The phrase “road less travelled” has taken on a metaphorical meaning which is about daring to think and do things differently, i.e. carving your own path. Stephanie (Steph) Durant – medical doctor, professional dive instructor and English language teacher – has done exactly that because her sense of adventure means that the road less travelled offers more opportunity for learning and growth. This metaphorical road has not ended for Steph yet because there are more powerful and meaningful experiences ahead. More of that later but let’s rewind the story that has led to this path!
In school, she studied Medicine at Nottingham University, England. After completing her Senior House Officer-ship in psychiatric medicine, Steph undertook a few locum roles in England but felt that more awaited her beyond the world of medicine so she decided to retrain, achieving a Diploma in Marine Biology for a future role in conservation work. That was the intention!
The universe had other plans for Steph. Her maternal grandmother fell seriously ill in 2016, which was the turning point in Steph’s life. She returned to Miri, Sarawak to care for her grandmother and describes it as, “the best decision I ever made”. Steph learnt to speak Iban so that they could communicate in those precious few months together and during her stay in Miri, she also furthered her scuba diving abilities achieving professional scuba instructor qualifications.
Diving could not be further from the world of medicine. Steph regarded the weightlessness and calmness of being several meters under water as “the most natural thing in the world to do” because everything feels effortless, although scuba diving is far from straight forward. It is actually classified as an extreme sport for a host of reasons, not least because hypothermia, getting lost, low visibility, air loss and decompression illness are just some of the most common threats to divers, not to mention the piranhas, sharks or jelly fish around the diver! You can tell this is written by a paranoid, never likely to be, non-diver! (For which HOMME Magazine would like to thank and accredit Tiggy Munnelly the in-house writer for Ireka and Ruma Hotel).
Steph admits that her role as a dive instructor was getting her nearer to the source of what she wanted to do. “I had no idea that I would enjoy teaching.” Thereafter, it was a brief spell in a remote part of the South Island of New Zealand, as Senior Assistant at an eco-lodge. The job included tour guiding which Steph enjoyed most because it involved sharing knowledge and watching people benefit from this. After a short stint in Hanoi teaching English, it was back to Malaysia as a dive instructor, latterly at the Bigfin Dive Resort in Sabah, a small private resort, until the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world which meant returning to KL in May 2020.
To keep occupied during this time, Steph signed up onto an English teaching platform which she enjoys because she has met people from all over the world whom she finds it a privilege to teach. By the way, Steph also speaks and teaches fluent Bahasa Malaysia to expats. Once students learnt of her medical background, she quickly began to develop a niche group of students from the healthcare profession from all over the globe who wanted to improve their English to communicate with their patients and also helping many of them prepare for their medical exams. This is because, more than anyone, Steph understands that good communication is the key domain of medical practice whether it is history taking, handling conflict, dealing with complaints, writing discharge summaries or breaking bad news.
“Medical schools can teach medicine, language schools can teach English, but very few can do both! I am convinced that the right communication support for healthcare professionals will help them meet patient expectations and ultimately improve health outcomes. I want to channel my medical experience in this field.” ~ Steph Durant
Learning English for specific purposes is a growing trend and it is no different for medics who need to use the language for their future professional use. I say English because worldwide, it is accepted this is the basic language of communication and using her medical background, Steph has the context, content and vocabulary to base her teaching on, thus preparing students for active use of English after graduating. In other words, she can base her teaching on specific real situations on how to use the language, like taking patient history or delivering difficult news, because she has first-hand experience of this already.
I know we will be hearing more from Steph on this as she carves a path to sharing her knowledge, skills and expertise. Leaving the last word to Steph:
“I had tremendous clarity that I wanted something different, but I didn’t know what it was until the opportunity to teach allowed me to continue on my own path which I plan to be the architect of. I just know taking the risk not to practice medicine but using my medical knowledge to help others, in a different way, is the right step for me.” ~ Steph Durant
HOMME INTERVIEW – Steph Durant:
HOMME: Are you more of a hunter or a gatherer?
SD: Definitely a hunter!
HOMME: You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What colour would you be and why?
SD: pale pink – I just think it looks very sweet and lovely.
HOMME: Favourite childhood memory?
SD: driving up to Thailand as a family and eating mango sticky rice by the roadside just over the Malaysia-Thailand border.
HOMME: What do you think about when you’re diving?
SD: I don’t think really! That’s the beauty of it- it’s about the only time my brain stops thinking of everything and I’m just at peace with myself and the world.
HOMME: What was the last gift you gave someone?
SD: a nice pair of swim shorts for a good friend’s birthday
HOMME: Where did you go to school?
SD: Alice Smith International School, KL
HOMME: What inspires you?
SD: people who are willing and able to buck the trend without losing their sense of self or empathy.
HOMME: Tell us something we don’t know about you?
SD: I’m terribly afraid of dolphins!
HOMME: What do you want to be known for?
SD: being uniquely me and helping to make others feel like better versions of themselves.
HOMME: What is your favourite activity in your freetime?
SD: being with nature; either pottering about in the garden, or playing with my pets, or feeding my chickens…
HOMME: What’s the most interesting thing about you that we wouldn’t learn from your resume?
SD: I have quite a special memory; I rarely study for exams in advance – preferring instead to cram learn – yet I’ve never once failed a test (that includes both Malaysian and British driving tests!!)
HOMME: Do you plan to stay in Malaysia, if not where to next?
SD: The ultimate plan is to move to New Zealand to settle down with my lovely partner Darren, but until the world settles down with Covid-19 I suppose I’ll be in Malaysia for the foreseeable future!