Are Russian medical graduates so incompetent?

27 Mar

The incompetence of Russian medical graduates is not a new issue for us. Recent case was brought by POTS, and some are affronted with the post.

We might turn to be ignorant as we realize that during our practice afterwards,patients won’t ask from what university you graduated from.Patients are patients after all.They won’t run away from your clinic as they read on the door, stating that you got your medical degree from Russia.Nonetheless,this issue might affect the reputation of Russian medical graduates as a whole,and the worst thing is you might be treated differently,or i should say ‘special’ attention might be given to you by senior doctors during internship.Yes,we don’t want the doctors in Malaysia to be prejudice and set their minds with all bad reflections about Russian medical graduates.

Of course i can’t give any answer for above question,because i’m merely a 4th year student.Plus,the judgment just barely a fact(or really a fact?) from the senior doctors who are working with Houseman Officers (HOs) graduated from Russia.In addition to that,not all medical graduates from Russia are hopeless.

Let’s say that the question is answered with “yes”, how can we react? I’m pretty sure those who are studying in Russia try the best to deny the fact,but, if it’s indisputably true,and some more the rumours (or fact?) have spread all over the places,who is to blame then?What’s our next action?

From my point of view as a medical student in Russia, i can stress that the main role for this incompetence is the difference in system implemented in Malaysia and Russia,especially during internship. Please correct me if i’m wrong, this is just my opinion. I don’t want to compare Russian’s traditional academic system with the system used in Malaysia.Most of us are familiar with them. Yet,most of us have no idea on what actually happen during internship in Russia.Let me share something.

I had internal medicine cycle last February,and we were able to observe a lot of patients with different diseases.In one of the cases,we saw a patient who just admitted to the hospital with complaint of loss of sensation of her lower extremities. Apparently, she had polyneuropathy of legs as a complication of Diabetes Mellitus.When we saw the patient,Head of Endocrine Department and a HO were there too.

Suddenly the HO was asked to measure the patient’s blood pressure on the legs.The HO simply said with a relax tone,”I’m sorry,i don’t know how to do that”.I imagined she must have got bombardment right on her face from the Head of Department for not knowing such a simple skill. No,i was wrong. In fact, the HO was shown the proper way of measuring the blood pressure by my teacher, with a broad smile from the Head of Department.Wasn’t it cool?

Another incident which involved a HO was during my neurology cycle last semester.In this academy, I guess everyone knows (will know) how strict Professor Vera Naumovna Grigoryeva,the Head of Neurology Department is with her students.She doesn’t care how much you might get hurt or annoyed if you are scolded in front of the patients.So,I expect the same when she works with HOs or other doctors.Again,i was mistaken.

When we saw a patient together last semester with her,she nicely talked to a HO, who was asked to perform cranial nerve examinations on the patient.The HO was kind of blur, he was not sure which cranial nerves to assess. To our surprise, she showed him the proper way of doing the examinations and then checked the HOs skills from A-Z,step by step,as if the HO is still a medical student like us!

If these 2 situations occur in Malaysia,we apprehend what’s the consequence and how worst can it be for any HO for not able to show the practical skills to senior doctors.

From my assumption,i guess that’s the major difference between internship in Russia and Malaysia.While in Russia the senior doctors and even the Head of Department are ready to lend their helping hand and support the HOs with kind words and motivations, in Malaysia the senior doctors give too much expectations (and pressure?) to HOs.Not that the doctors in Malaysia are unreliable, i’m just trying to convey that most of doctors in Malaysia will easily get mad if the HOs do not know about something, in comparison with situation in Russia.

That’s why i think during 6 years of learning in Russia, there are too little practical skills,because during internship the HOs still can learn them from the beginning. On the contrary, students in Malaysia (and other places) are provided with much practical skills from the very beginning,because during internship there are only anticipations that you must know every single thing from senior doctors.

The worst thing is when these 2 systems overlap,like those who study in Russia (practical skills still can be learned during internship) go back to Malaysia (you will just get a humiliation if you are poor with skills).This is the reality.

That’s why,i dont think labeling medical graduates from Russia with those kinds of bad words is a right thing.After all,they (some of senior doctors) just make a generalization. Well,some are still doing well even they graduated from Russia.The background is different,so is the product.

Realizing that inadequate practical skills are the quandary, perhaps doing well in our studies may cover the defect. At least,we must equipped ourselves with enough medical knowledge if our practical skills are poor, because there is no excuse of poor medical knowledge(knowledge is the same wherever you study). Regarding poor practical skills,maybe it can be improved by self-motivation and interest to do extra practicals in Malaysia during summer break.Or else,we might end up being bullied by senior doctors during internship and again,the above question remains unanswered.




Posted by on March 27, 2009 in Uncategorized


30 responses to “Are Russian medical graduates so incompetent?

  1. PreMedical University

    March 27, 2009 at 5:40 am


    I also encountered this kind of epidemic, I read couple of blog that has a problem like this. But all I’m saying is give change to the people and don’t judge them automatically because we don’t know how genius they are.

  2. Sarah

    March 27, 2009 at 7:25 am

    interesting post…and yeah, it sounds about right. Med students in M’sia are more concentrated in the practicals department, spending entire days in the hospital just examining and taking history from patients meanwhile we barely get practical exposure..

  3. Ili

    March 27, 2009 at 7:30 pm

    i quite agree with u kamil~
    admittedly, we need to always improve ourselves towards the better but we also need encouragement and support from others too, especially when we are well aware of the current prejudice against russian med students.
    and yes, poor knowledge is never, and will never be, a fitting excuse~

  4. kEn

    March 28, 2009 at 3:07 am

    Very well said! I agree with you completely.

  5. K2

    March 28, 2009 at 9:53 am

    There is strong prejudice against us, Russia grads.

    I have seen HOs, fresh grads from more “prestigious” foreign universities who are unable to withdraw blood or place a cannula too. No one said anything about that..

    ~Sebab setitik nila, rosak susu sebelanga…
    One blacksheep (which sticks out like a sore thumb) x batu api = (prejudice + discrimination)²

    It’s not gonna be a bed of roses for us, but yes, with the right attitude and aptitude we will weather through this storm. Having said that, beneath the roses, there thorns will be. so.. ;P
    Have a nice day!

  6. C2

    March 28, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    regarding the HO who didnt know how to measure the BP, i’m actually quite surprised. even my year2 juniors know how to do it. if u expecting the same teaching as for a medical student during ur housemanship, it is like u’r ‘buying’ the degree n so u can practice n learn. yea, i agree that we should continue learning as we start working in near future. but skills like taking history n performing a complete physical examination are what u should learned in medical school.

  7. kamilsifu

    March 28, 2009 at 10:49 pm

    PreMedical University:”don’t judge them automatically because we don’t know how genius they are” -yes,the message is clear! =]

    Sarah: Yes,they get more exposure than us.It means incompetent local medical graduates are more serious right?=] That’s y assess us individually! =]

    Ili: Thanks for ur comments.Yup,let’s improve ourselves together.Maybe it’s the perfect time to prove them that we r not losers.=]

    Ken:Thanks for dropping by and leaving ur comment.=]

    K2:Agree wf ur statements as well.Hehe,that’s y,labeling the Russian graduates as a whole is totally wrong.even if u study in the best medical university in the world,it never guarantee u with bright future,bcz it’s up to urselves.Hehe.hv a nice day 2.

    C2:Yup,we were surprise also.but,it doesnt mean that i hope for spoon feeding fr the doctors drg internship..i just want to clear things up only,i mean the difference in the system has caused such outcome.n it’s true that history taking n PE r very important skills that must b mastered. =]

  8. kevosm

    March 29, 2009 at 5:42 am

    i think its totally bullshit to criticize any ho. With the bad reputation attributed to ukraine and russian medical graduates, they will be under rigorous scrutiny. And let me tell you this. ANY FRESH GRADUATE will definitely fail if placed under such scrutiny. The real problem lies in the senior doctors forgetting the many variables of human character as well as their own experiences as a junior HO. How nervous they felt, afraid of doing procedures, inadequate knowledge. Treat all HO with a view to guide them, not to criticize. It when we promote a learning and caring environment within the confines of the wards that doctors will begin to progress, irrespective of where they graduated from.

  9. kamilsifu

    March 29, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    em….nice explaination from me…=)

  10. aywc

    March 30, 2009 at 9:18 pm

    Thank you for bringing this into light.We Russian students do know how to take history, it’s just that it’s very different from the Malaysian way.They don’t know any anamnesis morbi or vitae, and we don’t understand all their shortforms…can we call this a cultural difference?and a lot of our classifications are different from what they are used to, so when they ask us theirs, it’s natural that we do not know.And vice versa.

    But, from my experience of doing attachments in Malaysian hospitals, it’s the specialist whom we followed around that seemed very impressed with what we learnt(we were only in 3rd year then), we can diagnose a simple disease by auscultation, palpation and percussion, without the help of those sophisticated technologies. He was very fascinated with our way of deep palpation too, by which we can feel all the individual organs of the abdominal cavity.(But he told us, it’s very useful for specialists, but it’ll be hard for us when we start working, as we’ll have to relearn the easier and more basic Malaysian way, ours is too advance, it’s a pity).

    And also we know ECG more than the local HOs and even some MOs.The hospital was having a post-grad course of ECG, and some MOs looked down on us as they thought we don’t understand anything, and tried to force us to join another seminar for hosp attendants(HAs). Can’t imagine how smug we felt when we saw the looks on their faces when we proved to them we already know that stuff that they’re gonna teach to the MOs and HOs, and told them we already learnt them in our 3rd year internal diseases class(equivalent to local Uni 2nd year).

    Please do give us some time to get use to the system, we’d very much appreciate if local doctors who are familiar with the system would help us to adapt faster, instead of criticizing and looking down on us.Put yourself in our shoes, if you’re sent to work in Ukraine or Russia, I’ll bet that you would be ‘not knowing anything’ too….BUT, you’ll be treated much better, than we’ll be when we go back to Malaysia..

  11. dina alia

    April 10, 2009 at 8:36 am

    A ‘good’ doctor is very subjective. It’s all depends on the individual, not from the university you graduated. Differences in the healthcare system will always be one of the major problems for overseas students. It happens to everyone, I think;) not only for Russian med students. So, don’t worry, you’ll be a good doctor if you have a ‘right intention’. Even if u need to face with lots of difficulties, it will never be a big problem for you if you have a clear vision on why u want to be a doctor in the first place. Just face the music because after all, everything must be back to our niat… innamal a’malu binniyah (hadith 1).

    So, I just want to wish u luck in your studies. Moga Allah bukakan jalan-Nya untuk kita dan moga kita semua mendapat keberkatan dalam pelajaran, insyaAllah;)

  12. Ed Hirschprung

    April 18, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    This is the best that I have read this week. Great work. We are putting together a list of USEFUL websites, to be formed into a directory that addresses the needs of folks who are looking for information in this field. Please check out the site (it is still being developed) and please email us with any suggestions.

  13. Ed Hirschprung

    April 18, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    I must say I agree with you, even though not totally. We are putting together a non-profit website that will include links to useful websites such as yours. It is still under development, if you are interested please take a look

  14. luccadjiwa

    July 6, 2009 at 7:45 am

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    – Sekeping DVD yang mengandungi kesemua gambar.
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    – Percuma satu sessi Outdoor pada hari yang sama.

  15. luccadjiwa

    July 6, 2009 at 7:46 am

    emm… dah lama x jenguk blog ni.. saya dah ada blog baru… kalu free.. jenguk laa ek..

  16. Blog Resipi

    August 14, 2009 at 10:07 am

    Salam singgah dari blogresipi. Blog saudara sangat berinformatif. 🙂

  17. Nasarudin

    August 27, 2009 at 7:49 am

    Emm interesting points, especially for someone like me, making every effort promoting Russian Medical education….well..the good the bad and the ugly are every where not limited Russia. We have many home grown as well as western produced who fit the label. pls..for those who think that they never err ..check the fact before passing any negative comments!

    Now, another Russian university opens its door ASEAN students …Kazan State Medical University, Kazan, Tatarstan, Russia.

  18. zara

    September 1, 2009 at 7:23 pm

    Basically, it is not happen only for russian medical graduates. Overseas medical graduates always being labelled as incompetent in clinical skills once we practice in Malaysia. So, don’t get too sensitive about Russian medical graduates or any other places. 🙂

  19. shahrulnizam

    January 13, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    slm beb… slmt thn bru..lme ta singgah sini.wee

  20. watever

    February 26, 2011 at 5:57 am

    face the reality bitch!!
    study more..practice harder…TALK LESS…!!!

    • kamilsifu

      February 27, 2011 at 9:28 am

      Thanks watever for dropping by and leaving ur comment…
      Btw,may i remind u to mind ur language?no one is a bitch here…=]
      Thanks for reminding us, russian graduates to study and practise more..that is what we are doing right now…but to talk less…it’s a little bit bias isn’t it?after all, i have my right to say something concerning my alma mater and career…some of them are just clueless,hence this entry is written…=]

  21. Mohamed

    March 10, 2011 at 5:03 am

    Hello, i am a student from singapore who is interested to study in russia.I have read from the newspapers that there are numerous malayasians studying in russia. i would like to know about your experience there and would like to be in contact with you.
    Mohamed Bilal

  22. danish

    April 4, 2011 at 7:24 pm

    i agree with u.but i think it’s all depend on strong our will to bring ourselves forward.

  23. Edo

    July 7, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    Medicine is not merely learning by Textbooks alone.. Clinical exposure is very important in the learning of medicine.. What’s the point knowing a lot in medicine, yet incompetent in taking proper history and physical examination.. In order to improve clinical skills, one must spend a lot of time talking and examining patients, while at the same time continuously learn and read a lot to increase knowledge.. Remember, 75% of diagnosis can be made through good history and physical examination, skills that should and must be honed during medical student time..

  24. Egypt student

    July 25, 2011 at 10:06 pm

    Well not knowing how to measure the bp is quite surprising and not knowing how to examine cranial nerve is forgivable..asked one of the msian meds student to do so and their face will turn red lol..the only problem is the system i’ve got a friend who is currently studying in msia and now he is doing his junior posting or something like that..surprisingly he post in his fb about treatment of psychosis and he actually don’t know where to look for the article assumingly local student is genius for finishing their pre medic for 1 year what the hell do they study?mostly clinical!!!so if ever any local ho bully you for not knowing the disease asked them how many times have they saw the case..they are trained to diagnose but we( egypt&russia ) are trained for the true essence of medicine as one of my prof once said that completing a degree doesn’t make you a doctor, only after you finish your sub-specialty then you are considered as a doctor
    So guys live a happy life and once in a while take a short break and read the msian procedure..i got mine from a hospital in sabah it is just like a revision though

  25. Boris

    February 9, 2012 at 11:03 pm

    Really nice article given in clear and direct way. You have noticed and revealed the very core of the problem. Many people around the world wonder how such a stupid and ignorant people managed to make through M.D. program, they don`t understand that here in Russia you are supposed to acquire the majority of clinical skills only being the HO and in first four or even six years of your farther practice.Although, Russian medical education is plagued with lots of problems those can not be explained just by the differences in the education systems. They are: Russian medical education as well as whlole Russia’s healthcare system is far outdated students are to learn approaches and methods that have been out of use for decades and miss essential skills they will deliberately need in their practice, thees they are going to be scolded for failing to demonstrate to the senior practitioners. Loyalty and excessive indulgence. Once you scrubbed in Russian university, there almost no way to get expelled especially if you are the foreigner and Russian is your second language. Lack of good Russian would be blamed for your academic failures and ayes would be closed on them. And of course that famous corruption within the academic institutions in this country, it is not a secret that almost any exam is possible to bribe in stead of revising frantically due to humiliating wages of the academic stuff.

  26. Teacher

    April 5, 2012 at 10:00 pm

    Let be honest, guys. Majority of foreign students in Russia do everything EXCEPT studying during those long 6 years. I’m not from medical field, but I teach at Russian university. I know how often I see foreign students on my lessons. They just don’t show up until last days of semester! And they go to their dean and he calls to departments and asks heads of departments to give them at least lowest positive mark!

    If you do not do anything, if you didn’t visit classes, how can you know anything? Not Russian education, but your lazy compatriots, who spend their time sleeping (at first year of learning Russian at our university teachers KNOCK the DOORS of rooms at students hostel to wake them up because classes started and nobody came) create image of Russian education in CERTAIN countries. Why do thousands Russians are invited worldwide every year in other parts of the world? Because they STUDY. Do not blame someone just work harder. Not teacher should terrify you but your consciousness and understanding that later you will be responsible for someone’s life (you can be doctor, engineer etc…).

  27. Sergey

    July 5, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    Hello to everybody! There are two medical educational systems in the world: 1) western and 2) russian. The difference between them is the same as between capitalism and communism. Capitalist – good but expensive, Communist(ex-communist) – not so good but cheap. But, please don’t say that russian medical education is adopted to western system, because of Russia is no more communist state. Everything remains the same in RUSSIAN MEDICINE. This is totally not true – if someone criticizes one system. It depends on where you want to live and work. If you feel that you are russian and you want to work in CIS countries, then welcome to Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus…and other CIS countries. But if you think that you are more familiar with western culture then go and study in Europe, US etc. I am russian, graduated from western university. All I can say, russian medical graduates are incompetent in western medicine and they are good in their own. Americans or europeans could be incompetent in russian system too. USMLE Step 1 first time pass rate among russian medical graduates – between 30-40%, while western schools have passing rate 60-80%. We can call this CULTURAL AND MENTAL DIFFERENCE. Which one is better – ARGUMENTATIVE, as to say that RMG’s are bad – its not true, its ARGUMENTATIVE. I came back to Russia to work here but russians did not allow me to work NOR they tested my knowledge. They have said that my education is BAD, because of its western. That is not true too. I passed both USMLE Steps with hight scores. The most important thing is that – everything depends on PERSON not just SYSTEM. System gives just rough statistical estimation. Hope my post was OBJECTIVE and HELPFUL. Wish you all success!

  28. dr.sanjay

    September 26, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    well sorry to say but russian medical graduate can do best i m from india graduated from russian medical institute as you know in india working as doctor is much more difficult than anywere i practice here for last 2 years n i teach some of my seniors procedure,i can do any procedure as do other students also ya it is true that i didnt get this knowlage from russian medical depends on the student in russia u can do both study and fun but those whom u meet may b doing fun only….its on u how u study n you also didnt learn your skill from birth you studied book n we studied too..and your kind of information those who studied in russia hard they can do better than any 1 in the world what you think in russia ppl die without medical support?? you pointing like in russia doctor dont do anything n ppl die.dont generalise the russian education on the data of knowladge of single person come n meet me in india i will show u the better doctor who passed from russia


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