AIMST UNIVERSITY: WHERE MY JOURNEY TO YALE BEGAN
Throughout my years at AIMST, I’m very grateful that I’ve met wonderful teachers and friends who taught me lessons in many ways. Besides the academic power that all universities wish to instil upon their students, I attribute most of my progress and achievement to the ‘non-academic’ encounters I experienced at AIMST. One may easily underestimate the impact that these encounters can have on a student’s mind but these experiences had greatly influenced my psyche and shaped my career pathway. The guidance that I receive each time I needed help, support, little acts of kindness and motivation from my educators originating from a diverse background in AIMST had given me insights and clarity towards the life I envision for myself. These conditions gave rise to the thoughts of endless possibilities and hence the yearning to seek for more than just the typical life of a medical student. This had undoubtedly encouraged my knowledge and adventure-seeking mentality to flourish.
Stepping foot into the top universities in the world had once been a wishful thought that I had in mind. It is easy for one to dream how good it would feel like to be able to get an opportunity of any form even for a short duration in such academic wonderland. However, that thought would usually be regarded as something beyond the limits. Therefore, confronting the ultimate question of ‘how do I get from here to there?’ led to a long chain of stirring thoughts and actions. The most apparent thought of all was to primarily do well academically and the others as secondary. Thankfully, my fondness towards scholarly work and natural aptitude for learning came in handy. As a result, I was rewarded with academic achievements that I did not expect throughout the years. I was also fortunate to have gradually accumulated part of the non-academic components from my early years before medical school. Although this may be deemed as secondary when compared to academic achievement, it is of utmost significance as it would reflect a person holistically. Despite having the minimal basic requirements, I realised later that there was a bigger challenge ahead. The question of ‘how’ then transformed into an issue of courage and willingness to act especially when the mind inevitably began to assess the worthiness of this pursuit.
Juggling between the time and effort that I had to invest to fulfil an application for a US clinical elective and the burden of being a final year medical student became an overwhelming thought. Several challenges soon came under the spotlight. They were the fact that I was not familiar with the process of applying for a clinical elective program in the US, the long list of documents that I had to prepare including a complete medical check-up and also planning the timeline for the whole process. The timeline of an application includes the synchronization of the duration needed for a reply, the rigid start dates of the program, my final exams, study time and VISA application. Due to the fact that all these do not guarantee success, many ‘what if’s’ started pouring into my mind. My logical sense about the probability of getting accepted kicked in when considering the volume of applications received by the top universities. Naturally, it occurred to me that chances were below average. However, with the desire for excitement, adventures and the thought that I have nothing to lose despite the disproportionate effort investment to acceptance rate ratio, I decided to bolster my courage and try my luck by applying for an International Clinical Elective Program at Yale University.
My bold move landed me a once in a lifetime opportunity as an International Visiting Medical Student at Yale University, USA. My successful application to the Department of Medical Oncology at Yale Smilow Cancer Hospital for a month duration was the beginning of what was to come at that time. Throughout my four weeks, I was posted to both the inpatient and outpatient settings at different oncological subspecialties. I was given opportunities to engage with cancer patients, attend conferences, classes and many more. For the first time, I was exposed to the frontiers of cancer treatment and that stimulated my interest in the molecular basis of cancer. Spending time with patients suffering from advanced stages of cancer helped me develop many insights towards human life. Most prominently, it made me ponder upon the effectiveness of current cancer treatment with the hope for a cure or at least better ways to alleviate suffering from this disease.
By chance, I was introduced to the study of cancer metabolomics while attending an oncology research lecture. I still remembered how engaged I was by the presentation about the application of metabolomics in the study of cancer that I did not realise that an hour went by. I was very fascinated by the emerging field of cancer metabolomics which is very promising in finding a breakthrough in this malady. My growing enthusiasm and immense interest in this field led me to a series of events that landed me an offer to be part of the metabolomics team at Yale as a postgraduate fellow for a year starting from November 2018. My research focus is on the metabolomics of cancer pharmacology. This would be a stepping stone in my career and I’m very excited to be part of the larger community in the world of research where new discoveries are made to revolutionize patient care for the better.