Datuk Professor Dr. Fawzia bt Dato' Abdullah


Dean, Faculty of Dentistry, SEGi University


Can you give us a brief account of your background?

I was born in Johor and had my education there completing my Form 6 in Maktab Sultan Abu Bakar, Johor Bahru ( English College) and later obtained my BDS degree from the University of Singapore. Upon my graduation, I joined the Ministry of Health and began my service in Johor Bahru. I completed my compulsory service there, and eventually rose to the position of Director of Dental Services for the state of Johor. In 1995, I was appointed the Director of Oral Health, Ministry of Health Malaysia until year 2000 when I retired (my first retirement). I went on to serve in the Public Service Commission (Suruhanjaya Perkhidmatan Awam) as a Commissioner for 5 years, after which I retired for the second time.

I have always had a flare for English and our parents taught us to read a lot. The inspiration to write emerged after my second retirement. I wrote about my mother and her two younger sisters and the family history going back to 150 years. I needed to do a lot of research on my family, interviewing close to 90 family members and friends. The book entitled “The Three Swans” was launched in 2010, and the Malay version was completed a couple of years later.

You have worked with the Ministry of Health for 32 years and you were a member
of the Public Services Commission from 2000 to 2005. Can you please share your
experience in the Ministry and how you became the Dean of Faculty of Dentistry,
SEGi University?

It was an honour to serve in the Ministry of Health. Throughout these years, I enjoyed interacting with people and I have always been in people management. As a dentist, I always deal with people, especially patients, health professionals and colleagues. People always say that I am friendly, and I believe I am. I always make an effort to talk and interact with people. I have a soft heart and I empathize. I believe this is a very important element in the health profession, and I have my emotional strength.

As soon as the book was launched, I was approached by the Vice Chancellor of SEGi University who wanted to meet me. At that time, only the DSA (Dental Surgery Assistant) programme was available in SEGi, and SEGi wanted to start the BDS degree programme. At first, I was not keen to take up a full time job. After a few meetings, I agreed to start the BDS programme and to prepare the dental curriculum for SEGi University. I stayed on and this is my 6 th year in SEGi University before my third retirement in September this year. The BDS Programme commenced in September 2011 with 24 students, all of whom have sat and passed their Final Professional Exams in August this year. I am very proud to say that the Faculty of Dentistry has undergone all the MQA panel visits and the BDS Programme has been accorded full accreditation effective 2nd June this year.

Can you briefly explain the procedure of placement of dental practitioners after

First of all, the dental institution must obtain full accreditation from the Malaysian Qualification Agency before the students graduate. As I said, we have been accredited effective 2nd June 2016.

Upon graduation, the graduands must present their original degree scrolls and original transcripts and register themselves with the MDC (Malaysian Dental Council) to get their MDC Registration Number. Then, the students will need to apply online to SPA to be called for an interview. As a kind reminder, there is usually a long queue in the waiting list to undertake the 1year compulsory service in the public sector, so it is advisable to obtain your MDC registration number quickly. Students will also be ranked in the placement list according to their performance during the interview.

My advice to all is that you should not be fussy about the locations of your placements. You should be ready to accept all the challenges and to always feel blessed to be able to see the real life situations and get to experience different oral health environments. In short, compulsory service gives one an invaluable experience, regardless of where you are placed.

Prof Datuk Fawzia, may I know your thoughts on the reduction of compulsory service from 2 years to 1 year? What do you think of the abolishment of the compulsory service?

I believe that graduands will get more experiences and exposure during the two year, and it will be a totally new experience to be working in different clinics in different places. The reason why the compulsory service has been reduced to one year is due to the lack of posts in the Ministry of Health and other public sector agencies.

This 1 year compulsory service should not be abolished because this real life working experience is very different from the training students receive during their clinical years. During the compulsory service, graduands get to the outside world, and are able to treat different oral health problems in the community. In rural areas, you get to see different oral health problems
that are prevalent there.

Can you tell us your plans for retirement?

Well, this will be my fourth retirement. Currently, I don’t have many plans, but I will travel more often to visit my family members in Melbourne and Vancouver. I have always kept in touch with my old friends and classmates from time to time, but I guess we will meet up more after this.

I will now have more time for my two grandchildren, and enjoy their growing up years.

What advice would you give to the current batch of dental students?

Dentistry is a people profession. You must like to communicate and interact with people. Adding to that, you must show empathy to people. Many suffer with oral health problems, they are in pain so you must feel for them. Besides, it is always a good option for graduates to specialize, and it is good to explore your interests during the compulsory service period. I am proud to say that all my final year dental students here are ambitious and have in their minds areas to specialize in the future. I remind my students to be disciplined, focused and committed to achieve their goals. This is the profession that they have chosen and they must be competent in their work.

When I interview new students who want to study dentistry, I tell them of these 3Ps.

I. PATIENCE and do not give up although the journey is tough.
As the saying goes, when the going gets tough, only the tough gets going. You must be focused, you are here to learn and to be trained.

II. PERSEVERANCE. Don’t ever be a quitter.
In SEGi, there are mentor-mentee sessions, to allow students to bond and discuss problems they face, with their mentors. Don’t bottle it up. And most importantly, be sincere, honest and ethical. To be a good dentist, you must like and interact with people. You must reach out to people and empathize with them.

Be passionate about what you are doing, so it does not become a chore. For example, when doing dentures, you must understand the fundamental principles in order to do it well.

Will these words, I wish them all their best for their future.

Thank you