The prize at the top of the medical hill

Published on 9 March 2020

For Wan Nee Shue, being a medical student is a lot like climbing a mountain.

On this page

For Wan Nee Shue, being a medical student is a lot like climbing a mountain.

The 27-year-old from Kuala Lumpur believes the challenge is as much mental as it is physical, with the ultimate reward keeping undergraduates going as they seek to earn their place one of the most demanding professions imaginable.

Wan Nee has looked down with immense satisfaction from the peak of many of Scotland’s famous hills and glens since she matriculated at the University of Dundee in 2019 and dreams of the moment when she achieves the academic equivalent.

“When you look at a mountain, sometimes you think to yourself, ‘oh my goodness, that's so high up, I can't get up there’,” the keen hill-climber explained. “But as you go along the path, you take one step at a time. And before you know it, you're on a peak and you look down and ‘I can't believe I just did that’ and that’s a lot like learning as well. In medicine, there are many years of study but you know you have to do it one step at a time because that is the only way you can achieve something that will impact a lot of people's lives.”

Wan Nee is a third-year student at Dundee with a passion for research as well as clinical work. Despite knowing she was about to embark on an arduous course, Wan Nee decided to maximise the opportunities that her Dundee education offered by moving to Scotland six months early to embark on an internship in the University’s world-renowned medical research laboratories. There she worked with a team of international scientists on a project looking at how local anaesthetics affect calcium levels in cancer cells and its subsequent impact on cancer development.

“I had learned a lot about scientific theories but also wanted the chance to gain hands-on experience so I thought this would be a good opportunity to work on a lab-based project,” said Wan Nee. “In Malaysia, there are fewer opportunities for a medical student to get this kind of experience so I definitely feel privileged to have been able to work in the lab with a team of experts.

“As well as learning basic techniques, I was taught how to direct experiments in a meaningful way. I also learned how to store and analyse data appropriately and honed my public speaking skills by presenting at national and international conferences.

“The team I worked with was really friendly and funny so that made my whole experience very enjoyable. They also had a diverse background so we would hear stories about their lives in different parts of the world and that brought a lot of cultural enrichment to the team.”

While Wan Nee is used to being asked whether she ultimately sees herself as a medic or a researcher, she prefers to focus on the ways in which the two complement each other and is happy to continue pursuing both passions while studying in Scotland.

“A lot of people see research and medicine as separate things but they actually go hand in hand,” she continued. “What you do in the lab affects a lot of people down the line and as a doctor that is ultimately what you want to do.”

“Studying medicine in Dundee is great because there are a lot of research opportunities for students from a very early stage of their career. I am part of the University’s Research Society called DRAMS and we encourage medical students to participate in research by hosting events and making them aware of opportunities.”

“Dundee is such a peaceful, lovely city. Coming from Malaysia, I definitely like the change of pace. Scotland is so beautiful and has given me the opportunity to go out and about to the Scottish Highlands and explore. The University’s Rucksack Club goes hill walking on the weekends so it's a really nice way to make new friends and appreciate nature at the same time.”

“Dundee was my first choice simply because I just fell in love with the place when I first visited. I felt supported after meeting the faculty here and that really swayed my decision in choosing Dundee. I definitely made the right choice.”


Grant Hill

Senior Public Affairs Officer

+44 (0)1382 384768

Story category Student experience