Associate Professor Dr. Raja Azman Raja Awang


Assoc. Prof. Dr. Raja Azman Raja Awang


Dr. Raja, on behalf of MDSA, thank you for accepting our invitation to be our special guest today for ‘Interview with the Expert’. Can you tell us a little bit about where you come from and how you became a lecturer in the School of Dental Sciences in USM?

I grew up in one of the rural areas in Kelantan. Growing up, I did not have much of an ambition unlike kids today. I studied to my best capacity in school and obtained the necessary results for me to enter university. My motto throughout school was basically “go with the flow”. Although many at that time chose to study Medicine over Dentistry, but I had more of an interest to pursue Dentistry. I studied in University of Malaya and was awarded with the Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) degree in the year 1997 . After my undergraduate studies, USM offered me a scholarship to pursue my postgraduate studies in September 1999. I completed my masters in Periodontology, and become a lecturer in School of Dental Sciences, USM in 2004. However, lecturer is not a lecturer if he or she is not doing research. Hence, I took up the opportunity to equip myself with the necessary training to learn how to conduct research by pursuing my PhD. In 2014, I completed my PhD in Periodontology in University of Glasgow. As a lecturer, my  job is not only to teach, but also to treat patients, carry out research, and I also have to do administrative work.

Can you please share with us your experience on pursuing your undergraduate studies here in Malaysia and your postgraduate studies in Glasgow? What are the differences?

In terms of undergraduate studies, I was young and filled with energy. I had many friends too. Because I studied locally, I guess I was more comfortable and pampered because I was close to family. Our culture here makes us more respectful of our lecturers by addressing them in a certain manner. We really look up to them a lot. On the other hand, in terms of postgraduate studies, I had to be on my own and become more independent as I was overseas. I developed skills faster and I had to depend on my own instincts a lot too. The culture there is different. Everyone is treated more as peers. In my opinion, if you have the opportunity to study overseas, you should go for it. When you come back, you can share and make the best use of what you have learnt overseas and apply it in Malaysia.

Why did you choose to be in the academician pathway instead of being a practitioner?

I worked in a private practice in Kuala Lumpur for 2 years. The job in the clinic is quite routine and mundane. I did not find it challenging and the routine life did not suit me. When I heard that USM was opening a new campus in Kelantan, I was interested to apply as a lecturer. I love being a lecturer. I have more opportunities to grow. Working in the university allows me to meet different people and learn from different academicians. Furthermore, I get to explore dentistry more and be part of finding new answers and solutions in dentistry. In addition, there are also opportunities for travel to attend conferences and conduct researches. This gives me more opportunities to meet new people in my field and create linkages and networking. All in all, being an academician makes my life a lot more colourful.

Are you satisfied with your current profession or are you still in search of something greater?

Well if you ask me, it depends on how you define success. To some, titles, ranks and money may be a measure of success. But to me, achievement is how much you can contribute to society. For example, even in dental biofilm, bacteria communicate with each other in order to survive. No one lives alone in this world. If a person is successful, he or she has to give back to society. I am still trying everyday. I want to contribute more to society, continue to work with students and help the community. I am currently in the process of writing books for kids, especially in oral health education. I am still en route to contributing and being of service more to the community.

What is the future of Malaysia’s dental care in terms of periodontology?

In my opinion, in Malaysia, awareness in oral health is still at its infancy. In the future, Malaysian should have good oral health awareness. Oral health awareness and education are keys for prevention of periodontal diseases. I hope that Malaysians will be more aware of how gum diseases develop and take the necessary precautionary measures to put a stop to it.