A doctor in the hospital, and a sprinter on the field, Dr Arif Chapiti shares his story of the struggle of aligning his love for the two, and adapting under the given circumstances.
As emergency rooms across the nation struggle to cope with the increasing number of patients, doctors find themselves challenged in all aspects.
Dr Arif Chapiti, made a salient observation in his 3-year stint as an emergency medicine doctor; one needs to be swift and agile tending to patients as some diagnoses can be time-sensitive.
“As an Emergency and Trauma doctor, I need to be fast, yet still keeping calm. It requires both mental and physical athletics to make split-second decisions that can mean life or death.”
An early kick start
A doctor by profession, but a sprinter by passion; Dr Arif found a way to find a common ground between his love for the two.
Growing up in a military family, Dr Arif’s father instilled core values such as discipline and a drive for excellence even at a very young age.
At the tender age of nine, he knew that he found his passion running along the race tracks and pushing his limits each time.
Sports has played such an enormous role in every stage of his life, from school up until his career as a doctor.
Experience at INTEC
After excelling in both academics and sports in his high school, Sekolah Menengah Sains Selangor (SMSS), Dr Arif was then offered a scholarship to pursue his studies.
His scholarship entails studying medicine in a renowned university in Ireland – University College Dublin (UCD). Prior to going there, he underwent a two-year preparatory course at INTEC Education College.
INTEC is a pre-university education centre that boasts an array of different programmes ranging from A levels to diploma to professional accountancy programmes. Promising future professionals are prepared for the upcoming realities and intricacies they will need to face during their undergraduate years abroad.
“INTEC gave me a broader picture of what studying medicine in UCD would be like. It made me introspect and mentally prepared myself to undertake the challenging task of studying medicine.”
The UCD-RUMC experience
After securing a scholarship to study medicine, Dr Arif undertook his medical studies in a transnational programme with University College Dublin and Penang Medical School now known as RUMC (RCSI & UCD Malaysia Campus).
This unique transnational programme gives students the best of both worlds, studying the first two and a half years in Ireland for their pre-clinical years, and then completing their clinical training in a local setting.
Dr Arif deliberately chose to pursue his studies in University College Dublin, not only for the sterling academic reputation it offers, but also for the world-class sporting facilities.
It is one of the universities of choice for national athletes in Ireland, and Dr Arif wanted to compete and go head-to-head with the best.
He reminisced fondly memories of him joining a local athletics event for a hundred metre run during the month of Ramadan.
“Fasting during summer in Dublin can be quite challenging as the hours are longer, up to 19 hours of fasting. Imagine taking your sahoor at 2.30am and then breaking fast at 9.30pm.
The race was set at 8.30pm – just an hour before the end of his fast. Dr Arif was determined and gave it his all to emerge victorious in the race.
Turning a passion into an ambition
Citing Tan Sri M. Jegathesan, known as the flying doctor of Malaysia, as his idol, Dr Arif is clear on which course to steer in his career.
His role model that he looked up to, was an icon in the golden era of Malaysian athletics in the 1960s – and also a practising doctor.
He knew the challenges that he would face as a junior doctor in Malaysia; the gruelling hours of work, the mental and physical exhaustion that entails.
“Your passion keeps you alive. You must never let go of the pursuit of your dream”.
Though his heart was set on specialising in sports medicine, Dr Arif made the calculated decision to lay a strong foundation by joining the emergency and trauma department of Hospital Kuala Lumpur.
“It was the best preparatory period for my career as you will learn every medical condition under the sun. The emergency department is considered as the gatekeeper of the hospital, and every case from every specialty will be sifted through.”
He then continued his career at Hospital Canselor Tuanku Muhriz, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (HCTM UKM) into the anaesthesiology department. There he learnt an array of skills that would be deemed useful and added value to him as a doctor.
He learnt sophisticated new techniques and knowledge including central neuraxial blocks and different types of regional anaesthesia – the science of taking away the sensation of pain so that procedures can be done.
Staying true to your passions
While thriving in his current work as an anaesthesiology medical officer in HCTM UKM, his love and longing for a specialisation in sports medicine did not dwindle.
After gaining confidence in treating patients with an array of diseases, Dr Arif decided it was time to zero in on his dream career. He was proactive and made a conscious effort to seek out advice from sports medicine physicians from different hospitals to consolidate the decision he was about to make.
After much perusal, he decided to take that leap of faith and in 2023 he decided it was time to pursue his true passions and head over to Glasgow. He will be starting his master’s program at the University of Glasgow in 2024, pursuing a specialisation in sports medicine. Currently, he is working with the National Health Service (NHS) at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary.
He believes that if he keeps his faith and puts in the effort, his dreams will soon come to fruition. “Don’t abandon your passion. Whatever your mind can conceive, you can achieve”.