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Up Close & Personal with Dr. Sindhu

Do you realise that some of life’s greatest pleasures happened to be a combination of 2 things.? For instance, brownie + cookie, beauty + brain, hydrogen + oxygen, sun + rain. Together, they created something amazing and rather joyful. Similar to our young and talented scientist, Dr Senthilmani Rajendran or warmly known as Dr Sindhu, has the opportunity to merge her background in dentistry AND health informatics that could help the health care industry in oral cancer detection.

 Dr Sindhu with the Digital Health team of Cancer Research Malaysia

              Born and raised in Seremban, this 33-year-old doctor has a Bachelor’s Degree in Dental Surgery and has been in dental practice from 2015 until 2017. As much as she loved her day job, something happened when she pursued her Master of Science in Health Informatics.

“Back in 2017 when I did my master in UK (United Kingdom), I did not expect to fall in love with the whole process. I really enjoyed the research and data collection to do my coursework and dissertation where I could have my own opinions and pen them down on paper. On the contrary with written examination assessments where we had to memorise the textbooks and condense our ideas. Aside from that, I had excellent mentors who guided me and that’s what inspired me to pursue my PhD in Public Health,” she shared.

Dr. Sindhu with UK, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Malaysian collaborators for project MeMoSA®

Currently working at CRMY as Research Associate in Digital Health Research Unit, Dr Sindhu is on a mission to combine her passion and profession to deliver better healthcare for Malaysia for the early detection of oral cancer. So, when she got involved with a project called MeMoSA® (an app that allows patient to easily document their oral lesions in the comfort of their home through a mobile phone camera and send the images to their clinicians for consultation), it was a match made in heaven.

              Unlike everyone else, Dr Sindhu has the advantage of better communication with the clinicians as she could comprehend the language and jargon better thanks to her experience in dentistry.  Luckily, it also made it easy for her to interact with the clinicians about well-researched interventions that could help the patients. For this young doctor, it is crucial to educate the patients and create awareness about oral cancer as survival is better when detected at an early stage. Sadly, most patients that she saw were already in stage 3 or stage 4 where cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

“I don’t look at the patients as another statistic on a piece of paper. I look at them as individuals and take a holistic approach by asking them questions like where are you from, what do you do for a living, how did you come to the hospital and do they have any trouble coming to the hospital, among other things. Once you know their background, you are able to connect the dots to understand why they have cancer and why it’s already at stage 3 or stage 4,” said Dr Sindhu.

Dr Sindhu with CRMY & University Malaya collaborators in an event to raise awareness of mouth cancer in Klang valley

              She also expressed the transition from practicing doctor to scientific research has been an eye-opening experience. Although it has its own challenge such as introducing new technology (like the MeMoSA® app) to elderly patients or those staying in rural areas, Dr Sindhu will continue her very best to deliver better health and wellness services for the communities.

              When asked if the world needs more scientists or more physicians, she firmly believes that both specialists are needed as they are trained differently. Physicians would know the current gap in the healthcare system while scientists are assigned to find solutions or innovations. By working hand in hand, it will be a synergistic move that could save more lives and that is the essential cause for either specialist.

              So, to all the youths out there who are still deciding on their medical specialty, just remember there is no right or wrong. No matter what you choose to be, always think of your intention and motivation and assure it’s at the right place.

Healthcare should be affordable and accessible to EVERYONE. Unfortunately, those who come from an underprivileged background or live in rural areas, are missing out to get themselves checked for early detection of oral cancer. Lend a helping hand today and change lives:

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