When patients are like family friends

“Malaysians like to eat! We eat round the clock,” said Dr Mahmood Sabruddin Zulkifli, consultant physician and interventional cardiologist at Avisena Specialist Hospital in Shah Alam, just outside Kuala Lumpur.

Heart disease & poor lifestyle

He laments that widespread poor diet and sedentary lifestyles make his job more important for the thousands of Malaysian who suffer from heart disease at a much younger age than they would in other countries, like Singapore and the United Kingdom, where he trained. “At the end of the day, the main thing is to live well and look good. I find obesity quite rampant nowadays, particularly in the younger generation,” he said. “When I was a youngster, I never saw as many fat people as I do today. When someone tells you that obesity runs in the family, they are wrong. Essentially it doesn’t.”

One of the first things he advocates to parents is that they take care of their own health and make sure that their children do not grow up overweight. They are increasingly receptive to this, he says.

“When I was working overseas, those countries are more advanced, but Malaysia is now heading in that direction. People are more open to medical advice now, and I see a bright future lying ahead,” he said.

Dr Mahmood decided to specialise in cardiology for deeply personal reasons. He says he “grew up in a cardiac ward” where his father was a regular patient.

“My late father had a heart attack before I was born, and all my life until his death, I was going back and forth between home and the hospital.

I’ve always known it was going to be cardiology that I would practice,” he said. The doctor is an all-rounder in his practice. Not only is he highly trained in diagnostic cardiology, but he also carries out interventional procedures, such as angiograms and angioplasties.

When asked why he decided to specialise in diagnostics, he says simply, “It’s the main bit of cardiology. That’s because before you can even start to treat a patient, you need to know what you’re treating, so diagnostics forms the bulk of it, really.”

For him, the greatest satisfaction from his profession is the relationships he develops with his patients whom he typically treats over the long-term. He gets many cards from satisfied patients and their families during the hari raya holidays each year.

“The motto of Avisena is ‘With us it’s always personal’. That sums it up. Most of my patients have my personal number, and I do deal with them personally. I tell them to message me if there’s something urgently important, and I will respond to each and every query,” he said.

“It’s nice to see someone who comes in unwell and walks out perfectly well. It’s a great feeling, then, when my patients recommend me to their friends and family.”