Moving from Malaysia to New Zealand as a doctor

Malaysian Doctor

Dr Eugene Low was originally supposed to be moving to New Zealand in May 2020, but was unfortunately caught up in the worst of the challenges we faced getting doctors into the country during COVID. The closed border to New Zealand, Immigration restrictions, lack of flights, and strict restrictions Malaysia put in place for departing citizens all meant that for a couple of months we were unable to get Eugene here. It was quite a stressful time, but we persevered and got through all of the bureaucracy in the end. Eugene has now worked at Whangarei for three years and has let us know he feels it’s “amazing."

We caught up with him to find out more about his journey.

Can you tell me a bit about you and how you became a doctor?

Kia Ora! My name is Eugene and I’m originally from Penang, Malaysia. Growing up I’ve always wanted to be a doctor and I find myself incredibly lucky to be able to work in a field that I am passionate in now. Medicine is a lifelong journey of learning and constant improvement and there is never a boring day at work! After completing my Year 12 study in Perth, Australia, I went on to pursue my undergraduate medical studies in Ireland before returning to Malaysia to work as a junior doctor.

What inspired you to make the move from Malaysia to New Zealand?

Being polyglot myself, I love to explore different languages and places, as well as to connect with different people and cultures. I’ve always wanted to work abroad and after a few years of working back home in Malaysia, was looking at moving overseas to gain further exposure practising medicine in a different setting. At this point a senior from college was already working in Aotearoa New Zealand and having not known much about this country then, decided that this is the perfect opportunity for me. I connected with Sarah Robertson from Medrecruit and the rest is history. Sarah and her team were absolutely fantastic in assisting with my move over here - making a the journey halfway across the world a seamless transfer.

How have you found the work in New Zealand medicine to differ from your work in Malaysia?

Despite medicine being a science and the facts of the field should not be any different anywhere you go, the practice of medicine however, can be very different from place to place and what I find fascinating is how medicine needs to go hand in hand with the local people and culture, and how different diseases affect different people. You always learn new things on the go. For example, dengue is very prevalent in tropical Malaysia whereas it is uncommon here, while diseases like haemachromatosis and multiple sclerosis are relatively rare in Malaysia.

Have you found the culture in New Zealand to be easy to adjust to?

Yes indeed! Kiwis are very friendly people and everyone has been kind to me throughout my time here. New Zealand is a multicultural country and in Whangarei where I worked there is a significant Māori population and I’ve therefore have the opportunity to learn a bit more about the Māori culture. The hospital also provides support and training so that as new foreign doctors we are mindful that we practice medicine in a culturally safe manner appropriate to the local norms. In my own free time I’ve also taken the opportunity to complete a short course on beginner Te Reo Māori.

Have you found the process of getting into training to be relatively smooth?

Everyone has been very supportive of training including senior colleagues and the hospital in general. Different specialties have different requirements prior to admission and it would be worthwhile going through the relevant colleges to understand a bit further on the criteria to apply if you intend on pursuing training here.

Have you managed to see and do anything special since you've been here? If so what?

New Zealand has so much to offer if you enjoy nature and outdoor activities. I have managed to travel New Zealand quite a bit from exploring the Far North to completing the Tongariro Alpine Crossing where Mt Doom from the Lord of the Rings was filmed, as well as the Rakiura Track down south in Stewart Island. As you probably would have guessed, I’m a massive fan of the Lord of the Rings and have also visited the Wētā Workshop in Wellington. I’ve also made some new amazing friends, both local and overseas doctors coming to work here whom I have travelled with together on our days off!

What would you tell other doctors who are considering a move to New Zealand?

If you’re already thinking of coming, just do it - it’s not why, it’s why not! There may be a lot to consider prior to movingbut if you are want a new, friendly environment with opportunities to gain new experience, travel and more - New Zealand is the right place to be!

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Jordy Black
17 July 2023Article by Jordy BlackMedrecruit Editor