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Legacy of Lessons and Memories

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AS a medical practitioner, all doctors must be guided by the 3 H’s - the hand, the head and the heart.

These were the wise words students of the late and renowned medical professor Tan Sri Emeritus Prof Dr Thamboo John Danaraj still remember and practise more than four decades since graduating.

Better known as TJ Danaraj, the first dean of Universiti Malaya (UM) Faculty of Medicine had left a large impact on not only his students but also on the development of UM’s hospital.

Dr Muhammad Gowdh, 69, fondly recalls how the first thing Prof Danaraj drilled into his students was that medicine was a lifelong course.

He also taught us to diagnose using all our five senses, he says, adding that this is “the art of medicine.”

“For example in today’s world, all the imaging technology available has taken the guesswork out of diagnosing. On the other hand, it also reduces the interaction between patient and doctor,” he says.

Another former student, Dr Milton Lum, 70, says the principles taught by Prof Danaraj still hold water today even though the science of medicine has grown by leaps and bounds.

“He always advised us to listen to the patient,” he says, adding that this is a skill doctors nowadays are lacking as they want to diagnose their patients fast.

“A study has shown that it takes a doctor 18 seconds to interrupt a patient (nowadays).

“If you don’t listen, how will you know what condition is affecting the patient?” he asks.

UM Faculty of Medicine Department of Rehabilitation Medicine honorary professor Prof Datuk Dr Zaliha Omar, 66, says though he was strict, he was deeply respected and liked by his students.

“We were all very lucky to have learnt from Prof Danaraj.

“He was one of the great medical educationists in this part of the world,” says Dr Muhammad.

He also made us make full use of the library, he says.

Prof Danaraj, he adds, once made a houseman run down to the library from the ward to find out the full name of a drug used to treat lead poisoning.

When launching the newly renovated TJ Danaraj library last week, the late Prof Danaraj’s wife Puan Sri Dr Wong Hee Ong, 94, says he was appointed founding dean of the Faculty of Medicine in February 1963.

“Due to the shortage of doctors in the country (back then), it was decided a faculty of medicine needed to be set up in UM,” she says, adding that the first batch comprised 64 students.

She recalls how hard he worked planning the curriculum, recruiting staff and planning the structural building of the faculty when it was just a plot of land on a barren hill.

“The plans took into consideration the methods of teaching and research and what was expected of students and staff.”

On the library, UM Faculty of Medicine dean Prof Datuk Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman says that when she first became dean in 2011, she received feedback that the library was in a terrible state.In fact, a few years ago, an e-mail lamenting “the sorry state of the library” went viral among graduates, says Dr Wong.

She says she promptly requested that the name of her late husband be removed but instead Prof Adeeba promised that the library will be fully restored to achieve the purpose for which it was planned and built.“I applaud and congratulate Prof Adeeba for keeping her word and providing students with space to carry out research, study and discuss medicine.

“I am proud that today we have a library that meets the needs of a 21st century research university that is relevant to the nation,” she says.

It took five years for the renovations to be completed and Prof Adeeba hopes current and future students will be able to enjoy the new library.

The library has now been split into two sections, both on either side of the TJ Danaraj Auditorium.

Dr Wong says a library is considered essential for the right sources of information necessary to support the curriculum and research for every member of the faculty and the hospital.

“Prof Danaraj also fought against all opposition and succeeded in incorporating a separate and easily accessible library in the new faculty building,” she says, adding that no other faculty had its own library.

She adds that the library was named in honour of her late husband on May 5, 2005. He passed away the following year.

One of the primary objectives of a library, she adds, was to stimulate students’ desire to acquire knowledge for themselves.

Dr Wong adds that when Prof Danaraj was asked questions where answers could not be found in textbooks, his standard reply would be “Go look it up at the library.”Prof Adeeba says that it would be an “impossible dream to walk in his shoes” but she intends to continue his legacy and make the faculty the premier medical school in Malaysia.Dr Wong fondly adds: “I think he would be really happy that the legacy has passed on and that the students are still using their hands, heads and their hearts to practise medicine.”

Last Updated: 25/07/2019