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Oyen Interviews Dr. Ima: 13 years journey and struggle to be Malaysia’s top vet

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As pet owners, we find ourselves present within the world of veterinarians and their clinics as we seek assistance with our injured/ ill furbabies. However, we never truly attempt to fathom the minds of those who provide our pets with the help they need. 

In today’s story, we had the opportunity to enter the mind of one of the most respectful and well-known female veterinarians in Malaysia, Dr. Salehatul Khuzaimah binti Mohamad Ali (fondly known as Dr. Ima), where she discusses her background, experiences, emotions and thoughts as a veterinarian. 

Dr Ima- Malaysian veterinarian

Oyen: Can you tell us how you started your clinics Serv-U Vet and Trio Vet?

Dr. Ima: After graduating, I was practicing in small animal clinics for about five years. I decided to open my own around 2014-2015. We started as a very small clinic with two or three staff. At the time, my family members and husband were involved in the process. After a few months, we managed to hire support staff to assist me in doing treatments and also manage the clinic.

One year after Serv-U opened, I collaborated with two of my former classmates and we founded Trio clinic around 2015-2016. For Trio clinic, we also started very small. We had one vet and one staff at the time. My two partners practice equine medicine so they are not involved in small animal practice. 

Serv-U Vetcare
Trio Veterinary Clinic & Surgery

Oyen: What inspired you to become a veterinarian?

Dr. Ima: One is because I really love animals and I think it is also due to the exposure I received as a child by having pet cats. My dad was the one who encouraged me to enter this field and it seems like my pet cat also became the driving force for me to become a vet. 

When we see animals, they can’t talk, they are the voiceless and I think they need someone to be their voice. When we see animals that are sick and there is nothing that we can do, it feels frustrating. Because of that, I want to be someone who can help these creatures as they don’t know how to express their feelings. 

I feel like I need to be someone who can understand and help them have a quality life.

Dr Ima encouraged by father and pet cat

Oyen: What is your favourite animal besides felines? 

Dr. Ima: I love dogs and reptiles!

I think at least once a week, I get one reptile patient. They are quite interesting because reptiles are very unique and I think I love things that are wild or maybe just wildlife in general. That's what makes my personality a bit special.

Dr Ima loves dogs
Dr Ima's favourite weekly client

Oyen: What is the most rewarding experience you’ve had as a veterinarian?

Dr. Ima: Frankly, having two clinics is one of the most rewarding experiences. To be known as someone who can influence and inspire people in our society is quite rewarding for me, a personal achievement! Also, I was nominated for HalalTrip 40 Personalities and I consider it one of my best achievements this year. I hope that in the future I can open our society’s eyes or minds to this profession and how we contribute to society.

Oyen: What is the most stressful part about being a veterinarian?

Dr. Ima: There is that fear but there are also fun and stressful parts to it. Most people only see the fun such as cuddling animals. We (vets) de-stress ourselves by mingling with cute animals but the stressful part is dealing with actual lives and it’s very much interconnected with emotion and mental health. This includes times when we cannot save our patients and are abused by the owners. Some owners don't understand what our job is about, they don't know the struggles we face behind the stage

Some of them think that vets are merely taking their money for no reason. They don't understand that the things we utilise such as medicines, machines, and diagnostic tests are related to money. Sometimes we get a bit stressed out because when we advise certain owners, they refuse to listen and when bad things happen to their pets, they blame the vets and vet teams as if we are not doing our job responsibly. Dealing with these emotions, the abuse, and owners who don't understand us and blame us, are all exhausting and very stressful. 

Oyen: How do you react to these (owners in distress) types of owners?

Dr. Ima: We explain to them the possible outcomes/ situations for their pets so they can prepare themselves. We inform them about the procedures and if it is risky or not based on the condition that their pets are already in during the consultation. 

Sometimes, owners expect us to do magic and heal their very sick, at times, dying pets. They hope that a miracle can happen with one jab and their pets would be running as usual but that is impossible. Mainly, I would explain clearly so that they won't blame us and hopefully, try to understand. 

The relationship between a vet and an owner is very important, especially in gaining their trust and allowing us to treat their pets. If we can foresee the outcome (negative) of a pet, we would explain that the current condition of the pet is very bad and these are the possibilities that might happen. 

Mostly, pet owners are accepting and understanding but of course, it’s quite difficult to let everyone understand. I'm a vet and a pet owner myself so I understand the feelings of pet owners. I would also let them know that if I were in their shoes, I would feel the same. 

Oyen: Do you have a message for all pet owners?

Dr. Ima: Being a pet owner is a great responsibility!

  1. Get to know what type of animals your pets are before taking them in as part of your family. 
  2. Don't ignore them because they are creatures that need attention, it’s about how you spend your time with them.
  3. Your willingness to spend a lot (financially) because having pets is not cheap so you have to be prepared.

It's a lifetime commitment so please do not neglect your pets!

The most important thing is you have to ukur baju di badan sendiri and ask yourself if you are capable of having pets as part of your family because pets are family. It is more about responsibility and you as a human, how are you going to treat them (animals)?

The time has come for us to acknowledge that we often fail to recognise the contributions of our vets and their teams in attending to the needs of our beloved fur babies. With that, we would like to express appreciation and thanks to Dr. Ima for her time, consideration and fruitful input during our interview with her. 

If you enjoyed Dr. Ima speaking of her experiences and thoughts as a veterinarian, reach out to us and let us know if you wish to hear more from her!