By HENRY PAMBUAI
After news broke of the University of Papua New Guinea not being able to meet the quota required for medicine, I found myself scratching my head over who or what was to blame.
There may be varying opinions about what caused the drop, but one thing I’m sure we all agree on is that the statistic is worrying.
According to acting vice-chancellor Vincent Malaibe, it was the first time in the university’s history that they were not able to meet the quota.
“We could not lower the bar just to pass those 60 people. We said ‘no’. It’s unethical, we are dealing with lives,” Malaibe said last week.
Only 23 students were selected for the medical school which enrols 60 annually.
Philip Modudula, the executive officer of the medical faculty, said with UPNG being their main feeder institution, the school had to look elsewhere to fill in the quota.
But for 24-year-old Morobean Eki Eli, the university’s revelation seems the least of his worries as the fourth-year bachelor of medicine and bachelor of surgery (MBBS) student continues to make his mother proud.
“During my days in high school, I was planning to become an engineer. I wasn’t thinking of studying medicine or anything else but engineering. I was really interested in engineering,” Eli recalls.
“But then things began to change. My mum is a nursing officer at Walium Health Centre in Usino-Bundi and my dad is a policeman in Madang. We’ve been living at the station since I was little.
“My mum is the one who was always urging me to study medicine.
“Our house is just a few metres away from the health centre, so sometimes at night, I’d follow her there when she went to work.
“That’s when I started to develop an interest for medicine.”
For a boy who attended Walium Primary School and then went on do Grade 9-12 at Markham Valley Secondary School in rural Papua New Guinea, many would argue becoming a doctor seemed like a long shot.
“At the end of Grade 12 (in 2014), we were given school-leaver forms to fill out. I initially chose to study engineering at the University of Technology (Unitech),” Eli says.
“But before submitting my form the next day, my mum called me up asking where I was applying and I said ‘Unitech’.
“I could tell my mum was emotional because she wanted me to study medicine.
“I was so troubled, but I knew I had to do this for my mum. So in the end, I applied to study science foundation at UPNG.
“When I got selected to do science foundation, I only had one thing on my mind and that was to go to medical school.
“I was not content on just going there. I wanted to study MBBS and unlike other programmes at 3-Mile, you need a higher GPA to be accepted because we’re dealing directly with lives.
“So I had to stay focused throughout my first year at UPNG. I didn’t play around or get distracted.
“I was always telling myself that I was fortunate enough to go to university so I had to make the most of it.
“When the acceptance list came out to stream into other programmes, I was the second on the list to get selected to do MBBS. I was so surprised and happy.”
But Eli believes the job is not done yet as he still has two more years to complete.
“Over the past two years, I usually wake up at 6.30am every day and get ready for classes. By 4pm, I wind down and take at least an hour’s nap before I go for dinner. By 7pm, I’m usually studying till 2am,” he says.
“But things will change this year because we’ve got practical work to do.
“It’s really challenging to study MBBS but the programme helps you to look at life in a different way. You become humble when you graduate.
“If you want to study MBBS, you have to be serious in what you do. To be a doctor is not only about knowledge. It’s also about your character.”
Eli says having a good support network is important for anyone to be successful.
“Without my parents, I wouldn’t have made it this far. I thank my family, especially my mum,” he says.
“I would also like to thank my secondary school teachers at Markham Valley Secondary School namely Billy Kayo (principal), Tom Denang, Chrison Idafit and all the other teachers who have contributed to helping me become who I am today.”
By HENRY PAMBUAI