Malaysia’s Very Own Patch Adams
Patch Adams, best known as a medical doctor cum clown who runs the Gesundheit Institute, a free, full-scale hospital, has inspired many people. In Malaysia, we have our very own “Patch Adams”, whom we fondly call the Teddy Bear Doctor. While Patch Adams treats patients with humour, Dr. S. Madhusudhan treats his patients with compassion, truly believing that “everyone deserves free medical care.”
Dr. Madhusudhan, Dr. Madhu for short, first started providing free medical care for the homeless people at Kechara Soup Kitchen. His nickname, Teddy Bear Doctor, came about when he began giving the homeless children teddy bears whenever he visited them. Eventually, he started the Teddy Mobile Clinic to ensure that the homeless and poor communities would receive the medical attention they deserve.
The Teddy Bear Doctor treats his patients as though they are his closest friends or family, showering them with love and care. Every so often, he would entertain the children with some basic magic tricks. His ultimate aim is to make his patients happy. “If you can bring happiness and a smile on your patient’s face, part of their ailment is gone,” said Dr. Madhu.
The sense of fulfilment and satisfaction has driven Dr. Madhu and his team to keep on providing free medical services to the needy. Not expecting anything in return, they strive to inspire others to give back to the community as well. Their work has earned them many accolades, including the recent Commonwealth Points of Light award by Queen Elizabeth II. Still, Dr. Madhu thinks that getting the award “just inspires us to do more for our people.”
Like many of us, Dr. Madhu sought a sense of identity during the beginning stages of his career as a doctor. He found himself lost in the excessive workload during his practice at the government hospital. His only joy was the relationship he built with the patients. Often times, he would stay back after work just to have a chat with them. As he got closer to his patients, he had to go through heartbreaking moments when conditions become critical. Since he could not bear to watch when a close patient died, he left.
However, “everything changed when I started providing free medical care for the needy,” said the doctor.
Growing up in his father’s clinic, Dr. Madhu had witnessed how his father would treat patients who are poor. At times, they were not even charged a penny. He is also surrounded by friends who make a difference in local communities. Inspired by his family and friends, the Teddy Bear Doctor set out on his own journey to help the needy. “Anyone can do charity but as a doctor, I feel that I can do much more. I can provide something others cannot and that made me love my career much more,” he said.
Dr. Madhu started the Teddy Mobile Clinic in 2015 with about 10 volunteers, including himself. Every Wednesday night, the Teddy Mobile Clinic team would station themselves at two locations, Pusat Transit Gelandangan and Jalan Hang Lekiu, treating about 40 to 50 patients. Now, the clinic has expanded to over 50 volunteers with eight doctors in the team. They have treated more than a thousand homeless people in the past three years.
Apart from operating the Teddy Mobile Clinic on Wednesday nights, the team also visits patients living around Klang to provide medical care on Tuesday nights. They even make time to visit refugee schools or Orang Asli villages on Saturdays and schedule family visits whenever possible. Besides providing medical care, the Teddy Mobile Clinic team also makes sure that the families with poor living conditions receive other forms of help like monthly groceries.
The Teddy Mobile team comprises caring individuals who always look forward to helping the community. Dr. Madhu describes them as “those who can never see a needy person and simply go by doing nothing for them.” Although they come from different backgrounds, they all have the same goal of wanting the best for the needy regardless of their race or cultural background. Dr. Madhu adds that the team, whom he regards as family, is very fun to be around with. Hence, charity is never a task for him; “It has always been fun,” he said.
However, it is not all fun and games at the Teddy Mobile Clinic operation. They had to overcome hardships too! Dr. Madhu explained, “You might be surprised about what others think about the work you do.” Their efforts to reach out through social media were criticised. They were also taken advantage of by several non-governmental organisations and families who kept demanding for things.
Nevertheless, the Teddy Bear Doctor is not deterred. “There will be lots of ups and downs in achieving your goals but the most important thing is that once you have put your mind to it, go for it and never get discouraged if there are failures,” he said.
Dr. Madhu never doubted his decision to promote his endeavours on social media. In fact, he realised that it was this decision that had directly led to the success of the Teddy Mobile Clinic, allowing him to reach thousands of readers who have come out to help the clinic.
Currently, the Teddy Mobile Clinic is aiming for a fully functional and equipped van so that the team is able to carry on its mission in different locations. Hoping to inspire others to do the same, Dr. Madhu and his team are more than happy to guide those who would like to start the operation in other states. “We would like to start a foundation and collect funds so we can provide monetary help to those who needs funds for their medical care at hospitals, or operations and surgeries,” he added.
Good doctors like Dr. Madhu are needed everywhere in Malaysia. We can always contribute to the needy, but doctors have the advantage and knowledge to do so much more for the community. To those who are passionate about being a doctor, Dr. Madhu would advise them not to “treat the illness, but treat the patient” instead.
If the Teddy Bear Doctor has fuelled your aspirations to become a doctor, Newcastle University Medicine Malaysia (NUMed) provides top-notch medical education in Malaysia. Amongst the top 10 universities for Medicine, NUMed gives students the opportunity to obtain UK quality education in its purpose-built international campus at EduCity, Iskandar Puteri, Johor. Find out more about the courses offered by NUMed at newcastle.edu.my.