The highlights of Part 1 will be four leading women in healthcare who have contributed to the country’s firsts, who are inspiration to many and who are making waves in the healthcare industry. They are showing the world that they are women of worth—symbolising a #WOW force of nature not to be meddled with. We scooch over and have a little ‘upclose-n-personal’ chat with the first guest of our #WOW series, Dr Jezamine Lim Iskander—and find out how she does it all.
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One on one with Dr Jezamine Lim IskanderA wife, mother, doctor, company director, event planner—is there anything that Dr Jezamine can’t do? The epitome of success, she is driven by the desire to succeed in everything she puts her mind to and encourages all the women in the world to go for what they want. At 34, Jezamine seems to already have it all—and by all, in a woman’s dictionary, is that balance between personal and professional life. A woman of substance indeed, this model-doctor, who graduated from Melaka Manipal Medical College with a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS), wowed the nation when she became the first female doctorate candidate in Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) to be awarded a PhD in stem cells and tissue engineering.
On top of that, Jezamine is also the director of Harith Iskander V Day Productions Sdn Bhd, where she has produced two international comedy festivals. That’s right, she also manages the career of her husband, Harith Iskander—Malaysia’s godfather of stand-up comedy—who went on to become 2016 Laugh Factory’s Funniest Person in The World.
While pursuing her masters and PhD, Jezamine had also given birth to their three beautiful children: Zander Xayne Iskander, five; Alessandra Jayne Iskander, four; and Zydane Xayne Iskander, two. Through Yakin Medic, she went from becoming an intern in 2016 to being offered a directorship—marking the beginning of her entrepreneurial endeavour. In 2017, under her leadership, the company was listed as SME Top 100 Emerging Companies.
1. Share with us your journey—how did you get to where you are today?
While many have encouraged me to continue the conventional medical pathway, there were also others who encouraged me to “break the rules”—and challenge the status quo. In the process of identifying what and how I could contribute back to the society (a voice in the medical industry), I opened a restaurant—without even knowing how to cook! It was a struggle, trust me—but, I like challenges. The ‘soul-searching’ then led me to UKM’s Tissue Engineering Centre (TEC), where I applied for the master’s programme (in which TEC founder Professor Datuk Dr Ruszymah Idrus, and TEC head Associate Professor Dr Angela Ng Min Hwei, were co-supervisors). I knew it was going to be challenging; but I said to myself if I could start a restaurant from scratch, why can’t I do lab work? And that marked the start of my doctorate journey.
Through it all, I realised when I honour my commitment—and follow through—it will become a cycle. At the end of the day, it's about what we want—and what we want to achieve. When you put your mind to it, anything is possible.
2. Looking back, what was the biggest challenge that you had to face?
I would say my pregnancy—and also, breastfeeding! [Smiles] I started [my doctorate] journey without a baby. And, after I registered for my masters, I found out that I was pregnant with my first son. When I started on my PhD, I was pregnant with my second child—and I delivered my third child when I was due to submit my thesis. I came back from the hospital and one week later, I was already at my desk writing my thesis. (Jezamine had to come back to campus for her lab work just two weeks after her second delivery.)
3. How do you juggle between your career and family?
When I was looking at the life of doctors; for example, surgeons—I was constantly wondering when do they spend time with their kids? When is their family time? I didn’t see the ‘balance’ and that’s not the life that I want for myself. There came a point where I use to wonder if this was the only way for me to serve and give back to the community. I then realised that there are many other ways for me to do that—as long as I can fit in my vision of what I want and how to do it.
I would say being disciplined and the desire to want it all—my family and also, my career—keep me on track. The determination did not emerge overnight, certainly. But, I guess being a national Taekwondo fighter (when I was 14 years old)—the exposure of having been trained to fight my way through—and be very disciplined—has helped me a lot.
4. Your proudest moment as a woman…
To be able to juggle my career and my family. A work-life balance. It wasn’t easy… and, I am still learning each day. But after seven years, I think it has moulded me into the strong woman that I am today. It was certainly a tough training for me—but, because I went through all that, I believe I can go through anything in life.
5. Any advice for those who wish to follow your footsteps?
Things have changed so much and are moving so fast in this world we are living today—that they are no longer confined to only your books. Go out, and mingle with people who are outside of your industry. Find out what's new. Take MBA students, for example: they get to learn from people of various fields. We should work towards this ‘new’ era—and try to see what fits us right now—to remain ‘relevant’. MIMS
“At the end of the day, it's about what we want—and what we want to achieve.” – Dr Jezamine Lim Iskander
Don't miss out our next #WOW leading woman in healthcare—to be revealed on 12 March. Look out for more updates and join our discussions on MIMS Malaysia Facebook page—your platform to Engage, Inform and Inspire.