The Author

THE EARLY MALAY DOCTORS

I was born in Malacca, the third of seven siblings. I was brought up by my paternal grandmother in our heritage home in Banda Hilir, Malacca till age 5. I attended three primary schools, first Sultanah Asma Primary School in Alor Star, Kedah (Std 1-3), second Tanjung Aru Primary School in Jesselton, Sabah (Std 3-5) and third Zainab Primary School in Telipot, Kota Bharu, Kelantan (Std 5-6). I attended three secondary schools, first Zainab Secondary School in Telipot (Form 1), second Malacca Girls' High School, Durian Daun (Form 2 & 3) and third Tunku Kurshiah College, Seremban in Negeri Sembilan (Form 4 & 5). I went to California at age 17 (a month before my 18th birthday). My academic qualifications are BA Microbiology with Distinction (1980) and BA in Chemical Sciences (1980), MSc Biochemistry (1982) and PhD (Medical Physiology)(1990). 

At my first university, California State University, Chico campus (CSUC), I created two personal records. In 1976, I was the youngest ever to have broken the American Chemical Society (ACS) record for scoring the highest marks in an ACS US-nationwide Chemistry entrance exam. The following year, in 1977 (in my second year), I was offered my first job (as a Math tutor) by the Mathematics Dept. Job offers in Mathematics never stopped coming. I was also offered to attend Rochester University at the advice of my Chemistry professor.

At my first graduate institution, the University of California, Riverside campus (UCR), I was invited to join the Physics Dept, Stanford University at Palo Alto. 1n 1981-2 when I was 22-3, I wrote my first Chemistry textbook when studying for my Graduate Exam in Biochemistry (unpublished and handwritten in pencil). I invented my first prototype DNA/RNA vertical electrophoresis unit in 1981-2 (I still have it) whilst in California, before Biotechnology came to Malaysia. My professors advised me to remain in the US and become a US citizen.

At my second graduate institution, the University of Western Australia, Nedlands campus at Crawley, Perth, I made one personal record. In 1989, I submitted the best PhD thesis in Physiology/Medicine. That PhD thesis became a resource book for further biotechnology research for many other Australian researchers.

Not many people knew or were aware that I was doing computers and physics since my undergraduate days. I learned and made digital clocks from my father, well before they became commercial items. I worked mostly with computers because the human brain cannot compute nor handle big numbers. I went from the main frame computers in computer science to the Wang minicomputers in my biochemistry practical classes. Physical chemistry was interesting and challenging, trying to fix a malfunctioning cathode-ray tube while the professor left the class. It was at UCR that I had to use a lot of computing power to derive crystal structures of insulin.

Back on home ground, things were relaxed but I went to work. There was a break for me as in Malaysia there were word processors for typists only, in June 1982. I knew sufficient programming to go in another direction. That was when I started designing for PC interfaces and got involved with bigger IT projects. I introduced computerisation for Malaysian clinical laboratories in November 1990. Today, almost all clinical labs in Malaysia are adequately computerised, and are linked to patients' electronic medical records (EMR). Today, almost all Malaysian hospitals have a hospital information system (HIS). I do database design (functional requirement document, FRD) as free consultancy.

When the personal computers arrived in 1993, I didn't have an opportunity to work on the PCs or use email but the opportunity came in 1997, for computer-aided instruction (CAI). I did CAI for a long time till e-learning and MOODLE came along in 2005. I am now in IT, especially in e-learning and I am involved with applications for off-shore medical programs.

I have been with computers since age 17 and I love computers for their computing power. I use various computers for my work, at the university and at home. I have worked in many research disciplines and in administration. I have yet to address the issue of a nationwide ICT network for health, medicine and teaching. I had given a keynote address on Biotechnology and Bioinformatics which moved Malaysian research in that direction. We are still far from ever finding customised computerised solutions for cancers that occur in our society. InsyaAllah, I will work on it (it is actually in another blog).

In my spare time when I was a student, I used to swim and dance. My parents taught me to swim and dance; they were both good swimmers and dancers. I love classical Malay dance costumes and dances such as Mak Yong, inang and zapin. I used to choreograph simple Malay dances for international festivals when I lived overseas. I loved most tarian lilin or tarian piring, which is a traditional Minangkabau dance. My undergraduate days taught me ballroom dancing, including waltzes and tango. I was a lead Mak Yong dancer for my university (USM). Now that I am much older and have other responsibilities, in my spare time, I usually cook, read and listen to both local and world news. Now that blogs have arrived, I do a considerable amount of blogging for academic and research purposes.

I'm married and have six grown-up children, two sons and four daughters. My eldest daughter is married. She graduated in aerospace engineering from UPM and has an MSc (2013). My elder son graduated from UiTM Machang, Kelantan and is currently an audit-accountant in Kelantan. My younger son graduated in Multimedia from KUIS, Bandar Sri Putera in Selangor, and presently works at USM in Kelantan. My second daughter completed her medical studies in September 2015, under the the MSU-International Medical University twinning program in Bangalore, India. My third daughter is in second year entrepreneurial course at Universiti Malaysia Kelantan (UMK), Bachok campus. My youngest daughter is in Form 4 at SM Kubang Kerian 2.

Historically and socially, I am Jawi Peranakan. From my father, I am descended from the Arabian Hadrami Indian Muslims of Malacca who married to the Chinese Muslims (Baba-Nyonya). My paternal grandmother was descended from the Chinese Princess Hang Li Po who married to a Sultan of the Malacca Sultanate. The Arab lineage may also come from the royal household of Minangkabau princes who left the palace of Pagarruyong in West Sumatra in the early 1700s. The founder clan member in early Malaya was Haji Muhammad Saleh, or better known as Nakhoda nan Intan, whose brother-in-law was Datuk Jenaton. However, only the word Nakhoda is mentioned in our clan.

I am also descended from the Hyderabad Sindhi (Pakistani) male lineage from my Penang grandfather who married my Ceylonese Burgher (White Dutch + Ceylonese Indian) grandmother who came to Malaya from the highlands of Kandy, Ceylon. I therefore carry a heavy genetic admixture of the Indian, Chinese and with traces of Arab and Caucasian. I am grouped as a Malay in Malaysia but terribly mistaken for a Chicano and grouped as an Hispanic in California! I am Filipino to the Filipinos (Mahal kita!), Indian to the Australians (G'day mate!) but 'orang luar' to the Kelantan Malay populace. This is my wonderful background and I am thankful for what I am - a DKK (darah keturunan keling).

I started teaching biochemistry at USM, Penang in June 1982. I then moved to the USM Health Campus in Kubang Kerian, Kelantan in September 1983 (3 months after I got married). I was in hospital administration early in my career in Kelantan. I then entered medical teaching after completing my PhD in mid-August 1989. I taught core biochemistry topics and some basic chemistry topics to medical, nursing and medical laboratory technology students.

Besides teaching core biochemistry topics, I also taught other topics, including History of Medicine. I introduced medical and dental students to traditional medicine of the Malays, Chinese, Indians, Orang Asli (Orang Asal) and the Arabs. This was an interesting subject and I hope to one day be able to write a good resource book on the subject. Most of the resources for teaching this class were from my visits and reading. I had lived approximately 11 years outside Malaysia (in California and Australia). I have been to a number of places locally and overseas, met many people from different backgrounds and walks of life, and seen a lot of things in health and disease. A lot of the things I knew have gone into my annual lecture for History of Medicine, which I delivered to as many as 300 students (less # in 2012/2013). Even the Quran was not left out. Every bit of useful information was told in this special lecture cum small group discussion and presentation. This lecture was phased out when the Medical School complied with the MQA regulations. That's a pity.

History of Medicine was one of the best classes I have taught in my 32 years as an academic. The Biography of the Early Malay Doctors is only one of the many books I wrote for teaching this class. It is not so easy to write a good book but it is not impossible to complete one either. The other book, Research on the Early Malay Doctors is mainly a resource and guidebook for researchers to get an insight of my research on the early Malay doctors.

Faridah bt Abdul Rashid
BA, MSc, PhD; PSK; Prof Dr Hajah
faridahar@gmail.com
012-963 2218