Friday, February 4, 2011

Making sense (part 1)

The Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine has always been teeming with life and knowledge. Medical doctors, scientist, bioinformaticians and patients trod its corridors in pursuit of the next ground breaking discovery in treating diseases which plagued mankind for so long. With its sparkling and impressive credentials in cancer research, it's no question that it has been chosen for my SSC on Biology of Cancer, whereby medical students are expected to have a comprehensive understanding on the very disease which ravage the lives of so many people, within 2 weeks, and inspire them to do something better than just treat and cure.

It's a bit freaky when a medical registrar cum research fellow, in all his intellectual and medical glory, lay out upon us the different available pathways in reaching the pinnacle of the medical field; a consultant. But one thing i realised is that those different pathways have one thing in common; it would take a huge chunk of your life, ranging around 9 to 13 years on top of the 5 to 6 years spent in medical schools.

This is one of those talks where regret starts creeping in, whispering doubts in the ears of the people who have chosen this path. That is when you started relishing on the notion that your counterparts who opted for other courses, may it be engineering, law, politics, physics, geology, accounting or others, would have a much rosier experience of learning, rather than being bathed by the light of the study lamp at night till the wee hours of dawn, cramming the British National Formulary into the head, memorizing the details of the human anatomy, working out the different physiological process and putting it into a context so that it would make some sence, and figuring out what went haywire in diseases. Some of my peers in different courses are about to grad this summer, and i will still be at my desk, struggling.

I can't help myself from thinking that my pursuit of medical greatness come with a much higher cost. It seemed the price obtaining a medical degree has to be paid in the currency of my personal life. Much has been sacrificed; my time with my family, my personal relationships with people, the pleasure of reading a novel , where i swapped it with books, labs, prosections, and journals. Once, the vice dean has reiterate this notion during a briefing on my placements where i might be living 9 weeks in a hospital for each module next year, where she said that medical students are not supposed to have personal relationships, 'so break up!'. By hammering on these points, it is reasonable that i would have a fair share of regret in me. It may just be my narrow view of life and the world, or it may be my ignorance towards inspiring stories of men and women of medicine who have already stood on the altar of medical greatness. In times like this, i would tell myself that i am still naive... and my path is still far from the destination i intend to reach.

In times like this, i search for any form of assurance that my cause is just.

p/s : the montage from the HBO mini-series 'The Pacific' which i listen to every morning. It helps me to convince myself me that it is all worthwhile.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

what it means to be us

I would just like to share with you a poem my neuropharmacology lecturer use to capture our hearts and minds to human creativity and the price we pay for it in the form of schizophrenia.

'We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,

Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;—
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.'

Arthur O'Shaughnessy

Powerful words, worthy of describing humans and our potentials.

Sit and ponder.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

London to Boston

From London to Boston.

It starts tonight.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The walk along the Thames

It's been over a month now, and i thought i finally had everything under control. Normality and routines have finally returned, i thought, but i guess i have spoken too soon. My anxiety and curiosity have led me to the discovery of a sudden turn of events on the internet, which has only led me to a spiraling, bottomless and depressing abyss. It haunted me through day and night, especially when i am in solitude, confining me to a state of non-functional. The undesirable image of them in a display of affection crept even in my sleep and in my dreams, only to be awaken in the night and not being able to get a good night rest. So, i did what i usually do when i have things bothering me; do my work, but to no avail. I was not able to register the words on the paper; my eyes were on the articles, but my mind was in a place where i wish not to be. I had to do something. Then i remembered the famous words in Forrest Gump; Run Forrest, Run.

I would love to run, but jogging at night in the cold winter would not be a good idea. Lap swimming sounds nice, but i didn't think there were pools open late at night. So walking would be the best thing to do. I took the tube to Bank, and made my way to Leicester Square, hopefully i can let my mind and body lost among theater enthusiasts and tourists in London's West End. I grabbed myself a coffee, head south bound towards the river Thames, hopefully i would arrive at Westminster, where i would take the long walk of shame to Whitechapel along the Thames path in the veils of London's night.

Central London late at night is a very pleasant place to be. There is a side of London at that hour of the day where only the daring could experience. The Victorian lamp posts which illuminates the Thames river path radiates a romantic feeling, with the backgrounds of London's iconic monuments across the south bank entertaining the very pedestrians who bravely trod this path at that hour; a perfect atmosphere for me to dwell in my feelings and to find solace. If i were to be mugged, i have nothing to lose; if they wish to take my blackberry, they can take away all the remnant of my distant past when all seemed to fall into place. If they wish to take my wallet, they can take away the notes which hold testament to the joyful memories i once had in it. If they wish to take my life, i would put up a fight.

It's amazing how your mind and emotion can dictate your body into walking almost 5 hours in the late,cold night. My mind was occupied with the bits and bobs of my discontentment, that i did not register my body's state of fatigue. It was a pleasant walk, except the incident where i was grabbed, hugged, and kissed by a lady with a bottle of Brandy in her hand and she asked to bring her home ( which i politely decline, of course).

The quality time i had through out the night has helped me to do a lot of soul searching. It has made me realise that love is not about being selfish, but being selfless; being able to put my self interest aside for the best interest of the individual involved. Sacrifice is not just about giving up stuffs; it's about being able to let go something or someone so important, and be contended and be able to be happy for other's happiness. Everyone has their bitter share of the cake once in a while, and what's important is how you respond to it. At first, i have doubts of how i would make it out of the day, with a lot of crap on my back. But i came to realise that the problem lies not with the girl across the Pond, nor the bloke who stirs my worst imagination; it has been me all this while. No one would like to change routines, but i have arrived at the point that changes have to be made, and my dedication and commitment must be channeled to a place where i am most needed. Some people equates moving on as finding replacements, but i'll prescribe myself to a higher cause. All of this i concluded within the 5 hours i walked, from Leicester Square, to Westminster, and back to Whitechapel.

The next morning, i still had a couple of things in my head. So i walked again, now somewhere closer, and had coffee at Aldgate. As i returned to my flat, the nice old lady next door was cleaning up the corridor in front of her flat, and she is just a sweetheart. She complained about her backaches and how terrible it was, and she asked me a question which made you wonder whether it is pure coincidence or she can read minds. 'Do you a have special girl?'. 'I wish i had' i replied. 'Oohh, poor lad. A man like you shouldn't be alone. Don't worry, you'll find one soon'. Hmmm.... i wonder:)

And something i would like to share which made it all more bearable,

Monday, December 27, 2010

Boxing day and the truth it brings

26/12. Boxing day. An annual pilgrimage of keen shoppers all over to the high streets in the chase of tempting bargains, massive discounts and reductions which only appear on this very day. They came in masses, flooding the roads like a sea of men sipping into every space of the stores. This is the day when friends from near and far would assemble in London for the thrill of the 'hunt'. I have to admit that shopping is not an activity i consider as my cup of tea. Instead, i am more interested in something more priceless and valuable that they have to offer; information and the truth.

I have to admit that i can easily give in to shallow words and shallower promises. At times, i have only see the best in people, especially those who are markedly significant and prominent, that you put so much trust in them. I end up being oblivious to the red flags which warns me of the sinister back-stabbing plots which yet to follow. They masked themselves in the veils of innocence and kindness, hiding conspiracies and scandals which has only left me in shambles. Times are difficult. Though dissapointment has only elevated my concentration to focus on my studies, accepting the dismal conclusions was like swallowing a bitter pill, and it only makes me more thirsty for the truth. With friends coming from all over, i have the chance to reopen my past and start arranging the missing pieces.

I am not here to condemn any parties or individuals, and the details of my conversations i refuse to disclose, but i am writing just to point out my own weaknesses which has lead only to my own turmoil. I realised that i am naive and gullible, easily being fooled by empty talks and shallow promises. I must not let my guard down, and be more cunning next time. I also noticed that i have compromised a lot of my values for a mirage of pleasure and enchantment. I let emotion besieged rationality, altering my reality to her mold. For years, i have accommodated myself to the wants and demands of others,but in my absence, deceit and betrayal became my only reward.

Most importantly, i realised that i am weak. Once i fell, i had to crawl, walk, and by then, can i only run back again. But the truth i got, though hurtful, has brought me back to reality, as quoted by Jim Davis 'The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable'.

Just would like to share an excerpt from Greys:
'The truth is painful. Deep down, nobody wants to hear it, especially when it hits close to home. Sometimes we tell the truth because the truth is all we have to give. Sometimes we tell the truth because we need to say it out loud to hear it for ourselves. And sometimes we tell the truth because we just can't help ourselves. Sometimes, we tell them because we owe them at least that much.'

Some art pieces from Malaga i would like to share :
by Juliao Sarmeto, 2000-2010. Taken from MALAGA CONTEMPORARY ART CENTRE

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A fling with the military

I remembered when i was 13, i fancy being in the military, and i always fantasised myself being in army uniform, serving at the front lines as a medic. I run towards the battle-scorned field without hesitation against the current of civilians running away, in the shower of bullets, attending a wounded soldier; a true angel in the midst of the battlefield. Therefore, i found the Royal Military College in Sungai Besi as my first stepping stone to turn my day dreams into something more tangible. But judging from my not-so-tall physique, i have to contend to the idea that the military is not made for a 'petite' guy like me. So, my fling with the military slowly laid to rest in time.

Until now.

I had been eying a book for a quite some time, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins and thankfully, i had the whole 2 weeks of my winter break in Spain to finish the book together with Amartya Sen's Development as Freedom, away from the hassles and packed schedule of my medical studies ( though i have tonnes of research paper to go through). All of the sudden, my long-forgotten dreams of being in service is raised from the dead, incarnated in a whole new form, utilising tools which i believe are more effective and systematic than the use of force and violence; developmental economics. Given my full time commitment in the medical field, i acknowledged that i am in no position of critiquing the the current state of the economy or suggesting economic models that could release millions of people from the shackles of poverty and famine. I am also well-informed that my inadequate knowledge of politics would not put my opinions of governance in a place where it will be valued.

But what i can say is this. i realised that most of us who are privileged enough to obtain a decent university education are not just bounded by the responsibility which are set on the piece of paper after completing our degrees, but it goes far and beyond that. Being pragmatist (maybe a bit of realist as well), i believe that our ignorance towards the issues around the world has led to further deterioration of what now can be classified as humanity crisis. It came to me that my list of duties and responsibilities also includes towards humanity and community, especially after i opted myself in medicine, and i realised that the least i can do to fulfill this call of duty is to be aware of what's going on in the world and the struggles of millions who are in dire need. I had a conversation once with Ammar Roslizar, and he instilled the idea in me that in this era, human science will prevail as a driving force of civilizations and whoever could master this realm of knowledge, he or she will become the masters of the world. This notion enticed me further to spur my understanding of development, governance and economy.

So, i might opted to go into the army, after my conversation with Saffa about the excitement of being in the military, maybe travel around the world to see and meet more people and to have a larger perspective of the world, or i can march myself towards the front lines, with governance and economy as my preparation, medicine as my uniform, values and principles as my compass, my voice and actions as weapons. Or God-forbid, i might not do anything.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Of sleepless nights 2

Whose very existence is sustained by superficial recognition and attention; fueled only by hauteur,

I rise above and beyond.

And i am capable of better.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Of sleepless night 1

I noticed recently that i showed signs of pseudo-imsonia, where my efforts of shutting my eyes to a good night sleep seem so futile. Rather than wasting my time counting sheeps, i feel my nocturnal active state of mind is best to be put to good use by brushing off the dust of my blog i left for more than a year, and hopefully, i can dozed myself to sleep with all the boring stuff i post on it.

My second year promises me a whole lot more clinical, with more patients and more real-life health conditions. Most medical students has this sexy fantasy of patients coming to them with a constellation of symptoms, and using their medical wisdom, they would trace them back to their diagnosis. Sounds something out of House, but in reality, it is not as exciting as it is on the tele. I thought that it would be dry; student gets patient's history, student figures out the diagnosis and treatment, student presents findings to the consultant, student gets his/her butt kick for giving the wrong diagnosis. Very typical. However, my recent sessions at the hospital and consultations have given me something more than what i bargained for.

Consultations room are windows to humanity at its darkest and finest hours. It is the very place where doctors would break the very bad news that would turn the patient's life upside down. At the same time, in that very same room, i watched courage prevails in the chaos of struggle and devastation. Their conditions are more serious than a mere fever and winter cold; these are conditions that shackle them to a life-long regime of drugs that they have to take in dozens a day. It's not easy to accept the fact that an expiration date has been put on you, and you see death lurking in every dark corners. But despite it all, they have shown great determination and courage to stay alive. Science can only do so much, but what really brings them through the ordeal are the very same thing you find in the eyes of a child in a refugee camp and in the tears of a single mother who raise her children all by herself; strength, courage and hope. It is at times of struggle, that men returns to their most admirable traits and qualities, which forever resonates into the lives of many, becoming a source of inspiration to those who seek or suffer.

And for every second i spend on this path, i am truly grateful.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Stand up agains poverty


On October 16, 17 and 18th, millions of people around the world will "Stand Up and Take Action" against poverty and for the Millennium Development Goals. The mobilization will send a clear message to world leaders that we refuse to be silent in the face of ongoing poverty and inequality. Stand Up & Take Action, coordinated by the UN Millennium Campaign and the Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP), is a global event in which citizens urge their leaders to keep their promises to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
We heard from organizers around the world about the many Stand Up events planned. These events include concerts, silent vigils, tree plantings, campus rallies and many more creative event ideas. Last year 116 million people participated, breaking the Guinness World Record for the largest mobilization around a single-cause event in recorded history.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Yellow and brown folders

I was somehow awaken from my sleep by an unrully and unexpected phonecall around 11 am. It was my mother at school, asking me to head straight to the school. It sounded urgent, but i was quite dubious of her summoning me early in the morning while she was at her workplace. Being my mom, i know far too well of her schemes. I took a short shower, and i was on my way to MRSM Kuantan.

My mom was waiting for me with that cheeky smile of her, signalling that i have a task waiting for me somewhere in the school. She brought me to a room where piles and piles of yellow and brown folder lie stacked on the floor. I know that what i was about ot do will involve me mendling with all those folders. They were folders of student's information, going back all the way to 2005. My mother's friend briefed me on the task in hand; i was to key in certain information of students into spreadsheets to be sent to MARA HQ. Being raised by MARA all my life, a little typing and keying in is the list i can do. Sounds easy, but the folders do not just contain names and personal details about them, but they hid a sorrow chorus of grimness which the families of these students had to endure in the secluded areas around Malaysia they call home.

One of the folder tells about a student who came from a family of 15 siblings. What shattered me was the fact that the only breadwinner in the family was a just a single mother, who worked as a Felda settler with a monthly income of just RM600. I just could not comprehend the idea of a single mother could feed such a huge family. My family spend at least RM 250 for groceries every fortnight, and my family is only 6 people big. Instead this is a woman who brought up 15 children with an RM 600 paycheck. My attempt to imagined the situation and the standard of living that they had to go through was beyond comprehend, emotionally and logically.

Another was about a student whose father was a pensioner who relies on RM 400 a month to raise a family of 7. One could not help to ponder what kind of life do they lead, what kind of shelter do they live in, what kind of food do they consume... questions that stabed and ached my heart.

These are a few of the many stories of families who had to endure such tribulations and hardships. After all this while, i though stories like theirs are only plots in soap dramas on the television. But these are true life accounts, real-life conditions which these families had to endure, but sadly go unnotice. I was fortunate enough to be born in a family which is able to provide more than my essentials. How would they have survived with that small amount of money in this very hard times.

How can i eat with ease when they are people out there who can't afford a decent meal and their staple food are just tubers and rice donated to them?

How can i wear the many clothes i have when there are people out there whose clothes are all torn and worn out by time and dirt?

How can i enjoy the comfort of my home when there are families who had to call a crammed one-room hut as their home?

It just kills me.......