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“Danaraj drilled us, when we first started clinical training, the basics of general medicine. He instilled into each one of us the need to have a disciplined and systematic approach in history taking, clinical examination, laboratory or other investigations, treatment, and finally case presentation. He taught us the importance of having self-respect in order to gain trust, confidence and respect from patients, and that included proper attire. The lesson was brought home years later when I heard my patient telling me of his hospital experience. He mistook the shabbily dressed night-duty doctor for a ward attendant, and resisted the doctor’s attempts to examine him.”

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“The very good teacher, the late Prof Danaraj, still lives in me; his enduring lessons remain till this day.

His first lesson to me and others: medicine is a lifelong course, it is never the 5 years in a medical school.

I now recognise Danaraj is quoting the great guru Sir William Osler  whom he refers so often.

It is very true that I am still learning the art and science of medicine daily, after 35 years.

I still have the jest to learn.”

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“The greatest impression I had was on the first day that all new medic students met the DEAN, Prof TJD, in the great auditorium. I remembered he said that anyone who thinks that doing medicine will bring him plenty of money is truly mistaken. ‘If you want to make plenty of money please go and do another course right now’. Of course many of us at the back sniggered at him. He was really right about that. We should have heeded his words of wisdom…..”

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“There is also a human side to the dedicated teacher.

There was a child in a wheelchair in the Clinical Auditorium, being presented for discussion for the final year medical students. The child was uncomfortable and apprehensive. Our professor walked over to him and held his hand. The child clung to his hand and felt assured. There is a body and soul behind every interesting “case”.”

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“We were all quite terrified to be the student presenting the patient during the Case Conference to TJD. Hence we will pick lots and the student with the short stick presents… expecting to have his history torn apart. There was always TENSION when presenting to THE Prof. During the break before the Final Exams, TJD will take us for revision in medicine at the Clinical Auditorium. However, the atmosphere was completely different…. he did not grill or scold us when we did not know the answers, he was an angel ever so patient and understanding. Once he asked us an anatomy question about the course of the ulnar nerve, and we really could not remember the answer. He took a deep breath and asked us WHY he could remember the answer! Silence followed, then he said “Do you know HOW MANY TIMES I had looked up the anatomy book for the answer?! Its ok, keep looking up the book as many times as necessary””

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“A classmate wheel-chaired a female patient who was admitted the night before with seizures for our Wed Case presentation. Only he had seen and clerked the patient, the others sat in the Conference room with the patient sitted in front as TJD walked in. He saw the patient, walked AROUND her and turned to us sternly asking “WHAT IS THE DIAGNOSIS?” One can hear a pin drop, to say we were stunned was an understatement. TJD smiled and proceeded to point out to us all the ‘obvious’ signs of ureamia that the patient had. It was a demonstration worthy of a Sherlock Holmes story, all with the sheer power of observation.”

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“It was a teaching round and a patient with CRHD was presented. TJD insisted that we NOT use the stethoscope, telling us that the best we can do for our cardiac examination skills is to throw the stethoscope out the 13th floor window! From just the pulse, JVP, Apex beat and palpating the praecordium and the liver, a diagnosis was reached …  and the auscultatory findings subsequently were consistent! This is a lesson I learnt well and demonstrate routinely to my medical students today, the difference being that the hospital here is only 4 stories tall and I can only pretend to throw the stethoscope out from there!”
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“We were Final year students and the Case Conference was as usual a detailed analysis of the history, physical signs, investigations, diagnosis and differentials. There was not much discussion on the pharmacological management of the patient. I raised my hand and asked “Prof, we will be graduating in barely a few months, when will we be learning about drug therapy?” He replied without hesitation “The most important thing for you as a young doctor is getting the diagnosis RIGHT. If you cannot even get the correct diagnosis, what drug management are you talking about! If your diagnosis is Right, any medical textbook will give you the principles of drug management.”

I bravely (or was it recklessly?) asked again “But surely we will have to be taught about it sometime??” TJD boomed “If we are to teach you everything you need to know BEFORE you graduate, you will be in here until you are 65 years old!!” (I think I know now why he remembers me! Must be such questions which must have exasperated him.) ”

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“It was during revision classes before the Final year examinations. TJD was talking about the management of amoebic abscess.. and he recalled that when he graduated, all there was available for specific therapeutics was QUININE for malaria, Digitalis for AF and EMETINE for amoebiaisis. How far had we travelled along the road since then. It was a humbling moment for us for this man has seen the evolution of modern medical pharmacotherapeutics in his lifetime, from the neonatal days of M&B693 just before the war to penicillin during the war and now the thick book that is Goodman and Gillman!”

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“In a lighter vein, I vividly recalled an incident during my Year 4 where we joined the other clinical students for the weekly CPC at the clinical auditorium.  The CPC was personally conducted by Prof TJD and the “lucky ones” chosen to present cases did so with much fear and trembling…..and perhaps IBS (though this was not recognized as a differential diagnosis during our time, in the seventies).

The safest haven for us clinical students during the CPC was to rush for seats as far back as possible, out of reach of TJD’s infamous wooden pointer (no laser pointer those days).  It looked very much like a billiard stick except that it was more powerful than Moses’ staff that parted the Red Sea, as those who had the misfortune of being poked could testify to it.  The “hot seats” were the ones right next to the student presenter and the great Guru.

On that day, one of my female classmates had to settle for one of those hot seats as she was late after lunch.  I couldn’t remember what case was being presented.  As TJD was stressing certain points, he digressed to mentioned something about the usage of the English prefix “pan-” as in Pan-American, Pan-African, panacea, etc.  All of a sudden, the great Guru turned and pointed his wooden pointer at the chest of this lady and asked, “give me another example of pan-“.  After a brief moment of hesitation, this poor classmate of mine looked up nervously and quivered gingerly, “pancreas.”   Of course nobody dared to laugh aloud.  TJD at first seemed exasperated but he quickly composed himself and whispered gently to her, “girl, I think you’ve been studying too hard.”  And I overheard someone behind me murmured,” pan-ic lah.” ”

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“I remembered one conversation I had with the late Professor TJ Danaraj. He had said that you could train a monkey to do anything including the most delicate surgery, but that that is not the point. It is making the right decision to do or not to do, to make a well-reasoned diagnosis, to choose a wiser therapeutic option that makes a better physician”.

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“In medical school, it was the late Professor Tan Sri Danaraj whose approach to medicine had a great influence on me. He was meticulous in ensuring that a doctor makes the right diagnosis and he taught us to treat patients as a whole”.

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Front Row (left to right): Dr. Khalid b Abdul Kadir, Dr. Yeoh Poh Hong, Ybhg Prof. Tan Sri T.J. Danaraj, Prof. Priscilla Kinchard-Smith (President, Royal Australasian College of Physicians), Dr. Lim Say Wan, Yang Berhormat Dato’ Chan Siang Sun (The Honourable Minister of Health of Malaysia), Dr. Lawrence Chan Kok Chin (Master, Academy of Medicine, Singapore and President of the Congress), Ybhg Dato’ Dr. Abu Bakar b. Dato’ Suleiman, Dr. Feng Pao Hsii (S’pore), Dr. Ridzwan Bakar and Dr. Joginder Singh.