Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Assoc Prof Dr Mohamad @ Saidi Hashim bin Tahir

Associate Professor Dr Mohamad @ Saidi Hashim bin Tahir was the founder of two medical institutions in modern Malaysia. He was initially a lecturer at the UKM Medical School.
Dr Mohamad @ Saidi Hashim bin Tahir, as HOD Chemical Pathology, School of Medical Sciences, USM, Penang; 1979-1996.
Malam Titisan Rahmat, first USM Medical School dinner, USM, Penang, July 1982.
Seated from left: A, B, Dr Mohd Roslani bin Abdul Majid (Dean), Tun Hamdan bin Haji Tahir (6th Penang Governor), Dr Mohamad @ Saidi Hashim bin Tahir (HOD Chem Path), Mr NA Ogle (USM Registrar) and Dr Michael Devas (Orthopedic surgeon) 
Dr Saidi was featured in the USM Medical School publication

In 1979, he and 4 others founded the medical school at Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang. The USM medical school was in Penang from 1979 to 1990 and shifted to its present location in Kubang Kerian in Kelantan in May 1990. The shift was costly and resulted in a lot of equipment damages. 

Dr Saidi was also the Head of Department of Chemical Pathology since its inception in 1979. I returned from California after my MSc and joined the Dept of Chemical Pathology on 28 June 1982 under Dr Saidi. I was 23 years old then. I was placed in charge of 2 things - the Diploma in Medical Laboratory Technology preceptorship programme and also the specialist clinical labs at the General Hospital Penang. I commuted between my 2 workplaces - USM campus and GH Penang. The labs at GH Penang was in a green double-storey complex which is still extant today.

USM Diagnostic Lab at GH Penang 1982-1989. Main entrance.
View from the main road, 25 June 2007
Corner of building complex.
Rear aspect of the long green building complex.
The diagnostic lab was on the second floor, at right end.
This was where I learned about clinical lab admin first-hand.
The medical lab technologists were trained by IMR in KL.

Dr Saidi then established the International Medical University (IMU) in KL. I haven't been to IMU so I don't know what to write about it. I understand that the IMU Saidi Memorial Fund was established in his honour.

IMU image from Dr Zainal Rashid's Facebook. He's on the right.

Dr Zoraini Wati Abas was previously writing for a newspaper when I came across her name. She then worked at IMU before she shifted to Open University Malaysia (OUM). I met Zoraini on 13-15 April 2012 at the recent USM workshop at Tanjong Bungah. Zoraini is a Penangite. She's also in Facebook.

Profession-wise, Dr Saidi was well-known not only locally but also internationally. Why was he famous? He was famous for many things. The first I can think of is his personality. He was friendly and not a snob. When I first reported for duty at USM Medical School and my dept, he took me in without interrogation. I felt safe working for the first time in my life. I never changed workplace. Dr Saidi had a lot of trust in me that I felt safe to work my entire life with USM. How did he manage to instill loyalty? He trusted people and when he delegated jobs, he never queried. He trusted his subordinates - I was a new comer with absolutely no work experience whatsoever. He did not discriminate. I don't recall him ever calling people names. He had good work ethics. He was always happy at work, and smoked his pipe. I don't know why he liked the pipe. His meetings were informal and we sat in the coffee room for morning coffee with him. He would throw jokes and make us laugh. Some were wild jokes but because he was my superior I had to respect him and not laugh so loud (otherwise I would). He was a gentleman, the best I have seen in any Malay doctor trained under the Malaysian medical school system - UKM can take the credit too. He was indiscriminate, resourceful and intelligent for a Malay doctor, and that was most outstanding about him.

When Dr Saidi was my HOD (Head of Dept), he would fly overseas to meet with I don't know who/whom/what but he would bring back a lot of information for his lecturers and shared a lot of new things with us. I was most receptive to his new ideas and resources. So I started a lot of things in the USM Medical School and I have never looked back to think twice. He was a good motivator and one who did not blame anyone if things went wrong (nothing went wrong anyway). He would call each one of us to his room and talked to us about our work and work performance. I certainly told him the truth about my work and kept the grudges afar.

Dr Saidi was apparently into IT and better approaches to teaching and learning. At the time, IT had not reached our shores and was a thing of the future. I had a lot of trouble understanding IT and what it meant or stood for. Fortunately there was another senior lecturer, Dr Mohd Yunus @ Kyaw Tun Sein, who understood what Dr Saidi's aspirations were and what he wanted for the USM Medical School. I was sort of learning and trying to make out what the 2 guys were after. It was not till 10 years later that I fully understood what IT meant to medical education, and from then on I never looked back.

Dr Saidi was a fine person but I think he did not get on well with some quarters or they must have envied him to a great degree. Whatever it was, I don't know and I don't want to know. It must have made him sad somewhat. He was left out from a lot of activities - so it seemed to me. Anyway, Dr Saidi requested that I move to work at Hospital USM (HUSM) in Kubang Kerian, Kelantan. I got married first in June 1983 and then left USM Penang. I started working for HUSM on 17 Sept 1983. This was my first time working in a hospital and doing administrative work for a hospital. I was 3rd in the line of duty from the top (quite a demanding job I would say). There was Dr Kamaruzzaman Wan Su (Pengarah HUSM), Dr Mohamad Abdul Rahman (Deputy Director Admin) and Dr Abdul Gani Hj Md Din (Deputy Director Professionals).

While I was away working at HUSM, Dr Saidi continued to work at the USM Medical School in Penang. I lost track of him. I then went to Australia for my PhD and totally forgot about him. When I returned after my PhD I reported for duty to a co-HOD at HUSM. By this time I had no idea where Dr Saidi was or what he was doing. He was probably away tending to IMU.

One day as I was busy working in the routine clinical lab at HUSM, I received news that Dr Saidi was in the area but I didn't know how to contact him. People said he came to seek treatment. What treatment? Was he sick? I didn't know what had become of him or what happened to him. Another time I heard he had died! What a blow! 

Our USM Medical School decided to visit his village in Terengganu and asked if anyone wanted to go. My husband wanted to go and begged that I also come along with him. He knew Dr Saidi was like a brother figure for me. With a heavy heart, I jumped into our Medical School van which was full of men and off we headed for his village. 

We went to Pengkalan Arang, off the main highway in Terengganu. The village is a Malay kampung and the houses were on stilts, which indicated that the flood water rose very high. We didn't know his house and had to ask the villagers and the little boys pointed to his mother's big kampung house. Upon seeing the house I said to myself, this man (Dr Saidi) is so humble that nobody knows he comes from a little village in Terengganu. It was difficult trying to link this man and his mother's humble abode. 

We went to his grave first because we missed the funeral prayer and burial ceremony. At the grave was a man who sat and never moved on his mat. This man was busy in prayer. This man was his business partner. Some said the partner who shared and made IMU and his other projects. This was his loyal friend. I don't have his name. Dr Saidi's grave was under a big tree. When I saw the red ants crawling on the earth by his grave, tears started welling in my eyes and soon I was sobbing. I couldn't help crying. I missed him for he was my mentor and a great HOD for it was my first job and the only job that I knew. I don't know of any other job nor am I willing to try any other job. We then slowly moved away from his grave and walked back to his mother's house. 

I climbed up the wooden stairs and made it into the big house. I was afraid of heights (gayat). The house was probably 10 - 12 feet off the ground. The wooden stairs had smooth round poles as rungs. The floor was wooden and it shook whenever a person walked or jumped, much like a dance floor at the indigenous people's hall. Kids were running and jumping about in the house and it was impossible to keep the floor still from shaking.

I met the daughter and also talked to a lady* as I was the only female in our group. I also handed the little money we had collected from our Medical School. After talking and briefly listening to accounts of Dr Saidi's last moments in the house, we headed down to the ground to have lunch under the tent in the house next door before driving back to USM.

From my discussion at the mother's house, what I know is Dr Saidi married and had 2 children, a girl and a boy. His wife is Hairun Nisa bt Abu Bakar. *According to Dr Saidi's wife, in her SMS on 2 May 2016, Dr Saidi's mother had passed away in 1976.

I have not been back to visit his grave but I will some day, in sya Allah.

Dr Saidi's relatives are working for HUSM and Affandi knows them/him/her.