Professor Dr Abdul Latiff bin Mohamed graduated with an MD from University Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), where he was awarded the Best Overall Student in 1989. He completed his postgraduate studies in the UK where he obtained his MRCP from The Royal Colleges of Physicians in 1993, and a PhD in Cardiology from the University of Leeds in 1996.

After he returned to Malaysia in 1996, he worked in UKM as a lecturer until the year 2000. He then decided to leave the government sector and accepted an associate professorship at International Medical University (IMU).

In 2005, he set up Cyberjaya University College of Medical Sciences (CUCMS) with his peers and created a unique curriculum for medical students.

One on one with Professor Dr Abdul Latiff

Dr Abdul Latiff believes that medical training should be made enjoyable. Doctors treat people, and if they are happy with themselves, they will in turn make their patients happy as well. Photo credit: Prof Latiff
Dr Abdul Latiff believes that medical training should be made enjoyable. Doctors treat people, and if they are happy with themselves, they will in turn make their patients happy as well. Photo credit: Prof Latiff

1. Have you always wanted to become a doctor?

I fell in love with the profession while training to become a doctor. It was never my childhood dream or plan. I like to listen to people and wanting to help them just comes naturally to me. Then I thought, being a doctor gives me the opportunity to do that! People will come to me, so I don’t have to look for people in need of help.

Applying my knowledge and experience in one situation or another, and seeing the solutions materialising in front of my eyes are probably the reasons why I stay with the profession.

I find that the people who appreciate us the most are those who have been deprived in their life. It could be either financially, or the lack of necessary facilities, especially in the rural areas.

If you do something to help the people who need it the most, the satisfaction is outstanding.

2. What was your biggest motivation in obtaining a PhD qualification?

I have always wanted to help people, so being a clinician was a definite choice. But early on in my career, I knew that I wanted to teach medical students so they in turn can help others.

My mother was a teacher, and both of my brothers are also teachers. It's like we are programmed to have that passion to share knowledge.

I was reminded that to teach medical students to become good doctors, you must have a qualification that was above and beyond a basic medical degree. That motivated me to study and gain as much experience as possible so that I will be a good example to my students.

The motivation was the opportunity to be trained well so I can train others well too.

3. Could you share with us your experience being a father while pursuing your studies and working as a doctor?

When we got married, my wife has already graduated as a dentist and I must say that she played a very important role in taking care of our children. We had two children when I was still a student, our second was born when I was in my final year. After completing housemanship, we got our third child and my youngest was born while we were in the UK for my postgraduate studies.

While I was busy with my studies, she coped with working as a dentist and taking care of the household. She sacrificed a lot and I owe it to her for doing the most in bringing up our children.

We also had good family support, and that was the most important thing. We stayed with my mother at that time, and my wife felt quite comfortable bringing up our children in that environment.

4. All your children are doctors, right? Did you give them any tips, or encourage them to pursue this profession? What’s your secret?

That was not part of the plan. I was very busy with my profession but I also wanted to spend time with my family. There was no way for me to see patients at home, so sometimes I brought my children to work with me.

Since young, they saw me doing ward rounds, running clinics, talking to patients, etc. I also did a lot of humanitarian work and they accompanied me to perform medical services in rural areas. They grew up seeing their father at work, so that was probably how they became interested in the profession.

Prof Latiff and his family during Hari Raya 2017. Photo credit: Dr Atikah Latiff
Prof Latiff and his family during Hari Raya 2017. Photo credit: Dr Atikah Latiff

5. Did you have a role model or a person you look up to on how to raise your children?

Yes, my mother. She had to take care of three boys alone after my father passed away. It was a difficult year as all three of us had important examinations but she persevered and did a great job in raising us.

My mother promised us two things: to give us good education and to help us find a decent life partner. As she fulfilled her promises to me and my brothers, I felt that I should do the same for my children. I did not promise my children luxury, but I try to keep my promise for these two things.

All my children decided to follow my footsteps and got married while they were medical students. The older three married doctors, but my youngest decided to marry an engineer instead.

6. Do you have any advice or words of wisdom to those who aspire to follow your footsteps?

Don't. (laughs) I feel that everyone should do whatever that makes them happy, and that is not the same for everyone, right? Don't just allow yourself to be happy by following orders. Everyone should reflect on what makes them happy and strive for it.

Don't stay in your comfort zone for too long. Always try to think about how things can be different, and how you can make changes that will benefit others.

Help people in whatever way we can; it could be financially, relieving their misery, educating, or sharing knowledge and experience.

But the most important aspect of being happy is to have blessings from God. When you help others and make them happy, your life will be blessed and God will put everything in place for you. MIMS

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