Becoming a Family Medicine Specialist in Malaysia

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Dr FerariWritten by Dr Far Ari

Lately a few friends have approached me with regards to becoming a Family Medicine Specialist in Malaysia. I hope the information here will be beneficial to all

Although General Practitioners (GP) have been around for the longest time in Malaysia however, the recognition and training of Family Medicine Specialist (FMS) in Malaysia is a relatively new and began in 2003 or so.

The rules with regards to opening a private GP clinic in Malaysia has not yet changed although there has been some talks and attempts to ensure that future GPs will have some form of accredited training prior to working in General Practice. On the ground level, more and more new GPs are taking their own initiative to receive training in the field of General Practice.

I guess this is due to various reasons. With abundance of MBBS graduates being churned out per year…doctors are becoming aware of their need to specialise and to attain a postgraduate qualification. Modern medicine is rapidly changing. Research in the field of medicine is growing ever so fast and there are more available grants. Even I am involved in research…so that says something!

Patients are also becoming more health concious and aware of the new advances in medicine. The concept of patients ‘blindly’ following doctor’s instructions are slowly shifting to a more ‘patient centred approach’. Hence, there is an increase challenge for doctors to keep up with new medications, new treatments and new approaches in communicating to patients.

It is no longer acceptable for doctors to practice convenient medicine and continue in their management of patients based on their 30 years experience. Experience is no doubt exceptionally valuable and nothing can replace a highly experienced doctor. However, the educational component, structured learning and mentoring process of the postgraduate training is vital in ensuring a high clinical standard of all doctors and create a passion for life long learning. The exposure to different specialties is extremely valuable for GPs in order to equip them with the ability to diagnose and manage multiple complaints of various systems and origins.

To become an FMS or primary care specialist in Malaysia you need to have a postgraduate degree in either MMed Family Medicine, FRACGP or MRCGP.

MRCGP training is in the UK and it is a structured 3-year training programme. Although there is MRCGP [International] which candidates can sit for in various countries including Brunei, Sri Lanka and others. However, there is no structured training available, it maybe expensive and the passing rate is relatively low.

Candidates may enter the Diploma in Family Medicine (DFM) training conducted by Academy of Family Physician Malaysia (AFPM). The DFM is a 2-year part time structured course with examinations. After completing the 2-year DFM candidates may opt to continue with the Vocational Training Scheme (VTS) and sit for the MAFP/FRACGP which is a Malaysian/ Australian General Practice professional examinations to become a member of the Australian Royal College of General Pracitioners. At present, candidates who sit for this exams may also work in Australia.

Candidates may choose to join the Masters in Family Medicine training which is currently offered in University Malaya (UM), University Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), University Sains Malaysian (USM) and University Teknologi MARA (UiTM). This is a 4-year full time structured training with research component in year 4. This is an excellent programme and suitable for those planning to go into academic, teaching and research within a University setting or to work in the MOH Health Clinics.

We are seeing more GPs even those who have been practising for many years joining the DFM programme and venturing into FRACGP. We are also seeing more applications for the Masters in Family Medicine training. I believe even without the pressure or law by the MOH the trend is for future GPs to have postgraduate training and qualification in General Practice.