April, 2024
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Nirmala Bhoo Pathy: Why Public Health?!
Mar 27, 2024, 04:54

Nirmala Bhoo Pathy: Why Public Health?!

Nirmala Bhoo Pathy shared on LinkedIn:

“Why Public Health?!
After completing my Master of Public Health at Universiti Malaya and before leaving for the Netherlands to pursue further training as a clinical epidemiologist, I had a memorable encounter. While collecting my graduation robe, I bumped into a senior who was graduating as a neurosurgeon, whom expressed clear disapproval of my choice to pursue public health, questioning why I didn’t opt for a ‘high-flying’ clinical path given my academic success.
As a medical doctor who transitioned from clinical practice to public health, my journey has often been met with curiosity and perhaps even a touch of confusion from my wider family members and friends. Despite their understanding of my foundational training and clinical experience, the specifics of my current role often elude them. A humorous anecdote from my son, who at five years old declared that I am not a real doctor because ‘real doctors cut’, illustrates a common misconception.
My journey from clinical practice to public health is a testament to the evolution of my career and the breadth of opportunities within the medical field. After completing my residency, I found myself stationed in a rural primary care clinic, where my role encompassed a wide array of responsibilities. I not only managed patients within the clinic, spanning from routine check-ups to critical care scenarios in the trauma and emergency room, but I also delved into community-focused initiatives.
During this time, I encountered a plethora of critical medical cases, from traumatic injuries in MVAs to acute cardiac events; It was amidst these intense situations that I came face to face with the harsh reality of the clinical environment. The pressure to make swift, life-altering decisions weighed heavily on me, causing a lot of stress and anxiety.
These experiences served as a catalyst for self-reflection, leading me to realize that while I valued patient care immensely, the fast-paced nature of clinical medicine wasn’t conducive to my well-being. The constant pressure to make split-second decisions in high-stakes scenarios took a toll on me.
However, it was through my involvement in community-focused work that I found a renewed sense of purpose and fulfillment. Engaging in health promotion, education, and prevention efforts allowed me to make a tangible impact on a broader scale, reaching beyond individual patient interactions.
My journey in the rural primary care clinic provided me with invaluable insights into the power and significance of public health in promoting wellness, both for healthy populations and also individuals with health conditions, driving me to advocate for public health initiatives that address both the broader societal factors influencing health and the individual needs of patients in clinical settings. As a public health physician, I am honored to play a part in shaping the health outcomes of populations and making a meaningful difference in the lives of countless individuals.”

Source: Nirmala Bhoo Pathy/LinkedIn

Nirmala Bhoo-Pathy is a Professor of Epidemiology in the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Malaya, and practices as a public health physician in Universiti Malaya Medical Centre, Malaysia. She is also a visiting scholar at Queen’s University Belfast, United Kingdom since 2014. Dr Bhoo Pathy’s career is focused on optimizing life after cancer in resource-limited settings through research and advocacy. Dr. Bhoo Pathy was the principal investigator of phase III of the ASEAN CosTs In ONcology (ACTION) study, comprising close to 10,000 cancer patients from eight low-and middle-income member countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). She currently serves in two Lancet Commissions: the Lancet Commission on Women and Cancer and the Lancet Commission on Cancer and Health Systems. As the founder and scientific lead of a solution-oriented research group ‘Well with Cancer in Malaysia (WeCan@MY) https://spm.um.edu.my/wecan@my/ in the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Nirmala Bhoo-Pathy currently oversees a wide range of studies on cancer care, cancer control and cancer policy, locally and globally.