MedTalk book launch

The launch of a basic bilingual medical communication handbook to the medical fraternity.

Communication with patients is a crucial component in caring for them. Unfortunately, language can often be a barrier, especially for foreign doctors employed in the country. International medical students may also face the problem when part of their course requirements is to interview patients who  can only converse in the lingua franca, Bahasa Malaysia (Malay language).

MedTalk, a basic bi-lingual medical communication handbook, was written for the sole purpose of enabling doctors, medical students and other healthcare professionals to translate medical communication from English into Bahasa Malaysia and vice versa.

“The book was first mooted six or seven years ago. During my conversations with international students in Clinical School Johor Bahru, I realised that communicating in the hospital posed a big problem for them. Even local students had problems communicating with patients in the Malay language,”  said Project Coordinator, Carole Chung Mei Choo.

Associate Professor Sivalal Sadasivan

The Senior Counsellor at Monash then enlisted a team: Associate Professor Sivalal Sadasivan from the Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine and Health Sciences for the main medical content; Dr Carina Ka Yee Chan, Deputy Head of the School of Psychology, Australian Catholic University; and former JCSMHS student,  Abdullah Muhaimin Amran, who is currently doing his housemanship in Hospital Sultanah Aminah, Johor Bahru, for the Bahasa Malaysia translation.

A major challenge faced by the authors in writing this book was the level of Bahasa Malaysia to be used used. They opted for a balance between a colloquial and more formal style of language, in order to make it more accessible and applicable to a wide spectrum of patients in hospitals.

“The creation of this book sounds like a real labour of love. It’s incredibly impressive that a team of you got together to work on an issue that is practical and fundamental to medical education. I believe that it will be useful to other healthcare professionals and I’m sure it’s  going to be very successful,” said Professor Helen Bartlett, President and Pro Vice-Chancellor of Monash University Malaysia.

The emphasis of this book is on the language of communication. The authors have tried to use the common scenarios faced by Malaysian doctors in clinics and hospitals, and the problems local patients may have. While the common approach to history-taking has been used, this book is not meant to be an  exhaustive manual on history-taking.

Interim Head, Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine & Health Sciences, Professor Mohamed Shajahan Yasin, agreed that communication with locals tends to be a little difficult especially for foreign doctors and international students: “At the end of the consultation, one tends to feel unsatisfied  because of the lack in communication. There is no richness in the consultation and insight into the patients’ lives. We are left with only ‘yes’ and ‘no’ answers, and that can be frustrating for doctors”.

The handbook is expected to come in handy by assisting with language during history-taking in healthcare within the Malaysian context. A 15% discount was given to students who purchased the book on the same day of its launch.

The book can now be found in the on-campus bookstore and all EMO bookstores.