Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Is it difficult to study medicine?

**Warning : This is a very boring post**

Many people asked me this question : "Is it easy difficult to study medicine?" In the past, my friends used to tell me that STPM is the most difficult exam, and once you enter college or university, life is much easier and fun. Few hours lectures a day and lotsa free times on our own. This might be applicable to some courses but definitely not medicine (as well as few other courses). The hardship just begun when the medical students enter medical faculty. University life is tough. Really no joke. We have long hours lecture daily from 8 am in the morning till late afternoon followed by practical session, lab session, dissecting session & tutorial till 5 pm; everyday. STPM is just "kacang" or peanut if we compare with medical faculty. My fellow friends from other faculties have long end of semester and end of year break, but not us. On weekends, we need to burrow our heads deep in books, need to stay back late in the ward or libraries, need to brush up our clinical skills etc etc. No party or outing till late night...

These are the subjects or modules that I have to study throughout my 5 years in medical faculty during my undergraduate time... I hope I didn't miss out anything.
  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Anatomy
  • Histology
  • Embryology
  • Pharmacology
  • Pathology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Clinical Medicine (Infectious Disease, Neurology, Nephrology, Cardiology, Endocrinology, Nephrology, Cardiology, Respiratory, Gastroenterology, Haematology, Rheumatology, Hepatobiliary, Dermatology, Oncology)
  • Surgery
  • Paediatrics & Neonatology
  • Obstetric & Gynaecology
  • Community Health
  • Epidemiology
  • Statistics
  • Anaesthesiology
  • Urology
  • Psychiatry
  • Family Medicine
  • Orthopaedic & Traumatology
  • Ophthalmology
  • Otorhinolaryngology (ENT/ORL)
  • Radiology
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Forensic Pathology
These are just some of my collection of medical textbooks and handbooks... These are only roughly 1/3 of my whole collection. Yeah, I still keep some of the books (I had given away to juniors or sold off at cheaper price quite a number of my medical books). And, I don't keep medical journals and notes.

Seems like so many things to study.. So many things to remember.. And yet so little time, and worst still we have limited brain cells to remember all these things !!

Graduation is indeed the most happy moment after I finished my medical school days. But... this is not the end yet. It just marks the beginning of another phase. The beginning of another long winded and tortuous journey. Working as houseman or house officer or intern is another "horrible" phase. I would never want to go through that again !! I can write few hundred pages on my experiences as working as intern.

I still need to upgrade my knowledge every now and then. Medicine is a life learning process. No short-cut though. Cos we are dealing with human lives. We cannot afford to make any mistakes. And.. honestly, being a doctor is not glamorous at all. Publics alway have the impression that doctors are great & high class people, very rich & very much admired.. Is it really so? Quite a number of my doctor colleagues are still struggling hard, trying to make both ends meet. After working for more than 8 years as a doctor, I will say that ... "I'm tired".

I will never encourage my relatives or younger friends to step their feet into this field, if they ask for my humble opinion. To step into this field, not only we need to have a certain level of intelligence, we also need lotsa compassion, good, caring and humane personality, able to think fast, able to handle emergencies and life threatening situations, inquisitive, able to handle our emotions, good PR skills, have confident appearance so that the patient will trust our judgements and be respectful to others - our fellow colleagues as well as our patients.

These are some of my important handbooks. Something handy yet concise to carry around. But now with the availability of PDA, things have become much easier..


Winn said...


Winn said...

doc is very 'wai tai' la..n very knowleageable..

ya i know being a doc is diffucult, hectic life, have to standby for emergencies ..a lot to study and all...dun think u'll get tired la..coz u can save ppl.we cant. dont u feel like a superwoman? :)

This is ur passion rite?

have u tot of operating own clinic one day?

may said...

is it easy to study anything, for that matter, if your heart's not in it? heheh!

all I can say is, I have great respect for Doktors. and that's definitely YOU, Doktor Chen, O Great Stalker Supreme and Ah Boy Lover!!

angel said...

Liuzzz liuzzzzzzz...

angel said...

I no liu to study medicine... but me thinks u are very the pannai, can becum doctor... phui fook...

Chen said...

how come u r so fast? I'm amazed..
Chup ah? u want a gold syringe or gold needle? :P

wah.. no need to "chak hai" woh.. I don't have anything to give u :P

aiyak, I'm just a normal human being, of cuz I can get tired lah.. Last time used to work over the clock for 36 hours non stop when on call... now cannot liao.. getting old already, what to do? Superwoman? I just want to be someone ordinary can liao :D

Opening up own clinic? Mmmmm... thought of it occasionally previously but I don't think so lah.. (p/s: No free MC woh.. and I don't sell MC also, kekekeke)

I know there are people who take up the course cos of family pressure.. :D (Not me lah..)

I want early retirement... kekeke..
U talk like that make me feel like floating in the air for few seconds, hahahha....

liuzzzz = Zzzzzz?

Feel too bored reading the post till falling asleep halfway? Hope u didn't drip any saliva on your pillow :P

TQ TQ :)

angel said...

No no... u said boring post ahead, so i just put boring zzzzz sign first lor...

What about doctors without borders? Just asking nia...

Daniel Yiek said...

Medicine is a tough course but it's how you balance life. Working in a gov hospital has lower pay and usually longer hours. My private GP here closes Sat & Sun to enjoy his passion in music. Some private GPs here work like there's no tommorrow to earn $. Net,'s what you want in life. There's always time if a person know how to prioritise. My neurosurgeon friend in Kuching had to leave our annual CNY dinner to go back for emergency surgery and then came back! That's life.

Chen said...

I really respect those doctors without borders as well as missionary doctors. Something very noble. I have a friend/colleague who is interested in becoming missionary doctors :)

Nowadays, GP need to work long hours especially for those who just established their clinics. No doubt can get good $$$ but need to sacrifise personal time, and no social lives. I have GP friends who open their clinics daily including Saturday, Sunday & public holidays. Earning so much $$ but no time to enjoy. What's the purpose?

I think I know the neurosurgeon u r talking about - the doctor from Sarikei, right? I met him once or twice previously when I work in Sarawak General Hospital, I guess in the early 2000.

Cynthia said...

Pharmacy is not easy either. *sigh*.
SO many things to study.. can vomit blood everyday one ...=(

Chen said...

hehhe, I know I know :D
pharmacokinetic, pharmacodynamics etc etc.... cheer up, gal. Ur graduating soon, right? ;)

L B said...

I wanna study spells, become bomoh, send smoke signals, read morse code, learn how to spell fork, and shine torchlights at people in steamy cars at night..

day-dreamer said...

Wow! Medical students do study a lot of subjects! Suddenly I wonder why I was grumbling over my combination of subjects... *face reddening*

I understand that being a doctor is not at all a glamorous affair, quite on the contrary to what most people think. I think that is also why the Government made the JPA scholarship applicants (for medicine) attend a mandatory 3-day "visit" to the hospital to see the doctors' and nurses' profession. I applaud this move as it really lets one know the hard side of being a doctor. There are numerous people who decide not to become a doctor after the three-day course, but those passionate ones decided to get on with their dreams.

Some doctors may get very high pay... but compared to the work they have to put in to get that amount, I personally think that some of them (met some nasty doctors before) really deserve it.

Hope you can continue to contribute as a doctor!

Winn said...


now i know. chat hai no prize wann...i din ask a lot..i onli want a whole stack of MCs and yah a golden syringe to jab LB:D

recycle syringe ya:P

eh next time ur clinic, sell coffee oso la..then we can go there lepak..

slurp! said...

while i'm not in medical field, i believe it depends on which area you specialized. by specializing in Anaesthesia & pain therapy, you always be needed in emergencies. and emergencies are always hectic.

i think it's a matter of how to balance your life. ah! easier said then done, but once you worked your own formula, i'm sure you enjoy both your work & life equally well.

try lookout for successful doctors to learn & model from. if they can manage, so can you. cheers!

fred said...

gee...being a doctor is really hard work. experience is important.. one of my friend who studying to become Medical Assistant say one of the young doc' dunno what to do when facing emergency situation, my friend need to do all the stuff... that's another story lah...

Chen said...

study become bomoh? what a great "idea", and... don't simply shine torchlight :D

day dreamer,
A very lengthy comment from u :)

IMHO, the 3 day visit actually should include the attachment together with one of the doctor on call and tagging together with the doctor throughout the day & night to experience the real thing ;) Then only they can experience what is it about.

so "tam sim"? want whole stack of MC? I better lock my MC in a safe place, later MIA then susah.. hahahha..

Golden syringe with big bore needle? I get it ;) If u want it to be recycle needle, u can cucuk the ayam, then cucuk the itik etc etc.. the needle will become recycle needle LOL (giving bad example here, hahaha) - please don't follow this.

Open clinic & sell coffee at the same time? Become kopitiam 2-in-1 clinic ah?

Chen said...

Haha, don't worry.. Grumbles or grouses is part & parcle of life ;) We do create jokes on & off.. Doctors nowadays are not the "square face physicians" like what is always being portrayed in the past :) We are "all rounded" now, no longer square, hahhaa..

I know what you mean. There are young doctors or very junior doctors who just graduated and who are inexperienced.. They dunno how to handle life threatening situations initially cos lack of experience :) Well, there are always more senior doctors around in the hospital - the more senior medical officers or specialists. Do not hesistate to call for help if they can't handle, cos as junior doctor, they are not expected to know everything. :)

黄德峻 said...

yea.. med is harder than anything else

Pink Cotton said...

chen, i never imagine you to say that you wont recommend your relatives to enter this field...hahahaa.

i used to like this field A LOT!!!..somehow i didnt manage to do it lo :( not clever enuf kua..wahahaha

but now that you say it ... i think it is really a challenging field lo...oen small mistake and the consequences is great, rite?

Simple American said...

Won't you be glad when all of those books are digital? So much stuff to learn. I stick to accounting until I write a blockbuster novel..

CK said...

For me HSC/STPM was certainly not like peanut, tough years too.That seem like remote past.I thought my med school years went a little better even with the long grueling hours.After med school(not in M'sia),I took a different path and did my internship and residency in US.No question internship year is tough no matter where you go.Learnt a lot in a year.Kind of grow up in a hurry.I still like to do medicine, can't think of anything else I will do other than medicine.Except may be retire early. Somedays are better than others. There are no perfect days and I just have to live with that.I take Friday afternoon off and return to do half a day on Saturday. Sunday is off. Those are time for my family and kids.Once in a while, I take my kids to the to the major league baseball game here and we enjoy it.
We're here for a long haul and don't want to get burnout. Sometimes we just have to slow down and relax a little.Just have to balance personal family life and work.
Am I going to recommend that to my kids and relatives? I think medicine is still high on the list. I won't push for it.It all depend on them. If they have the interest and passion to do it, sure why not?

Chuang Shyue Chou said...

Hey, this is by far your most interest post you have posted so far! It's nothing boring!

Thanks! I find it very informative too.

It's a different perspective alright.

Chen said...


pink cotton,
it's real. Not only I have that thinking, but majority of my colleagues also have similar thinking.. Lotsa people think this is a glamour profession or can earn big bucks.. (yeah, there are few doctors out there who can earn big bucks but those are just minorities. Lotsa others still need to struggle hard).

mmm... actually I prefer reading printed text book than digital books. I like to flip pages or highlight the important points or draw lines ;) can't do that on digital books.

Chen said...

I guess u r Dr Lau? Sorry, I haven't reply your email yet.. I dunno lah, for me if comparing STPM with medical course, STPM suddenly become very easy :D

Good u can have time to relax and take your time off :) I see most of the GP here works long hour. If they want to take some time off, they will hire locums. There is still very high demand for locums cos of the poor pay in the government sector. Those who need extra $$ will have to sacrifice their after work time to do locum. I even have friends who do overnight locum and go back to hospital to work the next day.... How not to feel tired in such scenario? :)

chuang sc,
glad u enjoy the post. Not everyone like to read this sort of write up :)

eve said...

i m a GP who works fr mon to sun n oso PH...i m not money crazy or's just tat i have put so much of effort n time into making the clinic a success n i feel it's a shame if i have to close it on sundays n PH...n oso , i kinda miss my patients ( i know this sounds so unreal , but it's the truth)..the other day i had to close for 4 hrs cos i was having this realli bad vomitting becos my pregnancy..n the patients turn up later tat day asking me why i close the clinic..i told them the reason , n felt bad cos they had to wait for me even when they r sick...some aunties even offer some time proven methods to get rid of the hyperemesis..hehe..see , it's this kinda of relationship with patients tat i yearn's not so much the money..i even give discounts to students n senior citizens...i m oredi worrying , who is going to take care of my patients when i take leave for my delivery?..

Chen said...

keep up the good work, eve :)
i'm proud of u :)

Anonymous said...

Oooo...I've not even started working and I'm already feeling tired :(

And worse still...stupid.

Kristopher said...

Medicine...i don dare to think bout it...hehehe last time, in Uni, when walk through those medical lab or something forgot the name where the student cut those bodies.....almost fainted and the smell is horrible...when the uni held an Open Day, walk in the lab, see all those "Spare" parts in bottle, almost fainted lo...hehehe i also have a medical student freind who dare to sleep on the table where he cut those bodies...sheeshhh...

Chen said...

aiyoh.. u are still in the beginning of the journey :) U still need to continue with the struggle ;) During certain point during the journey, we will somehow feel that we are inadequate or not knowleadgeable etc etc... Most importantly, don't compare yourself with your other coursemates. Each & everyone of us is different. Just do your best :)

That is the dissecting hall. If u are interested to have a peep, I have a post on it, regarding the dissection session in the past :P

Nothing scary or spooky inside there lah..

CK said...

I know there are lots of GP that work 7 days a week especially back home.Here, hardly any private doctor offices open on weekends(Sat and Sunday).I guess different system or docs back home are just more dedicated.Those open on weekends here are urgent care centers and ER/ or ED.If patients have a true emergency on weekends, they go to one of those places to be seen.Anything non-emergency, they will wait till Monday.
I did work at other places on some weekends when I was younger.Sort of we all pay our dues.When we have kids I started to taper off those weekend hours at other places. There is only so many hours you can work. I'm glad that patients here generally understand you have a family and you need some time off. Then when I'm there during your office hours I put in my best effort to listen to their concerns, do a thorough history and physical,treat them and make them feel better.I guess that way we don't feel guilty taking time off.
I hope you don't do much overnight locums as you have to stay awake during the day.
And you got my last name right.

Chen said...

yeah, most GP work 7 days a week in Malaysia, including night time, weekends and public holidays . Some open their clinics 24 hours a day (partnership).

I don't do locum. Getting old already :) I prefer to rest during my free time than working extra hours (not desperate for $$ yet at the moment)