This June I was lucky enough to spend two weeks with Carl Corrynton Medical centre in Penang, an establishment specialising in aesthetic and cosmetic surgery and the workplace of Dr. Lee Kim Siea, a nationally renown plastic surgeon. Penang is a north-western state of Malaysia, half of which exists as an island, and is where the medical centre was located. I have family on my father’s side that live in Penang who made it a great deal easier for me to get around the island.
My first week at the hospital was spent around general care units, as my intention was simply to learn about the clinical aspects of genetics and biology. Perhaps most noteworthy was the day I spent conversing with a locum doctor about the Malaysian health system, its flaws and peculiarities. This particular doctor had spent two years of his degree in an Indian university. However, upon returning to Malaysia he was to discover that his Malaysian degree was not even recognized in the Indian town he studied in. He lamented that the only place he could work was in Malaysia and that the state tries its utmost to retain their doctors.
Interesting though this was, the medical centre was quiet and most of the focus seemed centred around the third floor. I became curious and inquired as to what those elevators led to. My questioning was to result in an invitation to look around and eventually I was permitted to observe some of the procedures performed by the famous doctor.
Dr Lee, assisted by two capable nurses began most operations by marking the patient with a special ink, called methylene blue. The doctor designs and plans his incisions while consulting with the patient and his staff, drawing and gesturing, seamlessly switching between various languages: Malay, English and the numerous Chinese dialects that Malaysia is home to. I watched a lateral canthoplasty, which involved multiple incisions allowing horizontal lengthening of the eye; numerous botox injections; and fat grafts where fat from one area of a patient was repositioned elsewhere (usually the face). The first few procedures were a squeamish endeavour but it quickly gave way to fascination. The slicing of skin by hand seemed like such a crude method. The end result however was always far from crude, sewing the skin back together and wiping the area clean transformed a gory situation into a work of art.
I enjoyed my time at the hospital a great deal; the staff were always very helpful and welcoming. Learning about the different machines and surgery techniques was a really different perspective on biology to the lab work I have been used to. I’d like to thank the Principal’s Go Abroad fund and to Dr. Lee and the staff at Carl Corrynton for helping this experience to become a reality.