A Doctor’s Unconventional Path to the World of Coding

My journey into the realm of coding is a tale that begins quite unexpectedly.

I was a young student, fresh out of secondary school, brimming with dreams of engineering. My heart was set on electronics and computers – the thrill of assembling and fixing things was my world. I remember being the go-to person when it came to troubleshooting the family TV or fixing loose cables.

Then, life threw me a curveball. My university applications were in, and while engineering offers came in, none matched my dream fields of electronics or robotics. The real surprise? The International Islamic University of Malaysia (IIUM) offered me a spot in Medicine, which was my plan B at this particular university. My father, beaming with pride, like any Asian parent would, encouraged me to embrace this path.

Fast forward through the rigorous years of medical school. After graduating, I found myself in a brief hiatus before starting my housemanship (i.e. internship, as people call it in some countries). It was during this time that my fascination with technology reawakened. I did not have much money, so I turned to the Internet for education and discovered a wealth of free resources. I dove headfirst into learning programming languages like Java, JavaScript, and Python on platforms like Codecademy, which was very popular back then. The logic and structure of coding languages intrigued me and I just love trying to figure out what the codes mean. It was fun to be able to ‘communicate’ with machines and tell them exactly what I wanted them to do.

Fast forward a few years, after I had completed my housemanship, I had the chance to make good use of coding skills in my main line of work. during my time as the Medical Officer in the Psychiatry department in Hospital Tawau, Sabah. At that period, we faced a unique challenge: locating psychiatric patients in remote areas in eastern Borneo, who for some reason, often did not have formal addresses. Some of these patients were also homeless. Despite all odds, the community psychiatric team had to try to find them and give them appropriate treatment and support. But how can we be sure to achieve that?

This sparked an innovative idea: why not blend my clinical skills with some coding work? Thus, the MyCPU (Community Psychiatry Unit) project was born. Initially, I implemented a simple, no-code solution using Google Maps to digitally mark our patients’ locations. The success of this approach led to a bigger ambition – developing a dedicated app with many built-in features that enhance the team’s productivity. The project was a hit, earning me the Best Practice award from the Malaysian Psychiatric Association for the year 2020, a testament to the power of combining healthcare with technology.

In the realm of software development and engineering, I found my niche with Flutter, a versatile and user-friendly cross-platform framework. Its programming language, Dart, was a revelation, offering simplicity and efficiency in developing applications. This discovery propelled my journey as a software developer, allowing me to bring my ideas to life in the form of practical, user-friendly apps.

Today, my professional life is a harmonious blend of medicine and technology. I continue to treat patients and pursue my clinical duties. But I also love channelling my coding abilities into creating digital health solutions. My projects range from apps that aid healthcare workers to those that directly benefit patients. It’s incredibly rewarding to use my skills to craft tools that have a tangible impact on healthcare delivery.

This dual career path has been a source of immense personal and professional growth. It has allowed me to view healthcare through a unique lens, identifying gaps and opportunities where technology can play a transformative role. Each patient encounter fuels my drive to innovate, while each coding challenge hones my problem-solving skills.

Reflecting on this journey, my aim is not to boast but to highlight the diverse paths one can explore in the field of medicine. My journey into health tech as a software developer, while maintaining my clinical practice, has been a fulfilling adventure. It’s a path that constantly challenges and inspires me.

As I look to the future, my goal is to continue blending these two worlds, harnessing the potential of technology to enhance healthcare. The journey of learning never stops, and I am excited to see where this unique fusion of medicine and coding will take me.

Through this story, I hope to inspire others in the medical field to explore their passions, even if they lie outside the traditional scope of medicine. I believe the possibilities are endless, and the impact we can make by venturing into new territories is just amazing.

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