1st Appeal Letter
My name is Dr. Muhammad Zeitsev Azman (Yeop Azman) and I was part of the first generation of graduates from the University of Zagreb Medical Studies in English Program. Through my six years of education here, I have started to love the school, the country and the friendliness of its people. I have never complained much and after assimilating to the cultural norms, I have “rolled with the punches” and tried to make the best out of my situation. As you know, the situation hasn’t changed from my graduation in July 2009. Initially, it was not my plan to stay here and as Jean Loup said in one of his documents, that we have the possibility of taking the USMLE and trying to practice in the US. However, after paying high tuition and living costs in Zagreb, it is hard to save up for the high costs of the USMLE.
I must admit that it was my fault to assume that the University of Zagreb was going to be recognized by the Malaysian Medical Council after my father, the former Ambassador of Malaysia to Croatia (H.E. Dato’ Azman bin Mohd. Nazir), had sent two delegations to see the school and evaluate its facilities and programs. However, I was unlucky to go through an election and an unexpected government shift in Malaysia and this case was not a priority since there are not a lot of Malaysian students studying in this region.
After graduation in 2009, I went back to Malaysia, but could not get the school recognized and I could not find a possibility to work as a medical doctor or in clinical research without being licensed. So in December 2009, I came back to Croatia to explore my options. My colleagues who had graduated with me were lucky enough to be either diaspora or Croatian. One had to even claim a citizenship to be able to apply for “staz”.
Since there was a major “roadblock” in being licensed as a medical doctor, I decided to try to apply to the PhD program in order to stay in Croatia and wait until I could get a chance for licensing, as not to waste 6 years of education (which has a high total cost of 42,000 Euro of tuition and around 49,000 Euro of living expenses). However, the criteria of the PhD program is very special and requires previously published papers in order to even apply (which normally, PhD programs are the opportunity for people to publish their first papers). Since I didn’t make the limited 10 spots by 1 point, I was distraught and decided to join the fight for doing my “staz” in Croatia, so that I can have my right to work as a medical doctor.
As far as I understood, we are able to apply for “staz” and have a possibility of getting a position. My talk with the great people at HZZO led to the point that “staz” for foreigners would be considered “bez placenje” or purely voluntary. I told them that if I really wanted to fight for my right to get licensed and succumb to work 80 hours a week for one year to become a medical doctor, then they would have to issue me a work permit, so I can work legally in any other field to support myself. However, they did not even consider that and that would eventually become a problem to support myself while giving free full employment service to HZZO. However according to the new by-laws, “staz” is a “full employment position” and by definition the “stazist” should be paid, given benefits and be treated equally regardless of race, gender, orientation, etc. (which is also an article under the Croatian constitution).
The larger problem that I see is the limited number of visas for foreign doctors and the possibility to work and survive while waiting for our right to “staz”. The medical school now has 209 students; “full-fledged” foreigners now out-weighing the diaspora. Yearly, this brings almost 1.5 million Euros income into Croatia. Although the teachers that teach us do get a little benefit, the curriculum, teachers and most exams are the same as the Croatian Studies. Thus this program does bring a hefty and hopefully helpful income to the Ministry of Education and the healthcare system. By having international students here, we pay higher rent than the local population and also put in more money into the general economy through living costs. Although most students maintain a modest lifestyle, I know a lot of other students who like to maintain their lifestyle in more western or eastern countries.
Case in point for 6 years, we have added to the economy, helped shape the school into becoming internationally known, created an interest in the University of Zagreb, brought friends and family as tourists to enjoy the country’s offerings, fell in love, fell out of love and started a life in Croatia. Thus I implore you to expedite our position in a hospital, get our licenses, and let us start working as medical doctors to help out the people, societies and countries who so desperately need it. In medicine there should be no politics, no discrimination! As medical doctors, it is our right to be able to be there for the “benefit of the sick, remaining free of all intentional injustice, of all mischief and in particular of sexual relations with both female and male persons, be they free or slaves (do not take Hippocrates literally; the meaning states that we should be to help the sick without any discrimination).”
I hope that you take my words and my story into consideration, will expedite the procedures of getting our rightful positions as medical doctors in Croatia, and will allow us to use our God given knowledge and skills in helping this society instead of hindering us with political viewpoints, protocols, discrimination and bureaucracies.
I sincerely hope that you have a relaxing weekend, have clear minds, and will get things done on Monday.
Thank you and Sincerely,
Muhammad Zeitsev Azman, MD