Hope you are all doing OK!
In this blog I would like to tell you about myself. I was born in Malaysia and lived there till I was 19 years old. My ambition was to be a doctor from a very young age. I wanted to help people and make them better.
I came from a privileged family and my father wanted me to be educated in Medicine in an English Speaking University. I had a choice of going to Aberdeen or Adelaide. I chose to attend a University in Adelaide as it was closer to Malaysia, 6 hour flight journey instead of a 13 hour flight journey.
In my 6th year of medicine in Adelaide I could choose to go anywhere in the world to do my medical elective. I did my elective in an Accident and Emergency Department in London for 6 weeks. I chose London as my sister lived in London with her husband and it was an opportunity to be with them. I was impressed at how multicultural Britain was. I visited several places in the United Kingdom during my stay. I felt part of the community and I was only a visitor.
During my stay I applied for a job as I wanted to work in the UK. I got a job as a junior doctor in Aberdeen! It must be my fate to go to Aberdeen. I went back to Adelaide to complete my degree and 26 years ago, I moved to the UK as a migrant doctor with a Malaysian Passport and an Autralian degree.
My friend, who also qualified in Australia, and I moved to the UK together and we supported each other settle into UK life. It wasn’t difficult. People were friendly, accepting and appreciated what we did. We made friends easily and had a great social life. We however did work hard, quite often starting work at 8 am on a Friday morning and not getting back to our junior doctor accomodation till 5pm on a Monday evening, only having had 4 hours of sleep all that time. Quite often working every day for 10 to 14 days without a break.
When I moved to Aberdeen the first person I met is now my husband .We worked well together. We became good friends. If I had taken the Aberdeen offer, I would have known him 6 years earlier and we would have graduated together!
As a junior doctor, I had worked on Medical wards, Surgical wards and Accident and Emergency. Friday nights were the busiest and quite often I would be the only doctor seeing all patients from midnight till the next morning. It was stressful.
I then did 3 years in Obstetrics and Gynaecology and obtained my Postgraduate Degree from The Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. It was a proud moment.
After we got married, I felt being a hospital doctor woudn’t be easy if I wanted a family. There were limited options for part time working 22 years ago in the hospitals. I wanted to have time with my children when I had them. General Practice had more flexible working hours. Things have changed since, and now women have better opportunities to work part time both in primary care and secondary care.
I have been a General Practitioner for 20 years and am pleased with my chosen career path. I love seeing patients and I love getting to know them. It is also challenging trying to figure out what medical problem someone has, in the 10 minutes that you have with them and deciding if someone is ill enough to be sent into hospital .
I held onto my Malaysian citizenship till 2016. If I had applied for a British citizenship at any time, I would have lost my Malaysian citizenship. Not having British citizenship to me did not mean I did not consider myself a British Resident. I haven’t even changed my last name to my husband’s when we got married and I am happily married for 22 years. A passport or a name itself does not indicate loyalty.
However in 2016, I started feeling different and I started to feel like an outsider. I was worried that I could be ‘kicked’ out of Britain. My husband and kids are British. Working and paying my taxes for 20 over years didn’t seem to matter anymore.
I have experienced racism in the last few years, for the first time after living in the UK for 22 years. I got fed up of the multiple abuses I got while especially while driving in my car. Like it was a perfect opportunity to shout out something nasty to me and then drive away quickly. My young daughters were seeing it all too. I got a dash cam in my car to record these abusers.
People would speed past a zebra crossing as I am standing by it waiting to cross. Over the phone I was asked by a patient to give her an appointment with an ‘English’ Doctor. I have had my car tyres slashed and my car scratched. I have family and friends say to me that they have encountered more racism recently than ever before. It suddenly became OK to be discriminatory, as it was people’s right to say what they wanted no matter how much it may upset the other. I lodged a police report as I wanted my experiences recorded by them. A police officer called me back and said they too have had higher numbers of hate crime recorded in the last few years.
When the first few deaths in health care workers was reported, I noticed they were all of BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) origin. I noticed that several of the doctors interviewd in the news channels were of BAME origin. Several of the nurses have been of BAME origin. Several NHS workers and Care home workers are from Europe too.
I said to my husband, I hope the public now realise how the NHS and the Care System is supported by many ‘foreigners’ from all over the world including Europe.
I did not come to the UK to be a ‘rich doctor’. I could have earned lots more money working in Malaysia. My parents did not understand why I did not choose to work in Malaysia. I came to the UK because I felt democracy, equality and being ethical mattered more than money.
There are currently so many messages around wishing for a perfect world when this pandemic is over. A world where our fast paced life is slowed down, family life and time spent with friends and the vulnerable are prioritised over materialistic items, and where health comes before wealth. I hope acceptance of one another despite race, religion, age, gender, sexuality, social economic status and disability makes this wish list too.