Sunday, April 10, 2011

My Ambition and My Adventure to the PhD Land, and the Lessons Learned Along the Way

I have a dream! I have a dream!! I have a dream!!! Hrrmmmm... not going to use that phrase... too familiar (kudos to Martin Luther King, Jr.!). But never-mind. I loike to use it. After all, I already acknowledged him. So, no plagiarism issue involved here... When I was 15, I decided that I want to be a Doctor, a psychiatrist. Yes! That was my childhood ambition. I want to be a psychiatrist. That was when I was 15. Let's see... more than 20 years later (am I that old?).. am I a psychiatrist now? Nope (my friend Dr Asrenee is)! But I did exactly what I wanted to do if I were to be a psychiatrist. I am very satisfied and happy with where I am and what I become now. Am I frustrated that I didn't become a psychiatrist? I was but then I learned, all of the time, in our life, things happen for a reason. We should look back into our memory lane, only we can see that every single incident that happened in our past, had a reason behind it and it make sense now.. why this and that happened the way it happened and sometimes not according to our wishes and wants. We would not be able to see the rationale at that particular time (the time that the 'things' happened). But if we be patient, have faith in God. Redha. Let him do his agenda. Wait. Not far in the future, we will be looking back and say... ohhhh... that's why, luckily it happened that way. I wouldn't know that this way was better. At least that is my believe. Make sense? Up to you.

When the reality came to the surface that I was not going to be accepted into the medical school, regardless of all the efforts me and Wan did - appeal, private university search (no private college offering medical course at that time), etc, etc.. I accept His will that I am not going to be a medical doctor. Period. This was after hours to days to months of counseling, advising, giving spirit and motivation from my great beloved Mama, without being tired or fed-up! Thank you mama! You have always been there when I needed you the most! Thanks for the prayers too!!

I then graduated my pharmacy degree in 1996. That was the year I met my soulmate. There you go... His agenda was there. If I were to be a medical student, I wouldn't be graduated that year and would have not meet my fate that way. Anyway, I enjoyed very much being a pharmacist... But I felt like not fully satisfied... thats it? This is too ordinary. I want something more. More challenging. After getting the blessings from Honey and family, went university hunting for doing MBA and finally I got 3 offers from three different universities. I chose UiTM, Machang because I don't have to travel to KL for attending the classes (the other 2 were in KL). It was a challenging 2 1/2 years... a 2 1/2 years of sacrifice, hard work, sacrifice and hard work..... the situation was tough for me.. I had to juggle between managing a company, being a wife and at the same time an MBA student... and, MBA needs a lot of readings, research, presentations and project papers.. Isn't it Ayeh (Farikh Hamshi)? But with support, love and prayer from all, I successfully graduated in May 2004.

On my graduation day (MBA), I already had in mind that I want to taste the sweetness of the PhD land... By hook or by crook, I have to take the adventure to the PhD land! Out of the blue, a friend of mine who was the Head of Department at the Faculty of Pharmacy, IIU, Kuantan invited me to teach Pharmacy Management subject in her university. I was a little reluctant because I kinda have society phobia.. Meaning that, I am shy to talk and give lecture in front of a group of people. This was my biggest weakness. But then, I learned that the only way to handle a weakness is to deal with it. So, I dealt with my fear and before I could even remember, I became an invited lecturer in IIU, teaching Pharmacy Management. I started to like teaching. At the same time, I still manage my business and practice as a community pharmacist. I also got a few invitations to teach the same subject in UiTM and pharmacy practice in UKM.

To cut story short, after facing a few hurdles, I finally registered as a PhD in Pharmacy student, by research - part time at UiTM on December 2004. Big thanks to my cousin, Wan Hasmadi for helping me throughout my studentship. My supervisor was Prof Dr Abu Bakar Abdul Majeed and my superb co-supervisor was Assoc Prof Dr Lua Pei Lin. They were both superb and fantastic. They made my PhD experience interesting and bareable. And the adventure to the PhD land started....

My research initially was to study and measure the ethical practice level among the Community Pharmacist in Malaysia and to see if there is any intervention can be done to enhance the ethical practice level. Well... I am not going to dive into the technical details here.. I will definitely eat you brains out if I do so!! You're not going to read about the literature review, methodology, Pharmacoethics, statistical analysis, p value, statistically significant, APA style reference, validity, reliability, Hypotheses, Null-Hypotheses, t-test, Anova, Kruskal Wallis test, Mann-Whitney U (not Whitney Houston ok!), Factor Analysis, test-retest, .. and the list goes on and on and on and on and on............... Nope. I am just going to share my challenges and experience. Not my 200 over pages of thesis (show off!! sorry..). Don't worry..

At this time, I hold three jobs - a community pharmacist and a business owner, a lecturer and a PhD student and not to forget, my responsibility as a wife and to the society. It was heavy. Not bearable sometimes. At some point through the journey, I felt I bite more than I can chew....

The first biggest challenge was to get the pharmacists' participation in the pilot study. But with the help of my pharmacists friends, Oleen and Faiz, by using their networking, I succeeded the task. It was a lot of work to be done. I thought it was easy but it was nothing near to easy. But possible. I made it possible because I have a bunch of great cousins helping me with some of the process... If Wan Hasmadi, Oleen, Fieky Hamshi and Fadhlan Hamshi didn't help me... I don't know what would I do and I am certainly sure the process would be longer to complete. Thanks guys!

I faced a few tragic events of my life during the adventure. The biggest one was I lost my baby @ 26 weeks. I got demotivated and set-back.... I still remember the day of the tragedy.. It was the day that I had to attend the compulsory statistical analysis class.. a full day of brain and energy... I drove by myself to SA and everything happened that day, all in a sudden.. the next day, we lost our boy (thanks Kak Faz for visiting us that night!)... I went in my own in-denial world at the beginning and later into depression and blaming myself for what had happened. I couldn't accept it. I got all the support, sympathy and care from my Honey and family. But deep inside me, the cut was still bleeding and painful. I couldn't let it go and move on. Luckily, during that painful period, God sent me someone, her name is Poey Poey. She had faced the same experience that I faced. So, she understood really well my pain and agony and the guilty feelings inside me.. She was my shoulder to cry on at that time. Any time of the day, when I called her, she answered my call and listened to me tirelessly until I felt better and one of her advice which woke me up from my own nightmare... she said, "God has a duty for you in this world, search for it". I don't know why, I snapped and woke up. And thanks God, He didn't let me (and Honey) to be sad long. He quickly replaced our boy with Suri, the best replacement that we could get, ever!

The next biggest hurdle was I couldn't do the interventional study we planned. After a year, only 2 responded to our study. We need at least 200. At that time, I was 3 1/2 years in the study and initially I planned to finish it within 3 years!! I need to finish this PhD!!!! I suddenly got an idea. We were going to the States for my Honey's study for 6 months. So, I thought, that's it! I am going to compare Malaysia and the States, using the same instrument. So, that was what I did, we went around USA, East to West, with Suri on the stroller, I approached the community pharmacists to participate in my research and experienced being scolded, chased out from the pharmacy, but also a lot gave their co-operation which made my research successful and all that, I did either with Suri on the stroller or Honey and Suri waiting outside the pharmacy... What an experience!

The next hurdle, when I came back home from the States, I had to present my progress report to UiTM. Sadly, I was skinned alive in the torture room. They criticize my 4 years of work. The problem was, they were not the people in the same line of my research. I did quantitative social research and they were lab and clinical researcher... of course they wouldn't understand and appreciate my piece of work. The worse thing, which made my supervisors unhappy and disappointed with them when one of them whisper in my ear after I finished the presentation, "the examiner will just throw your thesis in the dustbin!".. Hey! You crossed the line man... and burnt the bridge! War declared!! I mean common, so, if my work was not worth it, what were my supervisors doing? At this point, I already won 2 medals locally and internationally for my research and also presented it locally and internationally (Japan and Australia). Just because you didn't do the same thing we were doing, doesn't mean that our job has no value and yours are better! But I was determined. I was confident. My piece of work worth a PhD! And later, I proved that they were WRONG!!

The final and most challenging and difficult step was thesis write up... Arrgghhh... read read read and write write write.. I remember, I had to lock myself in our study room for nearly a year for the whole process! Pity Suri and Honey.. I just came out from the room to sleep, cook and play for 1 hour with Suri. The rest.. work in progress...But I had a few buddy who accompany me online when I was bored or tired. One of them was AD (Snubnosse). Thanks AD layan me... Also not to forget, thanks my research assistant, Fizah. She motivated me with my writings, without even realizing it. Oppss... sorry, becoming acknowledgement chapter.... Back to story, I started writing in June 2009 and submitted my first thesis draft to my supervisors in Sep 2009. He was not too happy with it. I was requested to rewrite 70% of the thesis and change 50% of the literature cited to a newer literature. I was suppose to at least read and cite 200 literatures/books/etc... Adoilaa adoilaaa (ouch ouch).. Nak selops dah ni (almost fainting).... At that time, I have a workload of a giant!!! From my company and CUCMS (the uni I work with as Senior Lecturer) and I really felt like OMAIGODDD!!! HELPPP!!!... like that...

Finally, my final work piece was ready! After being revamped and reviewed a few times by myself and my two supervisors... At this time, I felt like vomiting green (beraso nak muntah hijau), I submitted the full thesis for defend on Mar 2010. They called me to defend it on the 1st September 2010. My examiners were from UMS, University of Auckland and UiTM.

The VIVA day..... My supervisor was in the room. I felt confident. I was prepared with all the bullets to defend my thesis, my research. I left Suri with Kak Faz and Dira (thanks). The battle started.. I felt comfy in Jay-Jay's blazer (thanks JJ for lending me your wedding gift blazer to be used in that day). I presented well. Conclusion: all of the examiners were impressed by my work especially the USA parts. They said it must have been tough and costly for me to perform the study. I said yes. After questions and answers sessions, the chairman ask me and my supervisor to go out of the room for them to discuss about my verdict. After 10 miserable minutes, we were called back into the room.

The VERDICT: "On behalf of the examiners and UiTM, we all agreed that you are qualified to be awarded a Doctor of Philosophy in Pharmacy degree with minor amendments to your thesis" read the chairman. Congratulations!! And all of them, including the examiners, raise on their feet and congratulate me... Congrats DR W SAZRINA W ZAID! (Abe Deen said, they stand because I am automatically becoming one of them already and its a gesture of welcoming me to the club!). And me... still in shock and overdose of adrenaline.. is this true? I passed? I passed? And they all said, YES!!! You PASSED DR WAN!! Alhamdulillah.. Finally!! Its all over! Lihatlah dunia! Lihatlah dunia! Thank you to both my superb supervisors, everyone in the family and friends for all the support, sacrifice, prayers and motivation!!! I finally end my adventure and reach my destination, the PhD land!!

So... now you are a DR... I thought to myself, what next?.. Hrmmmm ... Bo bo lah! Pade la tuh!!


  1. huish, sshnye nk sambung study ek..

  2. Anonymous: agak-agak lah..
    Kak Faz: thanks! Also thanks for being there that nite!

  3. Good job
    Khaste nabashi sis..

  4. tahniah... tp eja nama sy slah... fadhlan.. ada H...

  5. Fadhlan: sorry boss... already taken care of!

  6. Zie..beautifully said...indeed it is greater than the recognition (the piece of paper) but the experience learnt....the LESSON of Life...Nenee

  7. Dr Nenee: my psychiatrist friend.. thanks! thanks a lot!!

  8. Thanks for sharing, indeed it inspires me for my own PhD journey...

  9. Dinda Jee...
    You are full of inspiration! You are the idol of many..... so many out there adore what U have..... Keep up, babe!

  10. slm k.zie!
    Lisa ni. thanks a lot for this post. I'm already going crazy because of my own thesis. Ya Allah, stress sgt. I hv only a week before I hv to send in my 1st full draft, or they threatened to not continue my scholarship n even throw me out of the lab (i'm not sure whether they r serious or not, but i dont really want to find out). N because sometimes the mountain seems too high, i stood still, afraid to keep on climbing.
    but reading this makes me realize that this PhD thing is never easy for anyone and we just have to keep going and do everything in our power to make it a reality.
    InsyaAllah it will be better, right?
    thank u again n God bless

  11. Kanda Roy: tq for the beautiful words uttered! I'm flattered!
    Lisa: there's no too high mountain to climb. U have arrived here. Keep on going and you will reach there at no time. Don't let others pull u down. Of course it will be better and u will taste the sweetness of success soon!! Go girl!!!