Dory Chew – New South Wales

Dory Chew – New South Wales

I’m currently a 5th year international medical student at UNSW from Singapore. I’ve always kept myself updated on the #interncrisis situation, however it was only this year when I was personally involved in seeing so many of my year 6 seniors not given an internship spot; forcing them offshore, that the harsh reality of the situation hit me.

One year ago, I was offered a choice by Singapore’s Ministry of Health: in an attempt to improve the shortage of doctors, the Singapore government offered Singaporeans who were currently undergoing medical training overseas, a choice to accept a government sponsorship worth 2-3years of our international school fees (approximately SGD 30 000) in return that we serve a 4-year bond with the Singapore government after we graduate. Most of my peers have opted for the scholarship, thus securing themselves an internship spot back in Singapore after they graduate. At this point of time, I was one of the few who declined the Minster’s offer as my wish was to remain in Australia. A couple of reasons led to this decision of mine:

1. I have spent 5 precious years developing friendships, networking and building a life over here in Sydney. The professors I know and get advice from are all here; the colleagues that I have been working with since I started training as a medical student are all here, and depriving me of an internship spot and asking me to go work in another country is essentially forcing me to uproot whatever life I’ve fought hard to build.

Most of us Singaporeans came to Australia because we couldn’t get into medical school back in Singapore. Was it because our grades fell short hence we weren’t qualified to stay in Singapore? No. In 2008, there were approximately 3200 applicants for medical school, with only 250 spots available. Most of us had the same grades (5As, for 5 subjects for the A level Cambridge examination), but only 250 of us were fortunate enough to secure a place. The group of us who were still determined to pursue a medical career packed our bags and went overseas. Even though it was a choice, being an international student isn’t easy. We’re away from family, away from friends and our usual support groups. We had to start out from scratch; forming new bonds and new support systems. The friendships I’ve fought hard to develop over the past 5 years have become my family, my friends and my support system all in one. With no guaranteed internship, not only will I be unable to complete my medical training & be recognised as a doctor, I will be forced to uproot my life, once again, with no guarantee of a job even back home. Lost, is probably the only word I can use to describe how I feel towards this situation. What should I do now?

2. I’ve come to respect the health system here. I value the fact that patient management here is all rounded and multifaceted- patients work hand in hand with health care professionals. As I am personally interested in Psychiatry, I also feel that Australia has a lot to offer in terms of training and exposure in this field.

Australia universities back in Singapore promotes & paints a really nice image of themselves; welcoming overseas students to come and enjoy the Australian culture for an unforgettable university experience. Most of us chose to come to Australia as it was closer compared to UK/US with presumably the same standard of training, with a promise made by the university that we will be able to complete our training. However, after coming to Sydney, I realise that the NSW government does not recognise us international students as real students with equal student rights. Student concessions were only recently granted to international students, and we actually needed to fight years and years to be given the same right as the locals. The recent speech made by Jillian Skinner rendered me shocked, speechless, and angry. It’s almost as if it’s telling me that you only welcome internationals into your country just so you can rip money off us; expensive school fees, money for rent & food, no travel concessions, and now you want us to pay for our own internships. Feedback has been given to future international students back home, and most of them have decided not to come to Australia to pursue their university degree (what’s the point in spending so much money and still not given an equal opportunity to complete our training?).

There’s a saying: don’t bite the hand that feeds you. A large portion of state revenue comes from international students; continue being unfriendly and eventually it’s your own economy that will suffer. It is also irony that the government is willing to spend so much more money importing trained doctors from overseas, when they can spend lesser money creating more internship spots for locally trained doctors. Why?

I want to contribute, but will you let me?

Dory is a 5th year UNSW medical student who will graduate next year. The #interncrisis is going to be a long term problem, and unless a solution is found she may not have an internship in 2013. Take Action

This post was written by
Medical Student Action on Training (MSAT) is a grassroots movement by Medical Students Australia wide who have united to raise awareness and demand political action be taken to solve the #interncrisis
  • Mick

    Your story is really inspirational.
    I want people like yourself treating me in the hospital system. Why won’t the Government do something?!

  • Melissa Lau

    Thanks so much for sharing Dory. You’ve hit the nail on the head with all the issues. It’ll be such a shame to see you go, and a massive loss for the government too.

  • Lionel Leong

    Hey Dory, thanks so much for writing this! Keep fighting.

    -fellow Singaporean meddie and your old friend