Not willing to let circumstances dictate his life, Dr. Mugunthan Murugan took the bull by the horn and outmaneuvered the roadblocks facing him. Due to circumstances beyond his control, Dr. Mugu as he is fondly known in his circle, was unable to practice medicine. This was despite being a highly regarded medical graduate. Today, he is the Managing Director of Medic Konsult (MY) Sdn Bhd, a company successfully specializing in the management and marketing of a private healthcare facility. The healthcare facility includes clinics, hospitals, hemodialysis centers, nursing homes etc. This is a story of a doctor overcoming the challenges of life by believing in himself and trusting in his skill sets.
Dr. Mugu did this by combining his mathematical prowess which was further honed during his Bachelor of Business Administration studies (BBA – Finance & Financial Management) at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and his medical degree from Ternopil State Medical University, Ukraine. To this mix, he brought his penchant for efficiency and his strong entrepreneurial streak. The result was an an idea for a shared resource service model widely used by various clinics in Malaysia today.
When Life Throws You a Curveball…
Dr. Mugu went to the US to obtain a pre-med degree in 1993 but found out that it wasn’t essential for obtaining a medical degree. All that was needed was a first degree with a sufficient number of science courses. So, he completed a BBA degree and was about to enter his medical course when the financial devaluation of the Malaysian currency happened in 1997. Overnight, the funds for his medical degree were wiped out! Although upon his graduation he was offered a couple of jobs in the US, his desire to give back to the community compelled him to return to Malaysia.
“If you don’t give that endorsement to yourself, it’s as good as going out and getting a job at McDonald’s. Commit to yourself to make your life better!”
At the age of 24, Dr. Mugu returned to Malaysia to run his family’s MIDAS Institute of Engineering College as the CEO. The college comprised five vocational/technical colleges meant to equip youth from lower income families with hands-on engineering training. Later, plans were set afoot to diversify the college’s focus to include a healthcare program complete with a medical degree program.
So, at the age of 29, Dr. Mugu embarked on studying medicine in Ukraine to fulfill the diversification plans for the engineering college. At the University, he was respected as a non-traditional student and an opinion leader among the students. He was also highly regarded by his professors for his work experience. In fact, he was asked by the university to set up an English Language Program for Teachers, and the program did very well. Despite receiving job offers from the University upon completion of his medical degree, Dr. Mugu returned to Malaysia. His plan was to practice medicine and to continue serving at his engineering college.
About that time, the Orange Revolution broke out in Ukraine, and the recognition of his medical degree was temporarily put on hold. Dr. Mugu was told by the Malaysian authorities that in order for his medical degree to be recognized, he would need to retake his final year of medical studies in the country. This meant he would need to fork out another RM 50,000! But Dr. Mugu’s entire medical degree in Ukraine cost him RM 50,000 inclusive of tuition fees, accommodation, airfares etc. So, he decided against it.
Believe in Yourself and in Your Skill Sets
Unfortunately, the introduction of the “bursary model” of private education in Malaysia posed numerous problems for his family’s engineering colleges. His family’s colleges were using the “pay-as-you-learn model” for youth from lower income families. As a result, they were unable to keep up with the onslaught of colleges sprouting like mushrooms under the “bursary” system. Eventually, the family sold their colleges’ licenses to public listed companies.
With his plans to practice medicine and introduce a healthcare program in his college up in the air, Dr. Mugu had to rely on himself, and the skill sets he possessed. “Under this kind of pressure, your creativity goes up!” he said. Instead of seeking external validation which would only result in disappointments or looking to others to solve his problem, he chose to believe in himself. “If you don’t give that endorsement to yourself, it’s as good as going out and getting a job at McDonald’s. Commit to yourself to make your life better!” said Dr. Mugu with a serious look.
Dr. Mugu’s passion is to scrutinize business processes to increase their efficiency. With this belief in self and his ability to make systems efficient, Dr. Mugu turned his focus to healthcare. He observed that many clinics in Malaysia were stuck in the 1980’s as they lacked good customer service. Additionally, they were also not adapting to changes in the environment. In the main, doctors didn’t mind if patients waited two hours to see them but expected swift services from others.
“Under pressure… your creativity goes up.”
The knowledge that he had amassed over time, his cognizance for efficiency and his knack for entrepreneurship have paid off! Today, Dr. Mugu manages a highly efficient healthcare facility. His company offers intelligent business solutions for primary care practitioners emphasizing cost reduction. Generally, profit is made through increased sales but for Dr. Mugu, profit can be made by keeping costs low. This is accomplished by making efficiency central within a system.
With Their Skill Sets, Doctors Have a Bright Future in Healthcare
According to Dr. Mugu, doctors come from a discipline that has taught them to look at signs and symptoms, validate them with evidence, and arrive at a diagnosis. Furthermore, they trained to produce a prescription, follow up on the prescription, and chart a way for recovery. “If doctors can understand the principle and concept involved in these steps, they can apply them to any scenario faced in life. Deploying this concept and principle make all the difference!” he noted.
“You don’t need to be in clinical medicine just because you’re a doctor. If a doctor can solve a medical problem, if they can orient themselves to seeing every person in front of them as a medical case, they’ll be successful in their career albeit outside of clinical medicine.” In this regard, Dr. Mugu sees a great opportunity for the “uberization” of medical care.
For example, doctors could be medical “tour guides” by mapping out steps and identifying expert opinion/ consultation for clients who are caregivers. This can be done by the doctors personally guiding caregivers through the various processes. This way, they are assisting their clients as they navigate the health conditions of their loved ones.
Dr. Mugu offers another creative example – Patients who suffer from hypertension, diabetes and obesity are on the rise in the country. This, in fact, presents a vast market that an entrepreneurial doctor could tap into. Within this community of patients, doctors could find many opportunities to offer medical concierge services, healthy lifestyle programs etc., which the market would readily embrace. With regard to offering concierge services, doctors could connect patients to specialists, assist in gaining a second opinion, or interpret the health data for patients with chronic conditions.
Doctors could also come up with health plans modeled after the insurance agencies. According to Dr. Mugu, the sky is the limit for doctors in the healthcare industry. It’s just a matter of recognizing the opportunities and thinking out of the box. The fact is, doctors have what it takes to succeed in any healthcare field.
Considerations for Doctors in Thinking Out of the Box
- Adding Value Proposition – If doctors would ask themselves, “What can I contribute? How can I add value to something?”, they will succeed in their healthcare careers. It is crucial to offer a good value proposition in healthcare with a concept that has been tested and proven to work.
- Follow the Nike slogan and just do it! – Excuses are a dime a dozen for not embarking on something. But when embarking on a project or a plan, don’t expect to get things right on the first try. Scrutinize the feedback from the various attempts, interpret them, synthesize them, and learn from them. For then, those projects and plans will succeed. As efficiency and strategies are improved, so will the model or the system, leading only to good results.
“You don’t need to be in clinical medicine just because you’re a doctor. If a doctor can solve a medical problem, if they can orient themselves to seeing every person in front of them as a medical case, they’ll be successful in their career albeit outside clinical medicine.”
- Be willing to innovate by taking risks – Emulating someone who has risen through the ranks with time is unwise especially if that person has not contributed to innovation. “What’s the big deal of valuing someone who’s been doing the same thing for 10 years in a row?” asked Dr. Mugu. Doctors are urged to develop their entrepreneurial skills in healthcare by taking risks and contributing through innovation.
- Self-validation vs. external validation – Instead of fearing that family members and society would feel betrayed should a doctor leave clinical medicine, doctors must ask themselves if their career matters to them and if they are fulfilled in life. A doctor cannot find satisfaction or peace of mind when relying on external validation from family and society. Instead, they should seek validation from within. Lastly,
- Doctors are not alone in this journey – There are other doctors going through the same struggles and Medic Footprints Malaysia (MFM) is proof of this. The organization has been involved in helping these doctors. While grappling through the struggles of a new career and mulling over what to do with their lives, doctors can seek direction and comfort from others going through the same experience.
“It’s very tiring to live life [when] you’re constantly seeking external validation.”
According to Dr. Mugu, this is the psychology of doctors: they keep striving harder and harder to get the compliment they’ve always wanted but never seem to get. Or having been top performers, they expect to keep performing every single time! “It is very tiring to live life this way because you’re constantly seeking external validation,” said Dr. Mugu. He concluded his interview with the following wise words for doctors, “Believe in yourself, trust in your skill sets, forgive yourself for the future mistakes you’ll make in your career endeavors, pick yourself up and try again.” These are sage words for all doctors considering a career transition!
Dr. Mugunthan Murugan will be our Diverse Careers for Doctors Webinar Speaker in July. Book your seats here!
To find out more about non-clinical jobs for doctors in Malaysia check out our job vacancy and find inspiration from medical doctors who’ve made a career change in our case studies. Check out Medic Footprints Malaysia , and follow our MF Malaysia Instagram and Facebook pages to stay updated on our events, webinars, job vacancies and more.