Meet Dr Nor’ Aina, The Doctor who Crossed Borders Into International Marketing

Dr Nor’Aina Mohd Som, a doctor by training in general surgery, health screening and wound care, had established herself in both the government and private sector. 

With more than a decade of experience, she continued to gather experience not just through screening and treating patients, but also by setting up establishments in the form of new departments to better enhance patient care. 

Her first stint out of government practice was as a health screening and wound care doctor. Transitioning from a general surgery background, she entered new spaces as a doctor and for over 2 years under Ramsay Sime Darby’s Ara Damansara Medical Centre, she treated and counseled countless patients. 

It was however important to note that her experience beyond just clinical assessments started to grow at this stage of her career, as Dr Aina began her involvement in marketing the services by assisting the hospital’s marketing team. Here she noted that she had started to realise that there were fine differences in the language used when she was marketing a service versus to counseling a patient for instance. 

Her interest in marketing grew at a pace as she continued to immerse herself in the healthcare market, while learning and understanding the regulatory scopes involved in marketing healthcare services.

Within her 1.5 years of tenure in the hospital, she had successfully set up a wound care clinic and marketing the services was naturally part of her scope in ensuring successful discovery by patients who visited the hospital. 

In 2019, Dr Aina then began a new phase in her career working with the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council as a Medical Advisor. 

“As a medical advisor to the Malaysia Healthcare Council opened new doors for me to explore and practice medicine with a different approach. My role was responsible for the development of new medical opportunities and to connect the dots between clinical measures and patients care and satisfaction from around the globe,” she shared. 

While still being within a semi-government agency as a medical advisor, her role was a mixture of many things and marketing was one of the many skills she had continued to build for herself at MHTC. The opportunity to grow and attract international patients required her to understand the many different areas of healthcare Malaysia had the opportunity to market for the world outside. 

Combining her experience throughout the years, she spent her time understanding different demographics of patients and how best to market services that would capture their attention. Additionally, her work also included assisting the teams within MHTC to position Malaysia as a globally attractive healthcare hub. 

As the medical advisor to the CEO, she advised on protocols and policies feasibility assessments for medical treatments and services. She further looked into mapping unmet needs and devised plans with partner organisations to fill service gaps for healthcare travelers and expatriates. 

In addition to her role in the Agency, she also joined TEMOS International as a certified assessor , assessing hospitals and ensuring their services are at an optimum to cater and treat patients with the best care. 

Little did she know, her work in a government agency focusing on attracting international patients would come to benefit her work at a later stage of career.

In 2021, she left the Agency to lead the establishment of a 24-7 Emergency department in a single-specialty orthopaedic hospital in the heart of KL. Her work previously as a medical advisor came to use here as she led a team of 17 A&E staff in daily operations while also building and optimising the emergency operations including patient flow and care. 

While leading A&E, an opportunity to build an international marketing department came about and not wanting to lose this opportunity, she led both departments for a time before taking on the Head of International Marketing role full time. 

Crossing borders

While having left her clinical days behind, Dr Aina’s new role required not only management skills and marketing strategies but continued application of her medical knowledge. She knew the flexibility required in the importance of having the knowledge of explaining medical information thoroughly to patients while conversing in an entirely different manner to corporate partners to enhance partnerships. 

Today, she continues to travel to different parts of Indonesia, mainly Jakarta, Surabaya and Bali, building partnerships with media houses, physio partners and insurance providers. Her work not only involved in positioning ALTY as the single-most preferred orthopaedic hospital in the region but also ensuring healthcare travelers have enough of Malaysia to see. 

She continues to establish strategies, both short and long-term while growing ALTY’s international marketing department to serve a growing number of international patients who continue to visit ALTY for orthopaedic services. 

Building Skills For The Long Run

As a doctor who had growing interest in other areas, Dr Aina knew growing a skillset in other areas was important. Not only did she have to ensure her knowledge in marketing and strategies had to grow but also skills in managing challenges and people. 

She encouraged budding doctors to take on new skills even if they do not plan on leaving the field. Even as a doctor, she believes that the profession continues to grow in the midst of growing adoption of technologies.  

This could also include business development, GP management, healthcare communication or even event management among others. 

Growing would also require going beyond your comfort zone to be more familiar and to adapt to new changes coming into the field. The healthcare field continues to witness rapid changes as patient needs and demands change and doctors who are looking to make the jump into different aspects of the industry will have to start taking either courses or perhaps a mentor who might be able to help them in growing a new set of skills. 

Impacting patient care goes beyond having clinical knowledge, it involves acknowledging that there is more than one way to do so. 

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