A Sarawakian Doctor's Journey Down Under

Dum Spiro Spero

While I breathe, I hope – Motto of the Kingdom of Sarawak

Hi there, my name is Sebastian. I’m writing this blog as a journal for myself to keep track of my journey in Australia. I moved from Malaysia in 2018 to work as a doctor here. Along the way I’ve learned a few things I could share with you. From passing the AMC exams, adjusting to life in Australia and other topics thrown in between, I hope this blog will help you along the way should you ever choose to migrate down here.

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Regional or City?

Hello everyone, It has been a long time since my last blog entry and I do appreciate all the comments. I would do my best to answer your questions to the best of my ability. Ok, so I think I would like to take the time to write about a blog entry about where shouldContinue reading “Regional or City?”

52 thoughts on “A Sarawakian Doctor's Journey Down Under

  1. Hello, 5th year medical student here! Have some questions. Is there any way I can contact you? Thank you for ur time . #Malaysiantoo

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  2. Hi Sebastian, I recently received an offer letter to Queensland as well in a regional hospital. I’m commencing in August 2021. Could you please tell me more acquiring general registration. I’m scheduled to join the RMO rotation pool, will this rotation include medical, surgical and ED? Also as a general question, do you have any regrets leaving Malaysia? Is it easier to specialise over there as compared to Malaysia for a medical based specialty?
    Thank you

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    1. Hi Rrds I’m glad you got a job! Where abouts in Queensland are you? To get general registration you can look in one of my earlier entries. You would need to pass the AMC exams or get a Work Based Assessment. You need to complete your compulsory rotations.

      The RMO rotation pool would include all those postings so don’t worry.

      Regrets? Sometimes honestly yes. I do miss a lot of things in Malaysia i.e. the weather, the food and of course family. But to each their own. Do not let that hold you back from progressing forward. Memories serve us well but they can also make us too comfortable.

      To specialise … that is a good question. It really depends what you want to do. I was pretty sure I wanted to do GP but I wanted to security to know I could always go back to hospital hence the general pathway. It is not easy to specialise in any field in Australia. there is no masters programme akin to that in Malaysia. You have to take into consideration your family, financial situation, your work environment.

      My advice is to have a plan of where you see yourself in 1 year, then in 5 years and 10 years and build it from there. Your career choices may change along the way but that is ok, just make sure you are in a secure position before making any big decisions here.

      Good luck!

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  3. Hi Sebastian!

    Thank you very much for all the information you’ve shared. It has been reallyyy helpful. I am a private Malaysian university graduate as well and have passed my MCQ paper. However, as AMC have yet to release any clinical examination dates, was planning to look into the WBA programme. Do you have any information in regards to WBA as the information provided on AMC are quite vague. In addition, is IELTS required for registration with AHPRA?

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    1. Hi Lee

      Congratulations on passing your mcq. Must have been hard. Now with wba are only held in specific hospitals. You would need to research where you intend to go to. Have a read about the different states and find out which one suits you best. My advice is wait for the clinical exam dates to be released. Pass it before coming here. It will be tough being in a new country getting used to things. Having one less thing to worry about i.e. exams would help tremendously. Speaking from personal experience I would have rather finished all the amc exams before coming here. Then again see what suits you best.

      Ielts is needed for your visa. So you have to sit for it regardless.

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  4. Hi Sebastian, thanks for this detailed write up on your experience!
    I will be starting medical school in M’sia next year, and I have some questions for you:

    1. How hard is it to become a doctor in Aus as a Malaysian? Were you amongst the brightest?
    2. Approximately how much will it cost to move my career to Aus (including specialising there).
    3. At which point in my career can/should I start moving to Aus? Straight after graduation? After residency? After working as a contract Medical Officer (MO) for a few years?

    Wanted to practice/specialise in Aus to avoid the issue where contract MO’s can’t start specialising until they get a permanent post.

    Thanks in advance 😀

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    1. Hi thanks for your comments

      To answer your questions:

      1. You do not need to be the brightest to do medicine regardless of the country. A smart person would not do medicine at all. They would go into other fields that are more lucrative and fulfilling than medicine. You need a certain character, a lot of fortitude – physical, mental and emotional if you choose this field. If you choose this line of work for the wrong reasons you will burn out within a few years if not months.

      2. This depends on your own situation. There is no cookie cutter answer to this. You can see the fees of the exams, calculate your flight tickets and other expenses. This changes if you have a spouse or child. So I would advice you to do your own research and see if this is the best choice for you.

      3. Which university are you in? If youre in IMU and you intend to go overseas look to their PMS programme. My blog is targeted to doctors who are already working in Malaysia who are thinking of migrating. For these doctors i would strongly advice to get a full mmc registration before considering migrating. Things may not always work out in Australia.

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  5. Hi Sebastian,

    I am a Irish medical school graduate and am back in malaysia waiting for housemanship for the next 2 years because i have failed to get housemanship spots in ireland due to competitiveness, I am hoping to immigrate to Australia and work as a doctor there in the future. I was wondering when will i be eligible to apply for the standard pathway , is it after 2 years of housemanship and after i get MO post? do you recommend me finishing my specialisation in Malaysia before moving to Australia since specialisation spots are given priority to Australians first if i am not mistaken? and are there any malaysian specialisation programme that are not recognised by the AMC? How difficult is it to get a specialisation programme in Australia? And with the recent contract based MO changes, what are some of the challenges that post-interns face in terms of obtaining the specialisation they desire?

    Thank you so much for taking the time to read this.

    Many thanks

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    1. Hello

      I would recommend you finish your full registration with MMC first. Nothing is certain in this world. So at least if anything happens in Australia, you’d have Malaysia to retreat to till you figure things out. Now it depends what you want to specialise in. If you wanna do GP its fairly straightforward. If you want to do medicine or surgical based its competitive so you got to do your own research
      If you specialise in Malaysia, it would be more challenging to come over. You may need to take registrar roles rather than specialist posts. If you dont mind then by all means go for it. IMHO i would sub and stay in Malaysia and go to private. The safest bet is come in after your full registration with mmc, pass the amc exams then get your general registration with AHPRA. It opens more doors.

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  6. Hi Dr Sebastian,

    I would like to ask you regarding WBA pathway. During the WBA, how do they assess us? What are the difference from the clinical examination? Do we get paid during the 12 months supervised practice while completing WBA? From your personal opinion, do you recommend me to complete the AMC clinical examination or to complete the WBA? and what are the advantages or disadvantages of those 2 pathways?

    Thank you so much for answering.

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  7. Hi Dr Sebastian,

    I have some questions regarding the WBA. May i know how will they assess us during the WBA? Do we get paid during the 12 months of supervised practice while completing the WBA? What are the disadvantages or advantages between getting the general registration through the WBA pathway or through completing Clinical Exam. From your personal opinion, which pathway is better for someone who just finish their housemanship and planning to work in Aus?

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    1. Hi Chen

      You need to be hired by a hospital to get into the WBA. You can work as a resident medical officer with a limited registration i.e. after passing AMC part 1 while waiting for your assessment. And yes you do get paid. I don’t have experience in WBA. I only know that certain hospitals offer it. You’d need to know your supervisors and get them to assess you. Too many variable factors that is beyond your control. However with the clinical exams the pathway is more straightforward,you can plan when to sit for it and it is standardised. You can prepare better for the clinical exam. There are many resources out there for you to use. You can read about it in my section regarding clinical exams.

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      1. Hi Sebastian, thanks for writing such an extensive blog sharing your experiences and guiding aspiring Malaysian doctors. May I know did both you and your wife prepared for the exam and got offered jobs together? And how does people treat foreigners in rural Australia, is it safe for a foreigner especially women to live alone there?

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      2. Hi Ng

        Yes we did prepare and got job offers together.

        Generally I felt they treated me fairly. There was some elements of racism, I won’t deny that even when it was unintentional due to ignorance on their part. Australia is one of the safest place for women. I think I read that statement some where. Just avoid places where you know they would be heavy drinking involved.

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  8. Hi there, how do you do?

    I just came across your blogpost. Congratulations! Great to see your accomplishments. I’m currently working as a contract MO in KK. I would like to know if you have any ideas about FRACGP course by Academy of Family Medicine in Malaysia. I want to work as a GP in Australia. Two ways possible – AMC or FRACGP (AFMP).

    May I know if you have any comparison between the both. Which is which? It would be grateful if you could provide more informations about FRACGP by AFMP. Upon passing, do we get job guarantee in Australia. Be it outskirts or remote. Anywhere in Australia should be fine.

    Stay safe and looking forward to hear from you.

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    1. Hi Munees. I am not familiar with the FRACGP course by the AFM. I am not sure if it is recognised by Australia anymore so you might want to look into that. It really depends on your goals. For me I wanted to have the freedom to work anywhere in Australia without any restrictions. So I chose the AMC standard pathway to get a general registration. Being in remote or regional Australia is very challenging, not just the lack of resources available within the region but also the social isolation would lead to the clinician to be vulnerable to burn out, depression and anxiety. I hope you would take this into consideration when deciding your path. All the best!

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  9. Hi Sebastian,

    Hope you are doing good. I am keen to pursue a career in Australia and hope to sign up for the AMC MCQ soon. I would like some feedback on where did you purchase your books for referencing from. Did you purchase them from the AMC online store itself? Or are there any bookstores in Malaysia that have them?

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  10. Hi Sebastian, thank you for this blog. I’m just wondering how did you apply for an RMO job in Australia? Did you go through any agencies or websites? I graduated from the UK in 2015 but did not work there. Completed my HOship in malaysia and am now a Medical Officer. Did you have to attend interviews before securing a job?

    Thank you in advance.

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  11. Hi Dr Sebastian, I am a first year medical student in a Malaysian private university, and I am planning to specialise in Australia. May I know when can I sit for the AMC exam? Can I sit the exam as a medical student or only after medical school/ after housemanship in Malaysia? And also, is it possible to migrate to Australia for internship and residency without going through housemanship in Malaysia? Looking forward to hearing from you. Thanks.

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    1. If your medical degree isn’t recognised in Australia you need to sit for amc. You can sit amc once you have completed your degree. But finishing amc does not mean you’d get a job. You need to go for interviews submit your c.v. it is hard to get a job without completing your foundation training.

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  12. Hi Dr. Sebastian, I am a first year medical student in a Malaysian private university, I’m planning to have my postgraduate degree in Australia. May I know when can I sit for the AMC exam? Can I sit for the exam as a medical student or only after medical school/ after housemanship in Malaysia? And also, is it possible to migrate to Australia for internship and residency without going through housemanship in Malaysia? Looking forward to hearing from you. Thanks.

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  13. Hi, how long did it take you to get a job? We you a senior medical officer here in Malaysia. I have been working for 7 years as a mo. Can’t take the work culture here and planning to migrate with my family. Wondering if I am too old now for this step

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    1. I left Malaysia after working in KKM for almost 8 years so I can understand where you are coming from. The move will be challenging but your experience as a MO in malaysia will help you. I moved here when I was 32. I finished my amc exams, hospital rotations and general registration when I was 33 and got into a GP training programme at 34. So it is doable.

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    2. Oh i started applying late 2017 with amc part 1 and got the job early to mid 2018. I had to study for my amc part 2 and work full time. It was challenging and humbling to say the least

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  14. Hi Dr Sebastian.
    Thanks a lot for all the sharing. Really appreciate it. I would like to ask regarding visa.
    Let say if we pass AMC mcq & clinical exam, do we need to apply job first or do we need to get the visa first? I am a bit confuse on this part.
    May i know how you get your work visa?

    This is because, as far as i understand, to work in aussie we need to secure visa first before apply the job.

    Thank you.
    Regards.

    Wan
    Medical officer for almost 6 years

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    1. Hi Wan.

      Thank you for your comment. After you get your AMC certificate you can start applying for jobs. Once you’ve got a job you can get your visa rolling. It sounds complicated but the admin staff in the hospitals deal with this stuff all the time and will guide you with the process. Hope this helps

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  15. Hi Sebastian, first of all, thank you so much for writing this blogpost. It sure is helpful for Malaysians or IMG who are preparing for the AMC exam.

    I will be taking my AMC part 1 this coming February. My understanding about road after AMC part 1 will be either through AMC part 2 clinical exam, or through work-based assessment. Is it possible to get a job as RMO in non-workplace based assessment recognized hospital, with limited registration, and preparing for AMC clinical exam at the same time?? I was thinking that it’s better to be there first and get familiar with the people and languages there before taking the clinical exam. If it is doable, do I need to look for a job first or register myself at AHPRA with limited registration first?

    Thank you

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    1. Hi Alicia

      Yes you can work in a hospital that doesn’t offer WBA (work based assessment) with a limited registration while you prepare for your clinical.

      Hope this helps

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  16. Hi Sebastian, ur blog is very informative and I saw a lot of people asking if it is advisable to take AMC before or after housemanship and u recommended that it is better to get an MMC registration first. Sadly to say but I had to quit my housemanship due to some personal issues and I am currently working at an insurance company as medical claim assessor. However, I have always wanted to become a doctor and to apply what I have learned so far into practice. I would like to know if they would require us to have a full MMC registration to sit for the exam and to get an internship placement in the hospital? I heard that we still can sit for the exam but it is almost impossible to get a placement in their hospitals without MMC registration. So basically there is no point to take AMC. So I was wondering is there any point during your whole process of application to work in Australia that they ask u if u have attained full registration in malaysia?

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    1. You don’t need a MMC registration to sit for the AMC exams. They just require a certified primary medical education. Passing the AMC does not guarantee a job. You still need to submit your CV and they would want to see you recency of practice. A lack of previous experience would work against getting a position in the hospital. Ahpra registration won’t be straight forward too. Hope this helps.

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  17. Hi dr, may I ask regarding working as a GP in Australia?
    Is it better to take amc and be absorbed in the system first then specialist ?
    Or is it better to take the current AFPM programme in Malaysia ( which is also recognised in Australia) and then come over ?

    May I get your opinion on this stance?

    Thank you

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    1. It really depends on what you want to do. I wanted to have more options available to me so I went through the standard pathway. If i feel GP is not for me I can always get locum jobs in hospitals. AFPM is not recognised in Australia as far as I know. The FRACGP international isn’t either, unless a few more modules are completed.

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  18. Hi Dr Sebastian, I recently had just graduated from a private medical school in Malaysia and I will start my Houseman ship soon this year, and I have came across your blog posts and it is really inspiring! so I had a few questions to ask, it would be great if you could try help me out with these, Thanks mate! :

    1. How is the work life balance in Australia compared to Malaysia in general?

    2. Will the income for a GP enough for covering your family’s expenses easily there?

    3. Can IMGs have a chance in becoming specialists in the future after being an established GP there? I heard that slots are limited & competitive among the local graduates there

    4. What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced while moving there?

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    1. Hi Henry.

      1. Work life balance is what you make it to be. If you want less work and more time with your family, go ahead. If you want to work everyday of the working week plus weekends you can too. In the end you decide what’s good for you.

      2. Again depends on your family. How many kids, parents included? Do they have medical conditions? Take this into consideration.

      3. I don’t really understand this question. GPs are considered specialists in Australia (it should be considered a pre requisite to have a post graduate qualification in family practice in Malaysia too, IMHO). One can subspecialise into skin, mental health, lifestyle medication etc.

      4. Unlearning bad habits I acquired in Malaysia

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  19. Hi Sebastian! I’m so glad to have stumbled upon your blog. I’m a Malaysian final year student in a local private med school. Australia isn’t as popular as US or UK among doctors looking to migrate/train elsewhere and it’s been tough trying to find a guide for the application process. Thank you for compiling into writings the journey that you have endured so far!

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  20. Hi Sebastian,

    I’m a junior contract MO, just completed my housemanship and got my full registration with KKM. Currently thinking of resigning and focusing on sitting for AMC parts 1&2. As of now, I have not completed my compulsory service.

    I understand from what you said that the recency of practice is smtg the hospitals would consider when screening through CV during job applications. Do you think it’s only wise to quit KKM once a job offer is secured?

    Also, for IMGs who have completed AMC parts 1&2 and are fully registration under KKM, if we do get a job offer, is it at RMO level?

    Thanks!! Your blog is super informative and helpful!

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    1. I would recommend that you not resign until you have locked down a job in Australia. You can study and prepare for amc 1 and amc 2 while working full time. I did my amc 1 while still working with kkm. Completed part 2 while I was working with queensland health.

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  21. Hi Seb,

    My wife and I are junior contract MOs in KKM and we’re currently applying to work in Australia. Our university is accredited by AHPRA so we don’t have to sit for AMC exams.

    We are interested to do GP in Australia as we prefer the flexibility of working hours, and as we know there are two pathways under the RACGP: rural or general pathways. We have 2 children whom we would like to bring along to Aus.

    Can you tell us more about the differences between this two pathways and how to choose between them especially for people with children?

    Thank you.

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    1. Hi William.

      With a medical degree that’s recognised by AHPRA you’d also have to do 12 months rotation in hospital before getting general registration. I would suggest getting this out of the way first before commencing GP training. Make sure you get rotations in paeds and obsgyn as this would help you get into your agpt training.

      Rural or General pathways would really depend on your lifestyle and family. Being in rural i.e. accrm means you’d have to go to mmm4 to 7 regions during your training. You would also have to cover the local hospital as well as your clinic duties. You may feel isolated professionally and personally.

      Doing the agpt pathway with the main aim to get your fracgp would allow you to work in mmm 2 to 7 and some dpa in mmm1s. Most fracgp candidates would only do clinic duties plus nursing homes.

      In terms of earning power, rural doctors can earn a lot more. In addition to that depending which mmm you go, the state will pay you x amount a money annually. The more ulu the more money. Mmm7 areas get paid aud 13k plus per annum. Taxable of course.

      Your decision would probably take into account where you want to send your kids to school too. If your goal is to end up in an urban area after your 10 year moratorium is up then go for fracgp. If you enjoy the rural life the faccrm would be your choice.

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      1. Thank you for your reply Seb!

        Can you tell us about the differences in terms of learning experience of rural vs general? What advantages would we add by taking the optional fourth year of rural training in the AGPT pathway?

        You also mentioned about the 10 year moratorium, is it some kind of bond which you must serve at whichever area the government send you to? Will you be required to transfer to many places during the 10 year moratorium?

        Thanks.

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  22. Hi, thanks for your informative blog!

    I am General Physician working under KKM.(Master in internal medicine) May I know if I apply for a job in Australia, I will be aiming for RMO, not intern. Is it true?

    Like

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