Newspaper ad started graduate’s journey to become full-time pathologist

Since 2009, Samoa had been relying on visiting pathologists to perform and supervise laboratory testing and evaluate samples to help physicians with patient diagnosis. That has now changed. Thanks to OUM Class of 2011 graduate Filipina Amosa-Lei Sam, MBBS – Dr. Pina, as she is known to her colleagues and patients – the country has a fulltime pathologist. OUM News recently asked Dr. Pina some questions so current and prospective students could get to know her.

Filipina Amosa-Lei Sam, MBBS – Dr. Pina

What was your career path before medical school?

For about a year, I worked at Samoa’s Ministry of Agriculture. It was right after graduating from the University of the South Pacific with a Bachelor of Agriculture degree in 2005. But it was during my last year at USP that I realized that I wanted to become a physician.

How did you decide upon OUM?

I was very certain about switching to medicine and prayed about it before I told my parents my big decision. A few months later, I saw an advertisement in the local newspaper from OUM and the Government of Samoa, seeking interested students to study medicine. I applied to OUM and was very fortunate to receive a scholarship to pursue a new career. I enrolled in June 2007 and graduated in May 2011. I didn’t consider any other medical school because I was awarded the scholarship at the right time and most importantly, it was based in Samoa. I wanted to stay close to my family while studying.

Please tell me about your family. What did they think about your becoming a doctor?

My husband and I have three children. I have a sister and a brother and my family supported me when I told them about switching to medicine and becoming a doctor, although my father warned me about the long working hours.

What was your secret to managing medical school and family responsibilities?

There was no secret. I relied on God to help me manage everything in my life, including medical school and family responsibilities. The support from my family and husband really helped as they prioritized my studies.  Another key to managing medical school successfully is support from friends, classmates, teachers, students, school administrators, doctors, nurses and hospital staff, and mentors.

Were there any surprises or was medical school at OUM what you expected?

I entered OUM expecting it to be different from most medical schools that are known to be traditional. So, it was what I expected in the sense that all study materials and lectures were available online, the different courses were taught or delivered by a specialist in each area, and the curriculum and study materials were equivalent to those used in Australia and America.

What did you enjoy most about studying medicine?

It is really hard to pick out one part because I enjoyed everything about being a medical student. However, seeing patients during our clinical years was the best experience because you got to apply what you learned in your pre-clinical years. But you still had more new things to learn so you could become a better doctor when you graduate. Seeing how I could make a difference in someone’s life or be part of that process is something special to me and the best reward for work done.

What drew you to specialize in pathology and to your advanced study?

I was asked to join the Pathology Department because it was an area of need for our country. Samoa hasn’t had a full-time pathologist since 2009. It wasn’t an easy decision and the influence from my father and husband reminded me of this priority area for our health service. I did all my postgraduate training in Fiji at Fiji National University, so I entered the Pathology training program there in 2015 and graduated with a Postgraduate Diploma in Pathology in 2016. I proceeded with training and graduated with a Master in Pathology in December 2018.

You can’t have very much free time, but do you have any hobbies?

My hobbies now are spending time with my family, especially my husband and our children.

How has practicing medicine been?

Practicing medicine is my passion and I am grateful that I have completed my formal post-graduate training so I can now specialize in Pathology. I also enjoy working in the laboratory with our fantastic staff and simultaneously love seeing patients that come through our doors.