(function() { (function(){function b(g){this.t={};this.tick=function(h,m,f){var n=void 0!=f?f:(new Date).getTime();this.t[h]=[n,m];if(void 0==f)try{window.console.timeStamp("CSI/"+h)}catch(q){}};this.getStartTickTime=function(){return this.t.start[0]};this.tick("start",null,g)}var a;if(window.performance)var e=(a=window.performance.timing)&&a.responseStart;var p=0=c&&(window.jstiming.srt=e-c)}if(a){var d=window.jstiming.load; 0=c&&(d.tick("_wtsrt",void 0,c),d.tick("wtsrt_","_wtsrt",e),d.tick("tbsd_","wtsrt_"))}try{a=null,window.chrome&&window.chrome.csi&&(a=Math.floor(window.chrome.csi().pageT),d&&0=b&&window.jstiming.load.tick("aft")};var k=!1;function l(){k||(k=!0,window.jstiming.load.tick("firstScrollTime"))}window.addEventListener?window.addEventListener("scroll",l,!1):window.attachEvent("onscroll",l); })();

M. Bakri Musa

Seeing Malaysia My Way

My Photo
Location: Morgan Hill, California, United States

Malaysian-born Bakri Musa writes frequently on issues affecting his native land. His essays have appeared in the Far Eastern Economic Review, Asiaweek, International Herald Tribune, Education Quarterly, SIngapore's Straits Times, and The New Straits Times. His commentary has aired on National Public Radio's Marketplace. His regular column Seeing It My Way appears in Malaysiakini. Bakri is also a regular contributor to th eSun (Malaysia). He has previously written "The Malay Dilemma Revisited: Race Dynamics in Modern Malaysia" as well as "Malaysia in the Era of Globalization," "An Education System Worthy of Malaysia," "Seeing Malaysia My Way," and "With Love, From Malaysia." Bakri's day job (and frequently night time too!) is as a surgeon in private practice in Silicon Valley, California. He and his wife Karen live on a ranch in Morgan Hill. This website is updated twice a week on Sundays and Wednesdays at 5 PM California time.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Excerpt #23: More Former UKM Faculty Members!

Excerpt # 23:  More FormerUKM Faculty Members!
M. Bakri Musa (www.bakrimusa.com)

While I did not have any formal academic appointment with UKM, and the non-too-pleasant encounter with its dean notwithstanding, I had plenty of interactions, planned as well as unplanned, with its faculty members, current as well as former. I was surprised that for a young institution, I met many more of its former faculty than current ones.

            One was Dr. Ariffin Marzuki, UKM’s formerVice-Chancellor. Note the emphasis. When I first met him in the surgical lounge at GHKL, I told him that I had heard of him during my secondary school days. His name was in the papers for designing a baby’s pram that was safe and comfortable. He was then doing his Ob-Gyn training in Britain. He brushed aside my compliment and went on to recount his “former VC” status without any prompting from me. I still do not know what I did or said to trigger his outburst on the topic.

            Prime Minister Tun Razak had tapped him from nowhere to head the new university following the resignation of its first head, Rashdan Baba. Rashdan, who previously headed the Universiti Pertanian (Agricultural University) Malaysia (now Universiti Putra Malaysia) with some distinction, had been with UKM for only two years. He must have had a very high opinion of himself to think that he needed only a very brief tenure to get the new institution on its feet. Why he took that crucial assignment in the first place and then quit shortly thereafter baffled me. He should have known that a new institution that was so dear to Malay hearts would need stable leadership. That was the height of arrogance if not irresponsibility on Rashdan’s part to resign so prematurely.

            Ariffin indicated that he had no clue as to why Tun Razak had picked him to replace Rashdan as he (Ariffin) had no academic experience. Perhaps it was because he was then one of the few Malays with a professional qualification beyond the first degree. Ariffin did not intimate why he was not a good fit. As was obvious to me, his first and perhaps only love was clinical medicine, being in the operating room was much more rewarding than discussing policy papers or grappling with prickly personnel issues.

            I also met another Malay Ob-Gyn at GHKL, Dr. Ahmad Adnan, a man of small stature and a humble demeanor to match. He introduced himself to me and then right away said that he was looking forward to his early optional retirement at the end of the year to start his private practice in Klang. He beamed when he said that, his excitement brimming over!

            He was of the same vintage as Dr. Ariffin; they probably qualified at about the same time. Yet one was famous, his name in the papers, and being picked by the Prime Minister to lead a new university, while the other was an unknown. It was also obvious to me who was the happier one.

            UKM had its full complement of clinical departments, and I interacted often with their professors. Dr. Rahim Omar, an internist, once consulted me on a young girl with acute abdomen. He had just started her on steroids for lupus. I had to operate on her because of her deteriorating clinical condition and was horrified to find necrotizing lupoid pancreatitis, a severe and lethal condition. Such cases were also rare.

            Rahim too did not last long with UKM. He soon left to start his own private practice. Through him I met Dr. Amir Abbas, the inaugural dean of UKM’s medical school, at a clinical symposium. He remembered me through my earlier letter that I had written to the medical school from Canada. He apologized (rather late!) for not replying for his office then was in a turmoil. He did not elaborate on what that turmoil was and I did not pursue it. Nonetheless he encouraged me to pursue my interest in UKM and that I would be a positive addition. I did not bother to tell him of my earlier encounter with his successor.

            I met Dr. Amir a few more times, all at medical conferences. My impression of him was very different. I found him to be a solid clinician, an intellect with integrity, and he would have been an outstanding leader for UKM’s medical school. His being relieved of his duties reflected more on the poor judgment of then-Prime Minister Hussein Onn.

            Earlier, I related how Hussein Onn regretted very much his choice of Mahathir as his successor. Now with Dr. Amir, Hussein again demonstrated his poor judgement of character and talent. He probably hired and then fired this distinguished physician without ever meeting or personally evaluating him first, just like Hussein did with Mahathir.

            My encounters with such distinguished clinicians as Drs. Amir and Marzuki, men who emphasized their formerfaculty status, as well as my own very limited experience with UKM, convinced me that I should not hitch my future with that institution. My conviction was strengthened when I met a faculty member from the Physics Department. He joked that UKM meant Universiti Kuat Meeting (University obsessed with meetings).

Once I attended a reception hosted by Mahmud at his expansive house to honor a pair of visiting medical professors from the University of Texas, Austin. I was stunned that they were flown in first class all the way and were put up at the Hilton!

            My astonishment for that evening did not end there. During the social conversations, one of the local academic internists asked the visitors how big was their Department of Medicine. The visitors could not venture a guess; their own sub-divisions numbered over a dozen each. The whole department could very well be over a hundred.

            “Over a hundred!” exclaimed the astonished local academic. “What do they all do?” she continued much to my as well as the visitors’ embarrassment. It was obvious that the local academic could not keep herself busy enough.

            That reception stunned me for another reason. I saw what a luxurious government bungalow Mahmud lived in. It was in a wooded area up on the hills in a quiet, secluded part of KL, surrounded by lush expansive lawns. During the reception when showing Karen and me around, Mahmud complained that the government’s JKR (Malay initials for Public Works Department) people were unreliable workers. They had not mowed his lawn in days! I had to bite my tongue as I had to do my own lawn, quite apart from paying a hefty non-government-subsidized rent for our modest terrace house.

Next: Excerpt # 24  Still More UKM Matters – A Near Tragedy Avoided
From the author’s second memoir: The Son has Not Returned. A Surgeon In His Native Malaysia, 2018


Post a Comment

<< Home