Ireka | A Doctor Without Borders!
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A Doctor Without Borders!

Dr ZamRefreshing! This word aptly describes Dr. Mohd Shuhaizam Mohd Zain or just Dr Zam to his friends. His enthusiasm for learning literally everything about improving the patient experience and enhancing patient care are, pardon the pun, infectious! He is all about promoting health as well as treating the health problem. Dr Zam qualified as an aeronautical engineer in the 1990s but couldn’t see a future for himself in this field so he opted to spend another 6 years in academia studying medicine. Its breadth of subject areas, and range of job opportunities, ergo different life challenges appealed to this doctor who thrives on being kept on his toes and successfully spinning many plates. I think the term variety being the spice of life was coined with Dr. Zam in mind!

More Than a Doctor

Being a doctor took him beyond the science and practice of diagnosing, treating and preventing disease. For Dr. Zam, it led him to be a practicing plastic surgeon, healer, teacher, inventor, mentor and businessman. More on each of these later! Dr. Zam’s medical learning took him to both the Republic of Ireland and to America in the 1990s. He holds a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and Dr. Zam also pursued his surgical fellowship at the world-renowned Mayo Clinic in America to enhance his knowledge on reconstructive surgery.

More to learn

Dr Zam 2Being curious about patient centric health care delivery and being singularly focused on recovery risk (as opposed to the risk of dying), Dr. Zam spent 3 months in China, speaking no Chinese, to learn at first-hand about China’s approach to breast reconstructive surgery. He wanted to learn about their practice of undertaking partial mastectomies (removing only the cancerous part of the breast tissue) and using herbal therapies, which have been practiced for centuries, in the treatment of cancer alongside cancer drugs. In China, the two are not mutually exclusive. The idea is that, as a natural medicine, herbal therapies have the advantage of lower adverse reaction and lower toxicity compared, perhaps, to allopathic anti-cancer drugs and treatments.

Beyond Doctoring

In 2017, Dr Zam was appointed CEO of the Malaysian Bioeconomy Development Corporation, the Government’s economic development agency dedicated to driving the growth of the bio-based industry in the country. His background and expertise in Government policies, engineering, biomedical innovations, medicine, delivering healthcare, plus steering successful businesses in multiple industries have all combined to lead him to take up the role, until recently, as one of the health advisors on handling the COVID-19 crisis in Malaysia. More specifically, it was his direct involvement in the invention of the COVID-19 rapid test kit that brought Dr. Zam to the attention of the Prime Minister’s Department, advising the ‘Angkatan Pertahanan Awam’ (APM- Malaysia Civil Defence Force) on developments in all the quarantine centres, especially those handled by government agencies and also on the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for COVID patients and the front liners in the quarantine centres.

Taking responsibility

Dr. Zam warns us not to underestimate the Coronavirus because it spreads quickly and stays on surfaces more than other viruses. However, he stresses that with good immunity, personal hygiene and nutrition, we can curb the spread. “It is an individual’s prerogative to take care of themselves and to be responsible for their health status,” says Dr. Zam. He goes on to advise that the all too familiar procedures of frequent hand washing, mask wearing, sanitizing, physical distancing and avoiding crowded places are also effective deterrents, at least until a vaccine is found. With patience and cooperation, we can all do our part, according to Dr. Zam. The silver lining to all this improved personal hygiene will hopefully and organically spread to other parts of society where public health habits such as keeping cleaner public toilets perhaps might be the positive outcomes!

Invisible Glove Protection

Invisible GloveThe pandemic has also created urgent demand for healthcare technology that is safe to use. Dr. Zam put his engineering, biomedical and medical expertise into practice successfully designing a personal spray-on PPE called “Invisible Glove Protection. This water-based zinc oxide antibacterial spray will stay on your clothes or hands for up to 25 washes. Unlike alcohol, the zinc oxide will not evaporate.

The nanoparticles just sit under the skin and cannot penetrate the body’s fat tissues so there is no danger of harmful absorption into the body. Electronic charges are needed so the atomizer spray can be recharged. The technology exists and Dr. Zam has patented this device for which there is already interest shown from home and abroad.

A cautious future

Dr. Zam foresees that COVID-19 will be around for at least 2 years and thinking about it, a year has almost gone by when the outbreak was first identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. The World Health Organization declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January, and a pandemic on 11 March.

According to Dr. Zam, “This is not a human adaptive virus because it originated in animals. The scientists and doctors are learning new information almost weekly about it, and until we have definitive, empirical information, we must remain vigilant.” Thus, raising awareness is critical so it is not unusual to see Dr. Zam at mosques and community associations talking to people about how everyone can play their part to stop the spread of the deadly Coronavirus.

As countries continue to plan for lifting lockdown restrictions, governments are desperate to create a future that is workable and that preserves the things in life that we have got used to, like attending a birthday party or going dancing together. Dr. Zam does not compromise on his message that fighting the virus and breaking the chain of COVID-19 requires everyone to collaborate and practice good hygiene because until a vaccine is found, everyone is at risk all of the time.