The recent announcement by the Ministry of Health on the limitations imposed on scholarships enabling doctors to pursue their post graduate studies abroad came as a disappointment to many who aspire to have the experience overseas.

Reassurance however was given in the continuing medical education governed by local institutions which will facilitate desired courses according to the needs of our local doctors.

From July this year, those given scholarships no longer enjoyed additional perks to attend conferences, seminars or workshops while studying, said the Health Ministry deputy secretary-general (management) Datuk Saiful Anuar Lebai Hussen.

“If they need to go, they will have to bear the costs themselves,” he added.

Essence of continuing medical education would not be affected

Scholarships, fellowships and grants are the most sought financial aids by postgraduate students in the medical field as the related costs can be astronomical to shoulder. Medicine is all about continuous learning as advancement after advancement takes place with clinical research covering all therapeutic areas is an ongoing cycle.

This funding does not need to be reimbursed, provided that the recipients conform to all the terms and conditions applicable, which usually translates into years of service for the sponsors. Medical specialty fellowships and scholarships from local sponsoring universities also often come with requirements for recipients to publish their research work in academic journals, work part time in research faculties, or teach undergraduate classes. Cumulatively, these are all meant to serve the purpose of enhancing a wholesome learning experience.

Saiful Anuar said the ministry would not entertain requests for extra funds from recipients who needed to extend their duration of study.

“They will be allowed to continue if they are prepared to bear the additional costs,” he added.

Changes needed as times gets tougher

The current direction from MOH would also restrict spouse programmes for partners of those who received scholarships.

In response, Malaysian Medical Association president Dr John Chew Chee Ming embraced the move, commenting, “Although a little exposure overseas is always good, some can be done locally. Also, some sub-specialities can be developed locally, but with overseas faculties.”

While there is a lot we may learn from academic programmes abroad, it is time to now invest in our local medical institutions to ensure the quality of academia is on par with our global partners. Apart from saving costs naturally, it gives us an opportunity to first-hand experience the challenges faced in incorporating well established curriculum into local contexts. MIMS

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