02 Dec 2015 05:32:00 PM

For this cardiology specialist, home is where the heart is

Leaving the country to pursue your career can be highly rewarding and for Dr Onn Akbar Ali, a cardiology specialist, this was certainly true. However after 20 years away from home, he felt that something was missing. After attending an outreach session organised by TalentCorp in Australia, Onn decided to return home and give something back to his country and has never felt more satisfied.
Upon completing his undergraduate course, Dr Onn Akbar Ali commenced his post-graduate training in medicine and subsequently, cardiology at various hospitals in Adelaide and Sydney in Australia. Before returning to Malaysia, Onn was the senior consultant interventional cardiologist at The Queen Elizabeth and Lyell McEwin hospitals in Adelaide, with 20 years of experience in the Australian Healthcare system.  

Upon returning, he was tasked with building and leading a comprehensive heart services clinic at KPJ Kajang. This was an incredible challenge for a doctor who has never worked in the Malaysian healthcare system, but utilising his experience training Malaysian junior cardiology specialists, Onn had great success and has continued to contribute to the Malaysian healthcare system. 
Coming Home
Family was Onn’s greatest pull when deciding to return to Malaysia. Having spent most of his education in boarding schools and his post-graduate years abroad, he was determined to return to a position which would allow him to recapture those missed years. 
More than 20 years in Australia brought the realisation that home is home. I was concerned my children will not be exposed to our culture and language; and of course, rendang and ayam masak merah are so much better here.”
Culture Abroad
Living abroad for so long in a different cultural backdrop was also a challenge to overcome as traditional family occasions such as Eidil Fitri are not public holidays in Australia. This meant Onn was limited in his ability to properly celebrate it. Returning to Malaysia, he says, has brought back a joy and freedom, which he didn’t think he would miss so much.
"Now, being able to celebrate Eid in Malaysia, I can’t put my feelings into words. You get to celebrate with your whole family and sometimes for the whole month. It is just really different."
Growing Malaysia’s Healthcare System
On returning to Malaysia, Onn has noticed a marked change in the Malaysian healthcare system. Hospitals in Malaysia are now equipped with world-class facilities, but he says this is only half the battle. Malaysia still need specialists and he advises his fellow Malaysian medical specialists abroad to return home to help implement world-class services and practices. 
In general, major Malaysian tertiary hospitals are very well-equipped and at times, better-equipped than those abroad. The challenge is to bring along leadership, change in working culture and etiquette to achieve better health outcomes for people.”
* Extracted from an interview that was first published in Going Places, Malaysia Airlines' inflight magazine, July 2015.

*Photo Credit: Twelveart Photography


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