Newcastle University Medicine Malaysia

News items

MCO Mayhem: Reflections of a Final-Year Medical Student

I believe that I speak for many other students when I say that the implementation of the Movement Control Order (MCO) back in mid-March was the start of organised chaos. All of a sudden, there was a need to stock up on necessities and a perceived need to buy a year’s worth of toilet paper. I had friends who offered to buy me masks and hand sanitisers, but those sold out in a flash. The general benefit of the doubt is that people are simply driven by worry and doing all that they can to protect themselves. However, we are convinced that the most effective measure is just to stay home and adhere to the main precaution advocated, which is to wash our hands frequently with soap and water.

It was really boring when all of my housemates returned home and I was left alone in my student-housing unit. In all honesty, the boredom got me sleeping throughout most hours of the day. Fortunately, on 24 April, the government announced that students stranded at their campuses could begin their journeys back to their hometowns from 27 April onwards. I received permission from the university to do so and couldn’t be happier.

As a whole, the MCO has elicited a mixture of emotions across the student body. Some of us are happy to attend lectures from home, as online learning is more relaxed and flexible. On the other hand, international students who are still stuck on campus might be facing financial anxiety due to the uncertainties back home. Not all students here have parents who are financially strong, and many are dependent on scholarships.

The pandemic has taken a toll on us final year students as well. For starters, the last meet-up we had with our friends before the MCO might possibly have been the final one – for now, at least. Also, since we are just one step away from getting our degrees, we’re quite upset about our exams being deferred to a later date. Nonetheless, these concerns pale in comparison to the greater need for social distancing. The best thing to do now is to use this opportunity to prepare for our exams. Besides, NUMed is really looking into this issue and trying to provide support for the students.

As a medical student and traditional learner, I really enjoyed doing clinicals and tending to patients in real life. Our professors always say that our patients are our best teachers, which I found to be entirely true. I could learn more from one patient compared to hours from a textbook. Due to the health crisis, all hospital teachings have been cancelled to ensure students’ safety. It is a bitter pill to swallow, but virtual learning is the best solution for now, so the least we can do is to make full use of our resources and be hopeful that we’ll be able to learn from our ‘teachers’ again soon.

Speaking of resources, our learning did not stop when the lockdown was imposed. We are required to attend online lectures five days a week. Even with such short notice, NUMed has done really well in ensuring that students remain engaged with their studies through online platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams. The sessions are conducted according to the learning outcomes, which we are expected to achieve by the end of the academic year. In fact, more small group case-based sessions are planned which, compared to usual learning, is really useful because these facilitate interaction between students and enhance understanding. 

Another thing worth mentioning is the support given by the university in providing adequate learning resources to the students. On top of having related learning materials uploaded on the university student portal, we also gained online access to a wide range of medical textbooks in the library. So, no excuses for us not to study!

The MCO memes that we see on the interwebs provide exaggerated satire about waking up at 8:58am for a 9:00am class, dressing ourselves waist up only, or accidentally turning on our webcams during an e-lecture. These are probably not as funny as they are true, but I do agree that online learning creates a lot of flexibility for students as well as lecturers, and is currently the most useful alternative for us to continue learning during this pandemic.

As medical students, we can get quite busy with extra-curricular activities and community service, on top of our studies. Therefore, instead of feeling discouraged, we should take this opportunity to spend precious time with our families. Apart from that, this would be a good time for hobbies and developing new skills. There are countless recipes to try out as well as indoor workout videos to ensure that we stay fit and healthy. Last but not least, do not neglect doing your revision; post-CMCO you will be thankful for it!

Without a doubt, this experience has been a challenge, but it is also an opportunity. It is a challenge to discipline ourselves in terms of adhering to the regulations imposed by our authorities and resisting complacency, but at the same time, it is also an opportunity to learn new skills and uncover hidden talents.  Above all, it serves as an opportunity for us medical students to understand the essence of infection control and its consequences to our nation and the rest of the world. As future medical providers, we get to witness the excellent and selfless work of our doctors who are on the frontlines, dealing with this virus under the guidance of our Director General of Health, Datuk Dr Noorhisham Abdullah, who has been recognised as one of the best doctors in the world.

I am confident that we will successfully overcome this pandemic; but for now, let’s just do our parts by standing alone, together!


Koh Wei Xiang
Year 5, MBBS

published on: 2 June 2020