Doctors and nurses are the embodiment of God! They save lives and keep us well. 

In the year 2020, medical frontliners hold a special significance considering the fact that doctors, physicians, nurses and other medical professionals are working around the clock  during the COVID-19 pandemic. Fighting the risk of infection by wearing PPE kits and serving patients is what doctors have been doing since the pandemic started in early 2020.

Their selfless effort and sacrifice is something we truly appreciate. Hence, in honour of International Women’s Day, we celebrate the achievements of women around the world, and we begin with the frontliners who are working day and night to treat those afflicted with the virus at the same time curb the spread of COVID-19 further.

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Varnam Malaysia in conjunction with this year’s IWD took the opportunity to interview female frontliners on a series of questions, in line with their duty.

Dr Jhananie Selladurai (Hospital Melaka)

As the nation pledges to remain home under a Movement Control Order (MCO) to flatten the curve of the COVID-19 pandemic in Malaysia, Dr Jhananie and her colleagues put their own wellbeing at risk every single day in order to help the public. 

You’re currently posted as a Medical Officer in Hospital Melaka. Did you expect to be in this role when you first started in the workforce?

Yes of course I did expect this because that’s the objective of housemanship training for 2 years. The responsibility as a medical officer will be more challenging as you need to be more responsible and independent in handling cases. Thus, mentally and physically one must be prepared to face the challenges to manage the patients by yourself without failing yet performing the best for a better quality of life for the patients. 

Tell me about the action or decision you’re most proud of?

Yes, I would like to share my experience handling a patient who was being disrespectful in the ward. As a doctor, I have to be as calm and collected as I can be by applying sound learning, to guard the purity of the medical practices doctrine and to be disciplined in my work. This is my work ethics.

In any challenging situation, patience is vital in handling patients. There is no point in losing my temper when I can solve matters in a calm manner.

What’s the most important piece of advice you’d give to a woman thinking of starting a career in the medical line?

First of foremost, to be a doctor one must not only be passionate about being one but must adore the profession. The patient is your book to learn as much as you can at the same time treat them with uttermost respect with a focus on their ultimate well-being.

Do you think there’s a stereotype attached to female doctors?

Yes. Female doctors have always been told that they don’t have enough time to spend with their families especially if they are tied with oncall (requiring them to stay in the hospital for more than 24 hours). As a woman if you adore the job and at the same time you can manage your family you’re the champion.

Common stereotypes often exist in the workplace. Women often have to either choose between a career or a family, which is hard, but it shouldn’t be the case.

Dr Yasotah Thakshina Moorthy (Hospital Tangkak)

Medicine is certainly not for the faint at heart. It is arguably one of the most respected and well-esteemed occupations. But, what would it take to be a good doctor?

Are there any assumptions about women that you would like to change? If yes, what is it and why?

Yes, women are always labelled as the weakest. They’re always labelled as the weakling compared to men. People should learn to accept that women are equal to men. They can handle any tough situation and come back strong as any men. Recent data released by the United Nations reveal an alarming disparity. These women frontline workers are getting paid 11 per cent less than their male counterparts globally. This should change, why isn’t there gender equality when both genders are taking the same amount of risk to save lives?

International Women’s Day was first marked in 1911 – over 100 years ago. Why do you think the day is still relevant?

I think it is more like a reminder that women should be celebrated and respected. It is to identify, celebrate, to increase the visibility of women’s achievements that can help forge equality worldwide.

Since you’ve worked in the medical line throughout the years, do you remember any personal incident where you were made to feel inferior/superior solely for being a woman?

Yes, I feel superior for being a woman and definitely proud of being one. Everyone knows how difficult the medical line is. I remember how my family members used to say that, once you’re a doctor, you will not have time to make for your family. Well, I think I am in a process of proving them wrong. However busy I get, or however tired I am, I have never neglected my part or my responsibility towards my old parents. Compared to the other siblings in my family, I think as a woman, I have been there more. So, there’s nothing a woman can’t do. And I’m proud of it.

How do you feel about the way women are represented in the working culture? Can you see yourself in any of them?  

Currently, I think women are really thriving. One thing which the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us is that when women lead, we see positive results. Some of the most efficient and successful responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in the other parts of the world were led by women. They are even at the forefront of humanity’s battle against the pandemic. Be it as front-line and health sector workers, or scientists, doctors, and caregivers. I am a front liner. I have been giving my best till today. Well, if there’s more that I can do and help during this pandemic, I will give all my best.

What do you think helped you get so far in your career? How can we mentor young girls to dream bigger?

Undoubtedly my mother. I have seen all my life what a strong person she is. Yes, she’s stubborn. Stubborn to get things right for us. She has taught me the importance of being a brave woman. How daring she should be to dream. And to never step down fearing others. I have learnt how to apply that in whatever I do till today. Young girls should be motivated by showing other women’s achievement worldwide. Even though many women around the world have been achieving big, there’s not enough platform to show their achievements and accomplishments. I think these young girls should be exposed to these women’s achievements and be motivated to dream and achieve much bigger dreams like them.

Anuosha Satasivam (Hospital Batu Gajah Perak)

Practising compassion is an important component of good medical care in any situation and Dr Anuosha has been implementing it since she joined the medical line. Hailing from Ipoh, the passionate doctor is in charge of the Covid-19 ward at Hospital Batu Gajah, Perak. 

How have you found being a woman, working in the medical line?

I wouldn’t say it’s like a walk in the garden. It can be challenging for both women and men equally. But, despite all the tiredness, issues and ongoing crisis, compassion drives along and motivates us to start a better day ahead. I have seen many of my female colleagues including staff, single mothers with two to three kids still showing up to work. It’s inspiring to see them!

What advice would you give someone looking to start working in your sector?

Compassion to serve. You got to have the passion to serve and that’s the only thing that will keep you going. In the medical line, the term or word appreciation is actually a rare compliment to hear from your bosses or colleagues. But knowing that you did something right at the end of the day, that’s what directs you the most. 

In your opinion, how do our individual actions, conversations, behaviours and mindsets have an impact on our larger society?

We’re all part of the universe. What we say, think, do and advocate impacts our surroundings. No matter how small the impact the ripple will be always bigger. As a woman, how we carry ourselves based on our appearance, achievement and etc, we are continuing to inspire other women every day. Just like how I look up to my colleagues and staff, who are still yet showing up to work on time and doing what they’re supposed to do is actually inspiring. 

Is it (still) necessary as a woman in modern times to decide between career and children, and what advice would you give to young women in this regard?

Yes, it’s necessary. It still remains a matter of choice. I’ve grown up seeing career-oriented women and family-oriented as well. Both are successful on their own terms. So, my advice to young women is surround yourselves with the dreamers and the doers who push you to the next level. 

Sri Latha Nakarajoo (Ng Teng Fong General Hospital)

With the MCO lasting months, Melaka born and bred Sri Latha is a frontliner who works as a nurse in Singapore’s Ng Teng Fong General Hospital. Being there for the past seven years;  missing her family but at the same time whilst attending to life treating COVID-19 patients on a regular basis.

When was the last time you saw your family?

The last I saw my family was in August 2020. Went back to Malaysia for my delivery and left behind my 2 month old and 4-year-old daughter and came back to Singapore for work purposes.

If 2020 was the year for female movements’ what is the impact of those movements in 2021?

I would say, determining a woman’s place in relation to career and motherhood.

Why do you think gender diversity/gender equality is so important in the workplace?

It will promote innovation, when the employee feels that the organisation they are working for supports gender equality, it encourages them to innovate things. Thus, diversity and equality in the workplace create more innovative outputs.

Who were pivotal women role models that have positively impacted you in your career? What’s one lesson they taught you?

The greatest mentor I have had in my nursing career has been my sister. My unceasing source of support from my young age has been my sister,  Magalacumy. She championed my decision to pursue a nursing career and my efforts to become a nurse. And not forgetting my backbone, my husband, Navindran has been instrumental in managing the household, looking after my kids and other responsibilities, which allowed me to focus on my work and pursuing my studies.

What do you believe will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women to come?

I believe women support and empower each other, starting with our basic principles of who we are, our morals, values, integrity. We must be humble, show togetherness, passion, excellence and enthusiasm toward laying the foundation for our progress through our work.

We all know that without women, the earth will be a barren wasteland. Every woman’s success should be an inspiration to another.  Women are the epitome of strength, resilience and beauty.

May we know them;

May we raise them;

May we be them!

Happy International Women’s Day from all of us at Varnam Malaysia!