.
“I was also allowed to attend Harvard’s Residents’ Day at McLean Hospital where they discussed Early Psychosis: An Opportunity Window for Early Diagnosis, Effective Care and Emerging New Research. I know this may not sound earth-shattering to the public but to people like me, it was an honour,” she continues.
A major highlight, Dr Sharifah says, was her exposure to the Program for Assertive Community Treatment (PACT), a community-based treatment programme for people with severe and persistent mental illness who are under-served by traditional care.
“PACT is seen as a hospital without walls. The PACT team I worked with consisted of psychiatrist, nurses, vocation specialists, housing specialists, social workers and peer specialists.
“I visited two women with bi-polar disorder in their homes in Cambridge. What I found interesting was that PACT kept them out of hospital and helped them pursue productive hobbies like painting, reading, gardening and writing. I have always been interested in community psychiatry. Hopefully, I can bring what I learned with the PACT team back to Malaysia. After all, Dr Mahadevan is the pioneer of community mental health in Malaysia, and it only seems right that a Mahadevan Fellow should follow in his footsteps,” she says.
Another highlight was her visit to the Benson-Henry Institute for mind-body medication and meeting the well-known Dr Herbert Benson.
“The Benson-Henry Institute deals with patients with stress-related medical conditions by combining conventional medicine with self-care approach that places greater control in the patients’ hands. This centre encourages patients to cultivate positive thoughts and mind-body healing by turning off stress through new behaviour and attitude. This can be used to treat anxiety, depression, asthma and cancer.
Dr Sharifah also met Dr Owen Surman, a psychiatrist who practises hypnosis. She says, “He described to me how he used hypnotherapy as a tool in his heart transplant patients to help them recover faster by imagining the operation as a huge success. Such hypnosis is done in a safe and controlled environment.’’
“My visit would not have been complete without meeting the renowned Dr Chester Pierce who has dominated mainstream American psychiatry for the last three decades. It was through his friendship with Tan Sri Mahadevan that this fellowship was possible. I met him on several occasions and was amazed by his modesty, intelligence and unassuming nature.
“At 82, Dr Pierce is still actively doing research — on racism, a subject close to his heart.
Dr Sharifah also gave a presentation on psychiatric treatment in Malaysia. “They were impressed by Tanjung Rambutan, now Bahagia Hospital in Perak. Several doctors commented that the hospital looked like a resort with flower gardens and parklands. One doctor even commented that he wouldn’t mind being a patient there!
“Everyone I met was so friendly and dedicated to their cause and willing to impart their knowledge. After a month at Massachusetts General Hospital, I now know why it is ranked No. 1 in psychiatry for 14 consecutive years in the US News and World Report Survey of America’s Best Hospitals. The Mahadevan Fellowship allows us, Malaysian doctors, to experience a life-changing experience there.”
There will be a talk on Managing Your Patients (Psychological Trauma) Using Psychiatric Methods and Clinical Hypnosis on March 11 at the Tropicana Medical Centre in Selangor. Registration is at 6.45pm. The speakers are Dr David Henderson (Harvard University) and Dr Peter Mabbut (London College of Clinical Hynosis, London). Admission in RM20.
For enquiries, call (03) 7960 6439 or visit www.hypnosis-malaysia.com.
The Mahadevan Travelling Fellowship