One out of fourteen genetic pathologists in Malaysia, Dr Fatimah Azman shares her rewarding journey of studying medicine in Russia – a crucial time in her formative years that shaped who she is today.
Recognised as a well-rounded individual with achievements extending beyond academics to include excellence in extracurricular activities, sports, and leadership, Dr. Fatimah earned the opportunity to pursue her studies in a boarding school at the tender age of 13 in Tunku Kurshiah College, a prestigious all-girl’s boarding school in Malaysia.
After obtaining excellent results in her Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM), she was awarded a Public Service Department (JPA) scholarship, to study medicine in Russia. She undertook a three-month preparatory course at INTEC Education College, where she studied the basics of Russian language and culture before attending in Privolzhsky Research Medical University (formerly known as Nizhny Novgorod State Medical Academy)
A land steeped in arts, culture and science
Russia boasts a wide array of notable achievements in a vast expanse of fields. This encompasses being pioneers in space exploration – as one will almost instantly associate Russia with Yuri Gagarin, the Russian cosmonaut who was the first man in space.
In the medical community, Russia is known to make great strides in medical advancements and discoveries. One of the many contributions over the recent years, is evidenced in the Sputnik V vaccine which was the first registered coronavirus vaccine, the deadly virus which has crippled the globe.
Due to its long-winding history of scientific and technological conquests, it is surprising that students from all over the globe came to this country to further their studies in the field of science.
There are no shortcuts to any place worth going
Dr Fatimah looks back with pride and wistful nostalgia as she recalls her six years of studying medicine in Russia.
One of the challenges that she had to face there was getting used to the cold weather, as Russia is known for their frigid winters. This girl from the sunny city of Kuala Lumpur, had to adapt to the negative celsius of Siberia which is a factor one needs to mentally prepare for prior to living there.
Although she underwent a Russian language preparatory course in INTEC, three months was too brief a time to master this language. Dr Fatimah had to continue studying the language by enrolling into classes provided by the university, focusing on learning medical terminologies in Russian.
While the lectures were conducted in English, it was still necessary to converse in the local language with patients during clinical rounds.
Dr Fatimah marvels at the amount of knowledge that Russia has to offer. Due to the ‘villainisation’ of this nation in pop culture, the technological advancements achieved there are not talked about much in the world. As the imposing sanctions and political turmoil continues to grow, valuable knowledge is not easily accessible to people outside of this country.
A proud product of Russian education
Russia has produced many Malaysian doctors. It is a popular destination for medical studies as some of the medical institutions are well-recognised by the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC). Affordability is also comparable to studying in Malaysia.
Dr. Fatimah is currently the head of molecular genetics at Hospital Tunku Azizah, the national referral center for genetic testing. In addition to leading the molecular genetics department at Hospital Tunku Azizah, she also participated in the Cytogenetics & Molecular Genetics Training Programme at IRCCS Istituto Giannina Gaslini, Italy, in 2019 to further deepen her knowledge and contribute to the field in Malaysia.
Moulding her character to undertake such a demanding task did not happen overnight. She attributed it partly to the intense and harsh environment she endured during her undergraduate days in Russia. All the challenges that she faced; has made her the agile doctor she is now.