Tuesday April 29, 2008
Short-sighted plan to deny docs training
I AM a Malaysian physician, trained in internal medicine and endocrinology in one of the premier medical centres in the US. I wonder if the Malaysian Medical Council or the Ministry of Health could clarify an issue that seems to have arisen.
For many of us, to work and train in the US requires a 'letter of need' from the ministry, in order to obtain the necessary J1 visa. However, recently many of my juniors have shared with me that the ministry is no longer issuing these letters of need, effectively eliminating the possibility for new Malaysian doctors to obtain specialist training here.
Presumably, if this is indeed a policy, it is being done to curb the brain-drain as it is true that many will choose to remain in the US after training.
However, one must remember that although some of us will choose to stay, many still will still return to Malaysia after their residencies and fellowships, bringing back the much-needed skills in various medical and surgical specialties.
Therefore, if it is true that the ministry is now preventing us from obtaining training here, although this may result in more fresh medical graduates working in Malaysia, ultimately, it would be a short-sighted plan that would lead to even fewer sub-specialists.
This is because with the recent changes in Britain, post-graduate medical training there no longer seems feasible for many, while Malaysia itself lacks adequate training positions in numerous fields.
Even if half of the US-trained Malaysian specialists choose to remain in the US, we still have half returning home after their training, bringing vital expertise for a growing country.
I think of my oncology, hematology and transplant nephrology friends who will be returning to practise in Malaysia next year. I am certain they will contribute much to the current workforce.
I myself have chosen to stay, but only for personal (marriage) reasons though Malaysia will always beckon. I return annually, and often lecture to medical students there about the pathway to training in the US. After all, I believe the training programmes here to be well-organised and solid.
Therefore, on behalf of my young colleagues hoping to be trained in top US centres like the Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins and Harvard, I like to ask the ministry and the president of the medical council to clarify the official policy regarding the issuing of letters of need. For, given the chance, these Malaysian doctors may very well do the nation proud.
DR T.K. KHOO,