Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Masters Programme application

I remember when I was thinking about applying for my Masters Programme in Orthopedics, trying to look for information on the web.

I googled every single phrase possible - sarjana perubatan, cara memohon, prosedur memohon (in both English and Bahasa) - and nothing. Basically, one relies on word of mouth and from seniors who had already been chosen.

Basically, there are two important steps involved. Somewhere in April, the application for Hadiah Latihan Persekutuan (HLP) will be out. I knew about it from colleagues who were also keen to apply that same year. Application has to be made online and you have to get a PIN number from BSN. What you do is you go to BSN and fill in a form for sarjana perubatan and pay a fee of (I think) RM25. You log on with this PIN number and fill up your application. You get three tries in case you need to amend anything. After the dateline, you will get a confirmation about your application.

You MUST MUST apply for HLP before you apply for the Masters Programme. HLP is the 'scholarship' that the KKM gives you in order for you to continue your studies. Basically one has to be below the age of 40 at date of application (I don't think many MOs above the age of 40 would want to go through 4+ years of studying anyway), have been in service for 3 years, have been confirmed and have obtained an average of 85% and above for the yearly review (Sasaran Kerja Tahunan).

Then you wait.

In September, the actual Masters Programme application form will be out and you will have to fill in several forms, depending on the number of universities you have applied to. I would advise putting at least three, giving you at least one chance of being called. You will need passport photographs, references from your bosses and finally you post them all to the respective unis.

One of the interesting questions asked in the application form is to write a 100-word essay on why you chose this particular specialty. I was told to write in Bahasa but wanting to be different, and considering UIA's medium is English, I gave both. Apparently, one other candidate who is also in the current Ortho programme did the same. So, I say, never hurts to try.

Try to be different in your essay. Make yourself stand out as someone passionate and in possession of a personality.

Then you wait a little more and with luck, you will be called for an interview in February or March. All unis now have some sort of an entrance exam. Apparently O&G have one of the hardest. Other specialties are following suit as every year there are increasing number of candidates, so they need a filter system to weed out those who may not be so suitable.

I must say my interview did not go that well and I was more than 80% sure I wasn't going to be chosen. As I was the first one to be called, my interviewers were interrupted a few times that I wasn't sure whether they actually listened to what I had to say.

I had worked in a district hospital with a small Ortho unit but being small, it meant I had to do almost everything. My experience was limited to open procedures and I was hugely disadvantaged by other candidates who could put in locking nails with one eye closed and their right hand tied behind them, but I had hoped that my many years (compared to other candidates who had been working for only 4-5 years, as opposed to me who had been working for 9 years) would at least give me the maturity and experience advantage.

I don't know what it was that made the lecturers choose me but I must have shown them something.

So, if they say you can't be picked for working in a district hospital, they are wrong. I know of one other MO who was also chosen, despite working in a district hospital. Mainly it is how you carry yourself during your interview. A good word put in by your boss can help too, I think. Try to participate in non-work activities too - be a committee member, play sports, help with organizing courses - every little thing helps.

I was asked by my boss to be leader in the QAP project twice and at that time I was moaning and whining about it but looking back I am thankful. It may not be much, but it will give you something to talk about and put you just a little ahead of the other MOs who haven't done things like that.

Finally, during the interview, you may feel a little intimidated looking at all the other applicants - you may think that they have done more procedures than you or are cleverer than you but first and foremost, believe in yourself. If you have genuine passion for what you are doing and most importantly ikhlas (sincere) - I think it does show.

Good luck!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


I am lying on the floor as I write this. Moving has been stressful - the process of finding the perfect house, furnishing it - I don't think I'd want to go through it anytime soon. We've got the vital pieces of furniture in (and when I say vital, that means an aircond and ASTRO) and it is now livable but still far from being my ideal home.

Being a newbie threw me off for the first week. Getting accustomed to new wards and the clinic and having pass overs took much of my mental capabilities but now that that has passed, I am glad that my Ortho head has come back to me. I am still lost when managing and preparing cases for TKRs and ILNs but I think I will be alright.

I miss the good relationship that I had with my former boss. Back then I knew almost all of the cases even when they had their operations, I would memorise the OT list from two weeks ahead and sometimes acted as my boss's PA, reminding him about xray meetings and CMEs.

The house is great - it's in a nice area, clean and has a huge lawn. If the owner wasn't asking such a ridiculous price for it, I think we would be happy to make it permanent.

It may be too early to say, but I think I will be happy here.