Summit Success Stories: Doctors Who Have Transitioned Out of Clinical Medicine

There are many reasons why doctors leave clinical medicine. Some are physically injured  and cannot continue in a demanding career where doctors fail to show compassion to their suffering colleague. Some leave because of toxicity and bullying within the hospital system, realizing a better life awaits them. 

Still others, recognizing that there is no viable career progression pathway despite their years of service, leave to discover their passion and a better quality of life. Here are three summit success stories of doctors who have transitioned out of clinical medicine and have made it in their various fields. You’ll want to read this!

“There is NO SHAME in leaving clinical medicine. You are NOT A FAILURE for leaving the system!”

Dr. Selina Chew – Entrepreneur

Dr. Selina Chew left clinical medicine and founded Medic Footprints Malaysia (MFM) which is a #tribebydoctorsfordoctors social enterprise. The company was formed in January 2020, and she is the Managing Director. She is aided by the Co-Founder Dr. Vivek Subramaniam. Her story of becoming an accidental entrepreneur will  resonate with doctors. 

When her head of department  told her she had no future in Anaesthesiology all because of a physical injury that required  her to go on a month-long medical leave, Dr Selina was lost. “ I didn’t know what to do with my life. I had hoped I would receive support from my superiors  but that was hardly the case! Now, I wasn’t just contending with a physical injury but also the baffling lack of compassion from my superiors who are supposed to be medical doctors!” 

Dr. Selina Chew

By then, Dr. Selina had been a clinician for eight years and was highly skilled in the critical care of patients.  This experience opened her eyes and she realized  that there were others like her suffering physical injuries and working in an environment that lacked empathy for these doctors.  

“I also knew that many doctors were facing physical, emotional, and mental health issues as a result of being too long in a toxic work culture where bullying was rampant” she said.

The Accidental Entrepreneur – The Birth of MFM

The doctors in the hospital system were in dire need of support, encouragement, and a community to belong.  They also wanted some relevant information and guidance to be able to transition to another industry to live a more fulfilling and balanced life. Their current existence was pain-filled and discouraging. She saw many doctors who were “lost” in the system.

“I wasn’t just contending with a physical injury but also the baffling lack of compassion from my superiors who are supposed to be medical doctors!”

So, one day, Dr. Selina organized an informal gathering of doctors who had left clinical medicine. “Two hours after the meeting had ended, many were still huddled together chatting about their lives and their lost dreams. They were also unwilling to let go of this new-found community that had offered understanding, comfort, and encouragement to them” she noted with a compassionate look.

That’s when the idea came to Dr. Selina to form MFM to offer knowledge and skills training as well as community support to doctors who were seeking alternative careers. By herself, she knew that there would be little she could do but with the help of a group of people, much could be accomplished. So MFM  was formed in January 2020 to fill an important need in the lives of doctors who are struggling within the hospital system as well as those who had exited the system.

“I also knew that many doctors were facing physical, emotional, and mental health issues as a result of being too long in a toxic work culture where bullying was rampant.”

Meeting Doctors’ and Industry Needs

Today, Medic Footprints Malaysia has almost 3,000 members and numerous learning and development programs. These include the Career Development Mentorship Programs and the Diverse Careers for Doctors Webinars that are very well received. 

Medic Footprints Malaysia in affiliation with the Accreditation Council for Medical Affairs (ACMA), US, is also helping doctors to gain certification through the Board Certified Medical Affairs Specialist Program (BCMAS). Furthermore, MFM is connecting doctors to good jobs in clinical or non-clinical fields through its Job Listing platform

As she progressed in her newfound calling as the Managing Director, Dr. Selina began to see the obvious gaps in industry research and innovation that would be greatly helped by a physician’s education and experience. This gave her the idea to connect doctors to the industry and vice versa.  She has made it her life’s calling to support doctors in their career quest.

“Apart from there being very few sources of help or information, doctors have to contend with questions from family members and onlookers who are in disbelief that a doctor could actually consider leaving clinical medicine.”

Why This Summit

Among the highlights of Dr. Selina’s role as MFM’s MD has been the task of organizing the Diverse Careers for Doctors Summit. The Summit being her labor of love, Dr. Selina went on RTM’s Selamat Pagi Malaysia talk show to create awareness on the program so that more doctors throughout the nation could be reached. 

Her main reason for organizing the Summit is due to her own experience of facing difficulties and judgment when seeking an alternative career. “Apart from there being very few sources of help or information, doctors have to contend with questions from family members and  onlookers who are in disbelief that a doctor could actually consider leaving clinical medicine! For deciding to leave clinical medicine, doctors are treated as outcasts by the medical fraternity!” said Dr. Selina.

These are her uplifting words to young doctors, “There is NO SHAME in leaving clinical medicine. You are NOT A FAILURE for leaving the system!” Dr. Selina wants to provide a safe space for doctors to consider their career options and to kickstart the career transition process. As a labor of love, this Summit is specially organized for young doctors on a career quest.

This Summit is literally your one-day, one-stop game changer that is going to propel doctors into their new careers. 

Don’t miss the chance to make the most of this first-ever Summit in the country for doctors! You will also be able to meet Dr Selina Chew at the Summit. Sign up now!

Dr. Suraj Wilson – The Pharma Industry

Dr. Suraj Wilson served as a medical doctor for 10 years before transitioning to the pharmaceutical industry. He has been with the industry, specifically in the field of  medical affairs, for over 15 years now. Today he is the Regional Medical Manager at Ipsen.  

“Companies tend to hire doctors with industry experience… Those with limited or no industry experience ought not to give up but must continue applying for positions until something opens up for them.”

His transition out of clinical medicine began when he wasn’t accepted for the MOH specialist training program despite his years of service. When it became obvious to him that waiting another year to get into the training program would likely be futile, he started his own GP practice.

Dr. Suraj Wilson

Don’t Be Afraid to Try Something New Until You Find Your Passion                                             

The fact is, starting a GP practice is hard work and requires quite a bit of funds. This was something Dr. Suraj realized when he was in the throes of running his clinic. It became a very costly venture and still, his longings were not met. His passion is new scientific discoveries, clinical studies, meeting people, making presentations etc. So, he closed his clinic and set out on a new career trajectory to fulfill his passion.

He explored the pharma, insurance, and occupational health industries. After about a year of multiple interviews involving multiple companies, Dr. Suraj received a job offer from a pharma company and another from an insurance agency. Dr. Suraj accepted the pharma job offer as it was more aligned with his interests. He urges doctors not to be afraid to try something new as it will inevitably lead them to a career that they are passionate about.

“Companies tend to hire doctors with industry experience.” noted Dr. Suraj. “Those with limited or no industry experience ought not to give up but must continue applying for positions until something opens up for them” he added.

During his time, Medic Footprints Malaysia was not in  existence. Dr. Suraj is certain that had MFM been there, his transitioning experience would have been more expedient. He advises doctors to participate in the various learning and education programs offered by MFM to expedite their transitioning exercise. He also urges doctors to, “Attend the Summit to learn more about career options, find mentors, establish networking, GAIN THE CONFIDENCE NEEDED to pursue your new career and expedite your career transition process!”.

“As a Medical Affairs practitioner who serves as a bridge between the company and doctors, I have educated many groups of doctors on life saving research and new medicines … [which] have been able to help a large number of patients under their care.”

 In his 15 years with the Pharma industry, Dr. Suraj has been involved in various therapeutic segments involving US, European, and Japanese multinational pharmaceutical companies covering the Asia Pacific region. 

He is a Board Certified Medical Affairs Specialist (BCMAS) via the Accreditation Council of Medical Affairs, US. In response to the government’s call for  private sector doctors to serve as volunteers, Dr. Suraj recently completed a one-year full-time voluntary work with the National COVID-19 Immunization Program (PICK) from April 2021 until April 2022.

Doctors Contribute So Much More to Patients in Alternative Careers                            

Doctors who transition to the pharma industry contribute so much more to public health and patients compared to those who treat patients one at a time in clinical medicine.  “As a Medical Affairs practitioner who serves as a bridge between the company and the doctors, I have educated many groups of doctors on life-saving research and new medicines.  These doctors, in turn, have been able to help a large number of patients under their care,” said Dr. Suraj. He points to the multiplication effect of his work on patients.

Quick Adaptability to a New Workplace Culture is Key to Success                                   

“Although doctors would initially experience some level of culture shock when they first enter another industry, swift adaptability to a contrasting work culture is essential,” noted Dr. Suraj. The ability to be pliable and flow with the work culture is imperative and will ensure a doctor’s success in the industry.  

Attend the Summit to learn more about career options, find mentors, establish networking, GAIN THE CONFIDENCE NEEDED to pursue your new career and expedite your career transition process!”.

As there are many marketing and commercial colleagues in various industries, embracing their new colleagues and accepting the corporate culture is also essential for success in the pharma and other industries.

Dr. Suraj Wilson is a Summit Speaker. Do register here to hear him share on the pharma industry and your potential role there.  

Dr. Izzhar Putra – The Corporate Sector

Dr. Izzhar acquired his medical education in the UK and had lived there for over a decade before returning to Malaysia. But alas, the field of clinical medicine in Malaysia proved to be vastly different from his experience in the UK. “I found it difficult to adapt to working in Malaysia as a medical doctor. The work environment of the hospital department that I worked at was toxic and unpleasant. There was also some bullying going on,” he said.

“Living your life to meet someone else’s expectations would only lead to regrets in the long run.”

At first, he ignored the behaviors but after four months as a Medical Officer with those behaviors continuing, he realized his education and training could be put to better use elsewhere. “In life, you have choices. You can either stay miserable or take a chance and see what else is available for you,” he said.  Choosing a better quality of life for himself, Dr. Izzhar transitioned to the corporate sector specifically to pharmaceutical sales and marketing. Dr. Izzhar is an ardent believer that there are many similarities between medicine and marketing and sales. Read this insightful article on our website.    

Dr. Izzhar Putra

Today he is the Head of New Business for a large multinational clinical diagnostics organization, as well as the Director for a hospital medical laboratory. He has been in various roles within the corporate healthcare sector over the last 10 years, including as Commercial Director for a well-known private medical laboratory. The main thrust of his duties have involved revenue generation for these companies as well as overseeing the performance and wellbeing of the sales and marketing staff.

“I found it difficult to adapt to working in Malaysia as a medical doctor. The work environment of the hospital department I worked at was toxic and unpleasant…. In life you have choices. You can either stay miserable or take a chance to see what else is available for you.”

Transitioning Can Be an Enriching Experience

Noted Dr. Izzhar, “For me, personally, transitioning has been an enriching experience. While a certain amount of  fear among doctors about succeeding outside of clinical medicine is to be expected, opportunities abound for those who are willing to take the plunge. Doctors do possess many transferable skills!”

Corporate World

As far as thinking that one’s medical education and experience might go to waste due to leaving clinical medicine, Dr. Izzhar indicated  that it is a doctor’s choice how he/she chooses to see their transitioning experience. Doctors could view their new careers as a glass half full or half empty. That is a choice that a doctor is making based on his/her perception which has very little to do with reality.

“For me, personally, transitioning has been an enriching experience. While a certain amount of fear among doctors is to be expected, opportunities abound for those who are willing to take the plunge. Doctors do possess many transferable skills!”

Owning Your  Life

Dr. Izzhar strongly urges doctors to be keenly aware that THIS IS THEIR LIFE! While familial obligations and expectations have their place in Asian society, it ought not to rob someone of his/her choices in life and in the long run, their happiness.

 Whether in professional or personal life, when someone has been in an unhappy situation for a prolonged period of time, there are only two options available: i) to continue in misery or ii) arise and make a change for oneself, emphasized Dr. Izzhar. “Living your  life to meet someone else’s expectations would only  lead to  regrets in the long run,” he noted with a serious look.  

“The Summit will give these doctors the golden opportunity of addressing any pressing concerns they might have. They can also network and find the mentors they need, all in one place!”

As one of the Summit speakers, Dr. Izzhar Putra is looking forward to sharing the specific life lessons gleaned from his career path which have contributed to his career success. He wishes MFM had been around to assist him during his career quest and transitioning experience as it would have spared him the needless stress. 

The Diverse Careers Careers for Doctors Summit is the first of its kind in the country and Dr. Izzhar urges young doctors to participate and get the most out of it. “The Summit will give these doctors the golden opportunity of addressing any pressing concerns they might have. They can also network and find the mentors they need, all in one place!” he added.

Do register here for the Summit to learn more from Dr Izzhar on how you can climb up the corporate ladder as a medical doctor.

The Diverse Careers for Doctors Summit will be held on Saturday, August 20, 2022 at the IDCC Shah Alam from 8am to 6 pm. See you there!

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.

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