This post was written by Manveen Maan
BALANCING THE ROLE OF DOCTOR AND FRIEND IS NOT AN EASY TASK, BUT MANVEEN MAAN MEETS A WOMAN WHO SUCCESSFULLY COMBINES HER CARING NATURE WITH AN ADMIRABLE WORK ETHIC TO DELIVER FIRST-CLASS TREATMENT AT PRINCE COURT MEDICAL CENTRE.
Warm, welcoming, and immaculately dressed, Dr. Harjit Kaur Perdamen welcomes me into her brightly lit clinic at Prince Court Hospital with a smile on her face, apologising for the slight delay. “I often get a little carried away with my patients and we end up chatting about more than just medicine,” she says.
This role as doctor, friend, mentor, and surgeon is one Dr. Harjit seems to pull off with ease, no doubt due to her caring personality and professional work ethic: “The best part of my job is dealing with the patients, listening to them and sorting out their problems. As a surgeon, I find that, in most situations, I’m able to help patients in some way or another, even if the diseases they suffer from are quite severe.”
As one of the country’s leading breast and endocrine surgeons, to say Dr. Harjit’s schedule is packed is an understatement. “The bulk of my work involves breast procedures but I also deal with a fair bit of endocrine procedures, mainly working with the thyroid area,” she explains. “All my clinic and operating theatre appointments are scheduled ahead of time – I like it planned so there’s no stress. I’m usually at work by 8am. I have my morning cup of coffee and then I start seeing patients by 9am. Clinics run throughout the day and can end as late as 7pm. Similarly, I schedule most of my operating cases in the morning. Standard procedures such as breast cancer cases take around one and a half hours, but a complete reconstruction can go on for as long as three or four hours.”
FOLLOWING FAMILY FOOTSTEPS
Coming from a medically inclined family, it is no surprise that Dr. Harjit pursued the same path as her parents, although this was almost not the case. “My father was a doctor and my mother was a nurse so I was exposed to hospitals and healthcare from a very young age. My two older siblings are both doctors, but when it came to my turn, I was actually torn between law and medicine. I ended up going to law school for three months before deciding that medicine was what I really wanted to do,” she remembers.
Dr. Harjit admits that she stumbled into the field of breast and endocrine surgery quite by accident. “My career started when I was working as a general surgeon. Being a woman, I was put to run the breast clinic,” she recalls. “I became familiar with the issues faced by women such as having no other option besides losing their breasts; at the time, there were no reconstruction facilities and not enough plastic surgeons. It was particularly heartbreaking as most women would do anything to avoid losing their breast, and then would return at an advanced stage when we weren’t always able to fight the cancer,” she says. “That was when I realised we needed breast surgeons with the capability to perform oncoplastic (reconstructive) work as well.”
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Once she completed her Masters of Surgery (UKM), Dr. Harjit went on to obtain accreditation from the Fellowship of Royal College of Surgeons (Ireland), Academy of Medicine (Malaysia), and, finally, her Fellowship in Breast Surgery (Australia). Despite achieving so much, Dr. Harjit attributes much of her success to having had good mentors. “My first mentor was my Head of Surgery who took me under his wing and made me believe a woman could become a successful surgeon. At the time there were so few female surgeons in the country, so the fact that he had faith in me was so great,” she says, beaming with pride. “He also taught me the importance of speaking to your patients with dignity and respe ct, and always having a plan that is focused on the correct treatment for each patient. That is the sign of a true clinician, and it’s what I’ve believed in and practiced all these years.”
It is this professional work ethic that brings patients in to Dr. Harjit’s clinic, along with her evident passion for her job. She reveals that her workplace is an innovative and supportive one, allowing her to continually deliver the best results she can. “There is a lovely working environment here at Prince Court and I believe the facilities are some of the best in the country. Being a fairly new hospital, we are fortunate enough to have state-ofthe-art equipment available,” she says.
ADVANCEMENTS IN MEDICINE
Dr. Harjit cites cutting-edge medical developments at Prince Court as one of the most exciting parts of her job. “We were the first in the country to start sentinel node biopsy, which is an important part of the breast cancer management process,” she says. This new technique enables cancer cells to be identified in specific lymph nodes, avoiding the traditional approach of the unnecessary removal of all lymph nodes. This minimises the risk of patients developing lymphedema or suffering from chronic pains and scars.
“This is a practice that has been carried out around the world for the past ten years,” adds Dr. Harjit “so hopefully more Malaysian hospitals will be able to start providing this service.”
Despite living and operating in the advanced world of modern medicine, Dr. Harjit still believes a sympathetic ear and personal touch can make all the difference in challenging situations. “My patients have different stories, backgrounds and issues. Getting to know them while helping them overcome the adversities they face is the most fulfilling part of the job for me,” she says. “Once you develop that relationship and trust, you move into a family doctor role. I’m accessible to my patients 24 hours a day – they even have my mobile phone number. It might seem unorthodox but I’d rather they get all the information they need from me than remain confused.”
It is refreshing to see that a hectic schedule and a stressful position have not diminished Dr. Harjit’s passion for her work: “I have no regrets and definitely feel this job was meant for me. Although my work is exhausting, it’s ultimately very rewarding.”
Dr. Harjit Kaur Perdamen,
Consultant Breast and Endocrine
Surgeon; Prince Court Medical Centre,
39 Jalan Kia Peng, 50450 KL;
Source: The Expat October 2012
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