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IWD 2019: Reflections on Dr Ong, my inspiration in medicine

As part of our week-long International Women's Day series, Professor Yook-Chin Chia reflects on her relationship with Dr Aishah Ong, the inspiration for her career in medicine. 

I started my career as an academic quite by accident. Having just completed my training in internal medicine and attaining the membership examinations of the Royal College of Physicians, London, I was a trifle 'lost' as to where what I would like to do next. What helped me to decide on this career path was Toh Puan Dr Aishah Ong, the chairman of the board of the University of Malaya Medical Centre, the teaching hospital of UM.

She herself trained and worked as a general practitioner before going on to sit on many national and ministerial boards and councils to advise on and steer many health-related issues. In between all that, she also found the time to do a lot of social work and raising funds for charity. Her energy, commitment and passion for contributing to health care and society was phenomenal. For all her contributions to society, Dr Ong has been bestowed with many accolades from the ruling heads of states.  

Her energy, commitment and passion for contributing to health care and society was phenomenal

Professor Yook-Chin Chia

Unfortunately, or fortunately for me, the head of department resigned soon after I joined to emigrate overseas. I was then made head of the department and had to oversee the construction of our new department building and building the department academically. Hence, I introduced and launched the first of its kind in Malaysia, the masters in family medicine at UM This is a 4-year postgraduate training in general practice /family medicine leading to a specialist degree which is recognised by the National Specialist Register of Malaysia.

All these would not have been possible without the support of many people. I am grateful that Dr Ong being the chairman of the hospital board supported all of the department’s activities and I am proud to say that the final product is something I and perhaps many others can be very proud of. I had many meetings with her and was, and still am, very impressed by her very positive attitude. Nothing that is worth doing cannot be done. Her outlook of seeing and thinking the best of every individual is something positive I took away with me. Indeed, it is very noble to be able to do that and not everyone can.

Also as a member of the University Council, she very importantly helped not only me but many other academics in UM. Today we see many women holding important positions in the Faculty of Medicine partly thanks to her. She is indeed an outstanding personality and citizen.

On the home and social front, Dr Ong and I have become related though our family members - her son having married my niece, and I continue to meet her and tap her brains and seek her advice. Although Dr Ong is no longer directly involved in the day-today affairs of UM as she is now Prof Chancellor of UM, she remains a beacon for me.

Professor Yook-Chin Chia is the head of Medical Sciences, and associate dean for the School of Healthcare and Medical Science, at Sunway University in Malaysia. She is also president of the Malaysian Society of Hypertension.  

This blog is part of a week-long series celebrating women in medicine and their inspirations, as part of International Women's Day.