The prize at the top of the medical hill: a Malaysian medical student's experience

Published on 21 October 2020

According to Malaysian medical student Wan Nee Shue, studying to become a doctor is a lot like climbing a mountain

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For Wan Nee Shue, who is originally from Kuala Lumpur, the challenge of studying a medical degree is as much mental as it is physical, with the end goal being the thing that keeps undergraduates going throughout their academic journey. Somewhat like climbing a mountain.

And that’s something Wan Nee knows a lot about. Since she matriculated at the University of Dundee in 2019, she has looked down with immense satisfaction from the peak of many of Scotland’s famous hills and glens, and she 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 explains. “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 think, ‘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.”

Aside from her zeal for her clinical work, Wan Nee also has a passion for research. So, despite knowing she was about to embark on an arduous course, she decided to maximise the opportunities her Dundee education offered by moving to Scotland six months early to intern 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,” she says. “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.”

Wan Nee Shue

“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 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 explains. “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 Rucksack Club at the University go hill walking on the weekends, it's a really nice way to make new friends and appreciate nature at the same time,” she adds.

“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.”

Wan Nee Shue


Press Office, University of Dundee