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Last updateWed, 11 Nov 2015 11am

UM – TCU Collaboration in Precedent "Silent Mentor" Program

Director of Silent Mentor program Tzu Chi University, Professor Dr Tseng Guo Fang handing over the MoU to UM Dean of Faculty of Medicine, Professor Dr Adeeba bte Kamrulzaman.【Photograph by Lim Yen Kuan】

After years of unfailing efforts, the "Silent Mentor" Cadavers program has eventually attained encouraging results in Taiwan. To cater for medical entities anatomy needs, UMMC, University of Malaya has launched this unprecedented project, after two years of planning by Director of UM MILES Skill Centre, Professor Chin Kin Fah.


On March 23, 2012, the officiating of the MILES (Minimally Invasive Laparo-Endoscopic Surgery) Skill Centre, University of Malaya coincided with the signing ceremony of the MoU between UM (University of Malaya), TCU (Tzu Chi University) and Xiao-En Group (a prominent bereavement care service provider in Malaysia) which took place simultaneously at the Clinical Auditorium, UM. This mutual co-operation is the first of its kind between the three organizations.

Among dignities gracing this meaningful ceremony which were attended by about 350 people, were Deputy Health Minister, Datuk Rosnah Abdul Rashid Shirlin, UMMC Director Professor Ikram Shah bin Ismail, UM Dean of Faculty of Medicine, Professor Dr. Adeeba bte Kamrulzaman, Tzu Chi representatives from Taiwan, the CEO of Tzu Chi Medical Mission, Lin Chin Lon and his wife, Vice-President, R & D, Director of Silent Mentor program Tzu Chi University Professor Dr Tseng Guo Fang, Director of Humanity, Tzu Chi College of Technology Director, Dr. Cheah Lee Hwa and R & D Department Head, Dr. Lin Zhu Jun, and Xiao-En Group Director Datin Lim Siew Kim and Managing Director Choo Siew Siang. Apart from that, Tzu Chi KL & Selangor CEO, Echo Chien and Tzu Chi volunteers and UM Medical personnel were also present to witness the opening ceremony of the UM MILES Skill Training Centre.

At the opening ceremony, Professor Dr. Tseng Guo Fang, who is the pioneer in the cadaver donation program, shared his 16 years of experience on this subject. He said, according to traditional concepts, the Chinese believed that their bodies must not be damaged before burial. To help eliminate this traditional mindset, Tzu Chi set up the "Cadaver Donation and Caring Unit" in 1996.

This unit comprising of Tzu Chi volunteers Tzu Chi University's lecturers in Department of Anatomy went around the island to hold talks on promoting this program and its procedures. The unit was also responsible for providing care and companionship to the immediate family members before and after the demise of the donor. These efforts have gradually changed the general public's misconception about death. As a result, the donation of cadavers for medical study has increased over the years. As at last year, more than 30,000 people in Taiwan had signed up for the program.

Dr. Tseng also quoted a silent mentor saying prior to his death: "I would rather let you cut me erroneously with your scalpels for a thousand times than for you to incise once wrongly on a living person". So, all the medical professors, surgeons and undergraduates are learning respectfully during their anatomy lessons. Basically, this type of education is entirely different from the conventional teaching methods whereby, the medical students are facing cold anonymous cadaveric models and acquiring surgical skills in an apathetic and unmindful manner. After the end of the surgery-simulation class, the professors and students alike have to pay their last respect to their silent mentor and interact with the immediate family members before cremation. In this way, the family members of the deceased will normally walk out of the blues shortly and the students and professors could learn to appreciate what they have learned.

Learning from Tzu Chi University – to respect the departed

After first learning about the "silent mentor" from the Tzu Chi people, Prof. Chin Kin Fah, Senior Consultant Surgeon, University of Malaya was keen to explore further. In year 2011 when Prof. Chin went to TIMA Convention in Taiwan with three Malaysian medical personnel to learn more about the minimally invasive surgery, they witnessed how the medical students learned from the silent mentor and how they respected and cremated their "mentor" solemnly at the end of their lessons.

"We hope not only to acquire the minimally operative laparoscopic skills, but also to emulate the compassionate and humanistic approach adopted by Tzu Chi towards the Silent Mentors - from the willing of bodies to be human cadavers as training modalities and the dressing of their silent mentor properly with dignity, with all wounds appropriately closed to the solemnly cremating of the dissected cadaver." Prof. Chin reiterated that the University Malaya surgery-simulation lessons will be carried exactly like the humanistic medical education aspired by the Tzu Chi University in Taiwan.

As in Malaysia, the cold cadavers for simulation practice were all formerly arranged through the Ministry of Health, most of which were unclaimed anonymous corpses. Prof. Chin elaborated that before the surgery-simulation began, professors and student alike would hold a brief prayers session for the unknown cadaver. However, as we did not know who the corpse was and where he or she came from, we were a little scared during the operation.

For the past two years, Prof. Chin has been working hard to introduce Tzu Chi's medical humanistic culture to Malaysia. He did not only seek sponsorship from local entrepreneurs to fund medical facilities and the renovation of the MILES training center, but also propagated through the press and broadcast stations on the concept and importance of the "Silent Mentor" program – the willing of bodies for surgery-simulation uses. He also requested all students and professors to treat Silent Mentors with highest respect and a role model that practice altruism. After that, he received feedback from several people, including a UM professor, who were interested in donating their body as cadaver in surgery-simulation classes.

To Prof. Chin, it is crucial to forge a strong humanistic rapport between the silent mentors and the doctors. In a multi-racial society like Malaysia with so many religious backgrounds, it is natural that ethnical funeral rites differ greatly. Currently, the willing cadaver donors are majority Chinese and Indians. "This is going to be a big social campaign, because regardless of what religion you may be, you have to go all out to get to know your Silent Mentor and his or her background," emphasized Prof. Chin.

There are, at the moment, 9 freezers in the MILES training center. A training program for specialists would be scheduled and graduating doctors will be required to acquire experience in operative laparoscopic surgery, etc.

MoU signed between the two nursing faculties of UM and TCU

On the same day, representatives from both UM (University Malaya) and TCU (Tzu Chi University) held a ceremony for the presenting of the MoU signed earlier on November 9, 2011 in Taiwan. To further enhance mutual co-operation, Prof. Chin initiated collaboration between the School of Nursing of UM and TCU. Thus, a Memorandum of Understanding was cordially signed between UM Dean of Faculty of Medicine, Professor Dr. Adeeba bte Kamrulzaman and TC College of Technology R & D Director, Dr. Lin Zhu Jun.

In conjunction with this ceremony, Dr. Cheah Lee Hwa, the Director of Humanity, TCU College of Technology presented a sharing with local doctors on the application of humanistic approaches and education by the School of Nursing. Dr. Cheah is also a UM Alumi and so greeted everyone warmly in Malay language. Abided by Ven. Master Cheng Yen's principle of "A good doctor is the patient's living Buddha; while, a good nurse is the patient's Bodhisattva in White", TC School of Nursing emphasizes great love as the core of education and teaches students to uphold an attitude of humanistic values – "love, respect and care for".

After the signing of the MoU, Deputy Health Minister, Datuk Rosnah Abdul Rashid Shirlin and several other guests-of-honour officiated at the opening ceremony for the MILES Skill Training Centre. They were later shown around and briefed on the facilities of the MILES Skill Centre. However, practically all facilities and humanistic culture are emulated from TCU.

Datuk Rosnah complimented on the cadaver donating program because it is beneficial to all patients. She said that despite the UM Chancellor and UMMC Director are Muslims; they are all supportive of Prof. Chin in this humanistic project and are willing to work closely with Tzu Chi.

Apart from that, Xiao-En Group has also joined in the humanistic collaboration. Xiao-En Group Director, Lim Siew Kim has agreed to make this project a success by voluntarily giving out two acres of land for the allocation of Silent Mentors and promised to build a memorial hall for the mentors. "We are doing our best to support this project. Any Xiao-En organization that intends to contribute can contact us."

Get the fullest out of life

Liu Mei Ying, an immediate member of a patient's family was invited to witness this humanistic program. "I will definitely support him. Prof. Chin is a man with great ambitions and also a kind doctor," said the grateful lady. Mdm. Liu was aware that Prof. Chin has been promoting the Silent Mentor program and believed that to donate the body for medical uses is very meaningful.

Habibah Abdullah, a nurse, was so touched that she wept after watching the Silent Mentor video. Being a nurse for more than twenty years, the most unforgettable incident was when she saw a Chinese couple donating the kidneys of his dying son to an Indian family. She respected this Chinese couple due to their selfless love which crossed beyond the limits of religion.

"It is our Muslim's traditions to keep the body of the departed in a good condition; however, after Prof. Chin's strong recommendation on the donating of body for the cadaver program, I think this is a meaningful task, so I hope this should be made known to as many people as possible," said Habibah.

In future, if there are donors from any religious background who wish to will their body in the Tzu Chi format or other alternatives, we will always respect them. "UM is basically doing R & D and education, so if people donate their body for surgery-simulating purposes, we will do what we could to fulfill their wishes," said Prof. Chin.

"This MILES simulation process needs manpower and resources. So, I am thankful to Tzu Chi for their helpfulness!"

In a multi-racial society with diverse religious backgrounds like Malaysia, this meaningful Silent Mentor humanistic education program is yet to be tested. However, Tzu Chi KL & Selangor is obliged to see that this program runs smoothly.

Death comes surely and silently. But the value of life could be further appreciated, particularly in the surgery-simulating practice, where the humanistic nature has been highly enhanced. It is hoped that we could get the fullest of life provided we are willing to give.

 

About 350 people, including UMMC staff and Tzu Chi Volunteers attended the MILES Centre opening ceremony.【Photograph by Sue Tow Fong】 Prof. Adeeba (left) and Dr. Lin Zhu Jun (right) signing the MoU for co-operation between the two universities' nursing faculty.【Photograph by Woo Yoke Bee】

About 350 people, including UMMC staff and Tzu Chi Volunteers attended the MILES Centre opening ceremony.【Photograph by Sue Tow Fong】

Prof. Adeeba (left) and Dr. Lin Zhu Jun (right) signing the MoU for co-operation between the two universities' nursing faculty.【Photograph by Woo Yoke Bee】
Datuk Rosnah officiating at the MILES opening ceremony.【Photograph by Lim Shy Tean】 Prof. Chin showing the 9 freezers in the MILES Centre.【Photograph by Woo Yoke Bee】

Datuk Rosnah officiating at the MILES opening ceremony.【Photograph by Lim Shy Tean】

Prof. Chin showing the 9 freezers in the MILES Centre.【Photograph by Woo Yoke Bee】
Habibah (right) hopes the Silent Mentor Program should be promoted at national level.【Photograph by Lim Shy Tean】

Habibah (right) hopes the Silent Mentor Program should be promoted at national level.【Photograph by Lim Shy Tean】