By Mei Kuan
Ipoh-born Wong Wen Kyle is set to be the first Malaysian recipient of the Mathews Family Scholarship at Queen’s University Belfast.
According to the university’s Development and Alumni Relations Office, the scholarship is awarded annually to a Queen’s medical student to undertake the intercalated degree MSc (Res) in Cancer Medicine in breast cancer research.
The 23-year-old Kyle was a former Poi Lam (Independent) High School pupil who studied A Levels at Taylor’s College in Selangor before entering Queen’s in September 2017.
Ipoh Echo caught up with the 4th year medical student via a virtual interview recently in order to learn more.
“When I was about 5, my grandmother got diagnosed with late-stage ovarian cancer. She commenced chemotherapy which was really hard on her. Fortunately, she managed to go through it and is well now. That really inspired me to pursue a career in medicine because I saw firsthand how a doctor can transform the life of a patient who is on the brink of death. As for my interest particularly in breast cancer, my family also has a history of breast cancer and we know how common it is among women. Thus, I wanted to contribute something to help people survive this disease,” Kyle explained, citing his family in Ipoh as his biggest motivation.
His research project which began October last year focuses on how breast cancer cells react to radiotherapy among others: “Right now we are in the final two months of the project so most of the experiments will be done. Besides collecting the final set of results, I’m working on my thesis on the project as well.”
Being a recipient of the Mathews Family Scholarship, he expressed, “It really helps me to pursue this degree because as we know, international tuition fees in the UK are quite expensive. By having this scholarship, it eases the burden of my family besides providing me with an opportunity to pursue my interest in cancer research. It really opens doors for me.”
Dr Colin Mathews, the kind donor of the Mathews Family Scholarship, established the scholarship which encompasses an extensive project and dissertation in breast cancer research, in memory of Colin’s late wife who died from the disease.
On his best memories on campus so far, Kyle shared, “First year was the most eye-opening year for me because it was my first experience studying away from Malaysia. Coming to the UK, it is life-changing because it allows me to live independently. In the university, we have to gather resources ourselves by going to the library for instance, instead of being spoon-fed. Being in Northern Ireland, it also enables me to travel to beautiful places and meet wonderful people. The happiest experience is that I was provided the opportunity to realise my dream, which I’m really grateful for.”
When asked on the challenges faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, he recalled, “Initially, we were allowed to go into the labs on a shift system for our research. I was allocated the morning shift for three days a week. As the cases have gone down a little bit, we are now allowed a full day shift in the lab. Thus, we can catch up on our lab work. Besides lab work, we also have online lectures for our course. I would prefer in-person lectures because you get to interact with the lecturers more. That was the only challenge that I have so far, which was to adapt to the online lectures.”
Expected to graduate in 2023, Kyle hopes to then complete his 2-year housemanship (training) in the UK in order to obtain a medical licence.
What does he miss most about Ipoh? “Definitely the food, especially the dim sum (small steamed or fried dumplings) in my neighbourhood and kai si hor fun (rice noodles with shredded chicken)!” the eldest child of the family enthused.
Here’s his advice for those who are considering medical school: “First and foremost, start the whole research process early because there are so many requirements. For example, certain schools require the UKCAT test, English test, interview and others. There are just so many factors to consider, like whether the medical school is recognised by the Malaysian government or not if you plan on going home for a career.”
“Keep working hard. You do not have to be a genius to get into medical school. You just have to work really hard and efficiently. Learn how to learn better because the amount of content that we have to cover in medical school is quite vast,” he said, adding that time management would be another key factor.
According to the university’s official website, Malaysia, with almost 2,000 alumni, has the largest number of Queen’s graduates outside the British Isles.
Previous distinguished graduates of Queen’s from Malaysia include the late Tun Dr Lim Keng Yaik who also hailed from Ipoh. The notable statesman graduated as a doctor in 1964 and was a Patron of the Queen’s University Alumni Association of Malaysia (QUAAM).