What is the latest progress update on the upcoming Perdana University Hospital?

WIENER: The Perdana University Hospital, which will be in affiliation with Johns Hopkins Medicine, is currently in the design stages, which have been extremely illustrative for us. This is quite a challenge, because we are going to be the first private teaching hospital in Malaysia, and that is a notable accomplishment. Right now, the distinction between the Ministry of Health, or government, hospitals and private hospitals is much starker in Malaysia than it is in North America, where there is a blurring. In North America, many private hospitals, and all public hospitals, do a lot of teaching. Whereas here in Malaysia, all medical student and specialist teaching takes place in the medical government hospitals, and essentially no teaching takes place in the private hospitals. So, designing a hospital from the ground up that is meant to be a private teaching hospital is unprecedented in Malaysia, and it has implications on space, services, physicians, staffing, and multidisciplinary collaboration between various clinical services that permeate throughout the entire hospital. We are currently deep into the design phase with the goal that will have our final design finished later this year to commence full construction. But, it has been enjoyable and challenging working with both Malaysian experts and Johns Hopkins physicians and facilities people to figure out the best parts of the American and Malaysian models for design, what is practical for Malaysia, and planning a hospital that does not yet exist in Malaysia. It is an exciting challenge.

What will be the research and development focus of the hospital?

WIENER: The Johns Hopkins credo, which has been present since 1893, is that an academic medical centre is a combination of clinical care, education, and research. This is the tri-partied mission, and the components are indistinguishable, complimentary, and are balanced amongst each other. This is not a unique model, but it’s the model that has made Johns Hopkins what it is worldwide. We are bringing that model to Perdana, and, starting from the ground up, have equal emphasis on medical education, bioresearch, and clinical care, the last of which is in the design stage. The model for research that we are utilizing is also a very forward-thinking model that embraces the use of multidisciplinary or collaborative research, rather than taking a reductionist approach to any kind of research, such as clinical research. This takes a more broad and collaborative approach to improving health, utilizing whatever tools are necessary, extending from epidemiology down to genomic research. Diabetes, for example, is one of our main focuses. It is a public health problem, and it is also a molecular problem to understand how peoples’ glucose control is different based on environment, ethnicity, and genetic makeup. It is the interaction of all of these factors that determines what is the best way to improve health in Malaysia, focusing on diabetes. We have named this curriculum Genes to Society, it was developed by Johns Hopkins and adopted in 2009, and the same curriculum was implemented by PUGSOM (Perdana University Graduate School of Medicine) in 2011. But, this is more than a medical curriculum; it is an approach to patient care, research conduction, and physician education. Throughout our research endeavour, we are utilizing this Genes to Society approach, and it translates to having groups of people that extend all the way from clinical trial specialists to epidemiologists working with basic scientists and genetics people, focusing on problem solving that is important to Malaysia, Southeast Asia, and, by extension, to the rest of the world.

What role do you expect PUGSOM to play in meeting the demand for healthcare practitioners in Malaysia?

WIENER: We are hoping, at Perdana and PUGSOM, to answer some of the needs that Malaysia has expressed in terms of the future of their healthcare, specifically in the development of specialists, and expertise in the health problems of 21st century Malaysia. There is a generally accepted lack of specialists, particularly outside of Kuala Lumpur, to help provide general care to the Malaysians. We are working with Johns Hopkins, and hopefully international partners and the Malaysian government to develop, at Perdana Hospital, a system that will enhance specialist training. By “specialists,” I mean highly specialized individuals, such as paediatricians, obstetrician/gynaecologists, neurologists, and other people who care for broad swaths of Malaysian society, where there is a perceived need for such specialty training.

Perdana University Hospital will be the first private teaching hospital in Malaysia. Do you think other institutions will follow in this direction?

WIENER: I know other institutions will follow suit. I have already had conversations with some of the other private hospital leaders who are very interested in having teaching involved in their hospitals. It requires cooperation with the government, the Ministry of Higher Education, the Ministry of Health, and with the private groups themselves, but I think that most physicians and healthcare professionals love to teach. They realize that having an educational environment improves the quality of the nursing, restoring therapy, physicians, and, essentially, having an educational environment improves patient care. There is strong data from the United States that supports this. I think that all of the private institutions here will eventually become developed learning environments. There can be other teaching opportunities outside of physicians, but I think that making the private hospitals more learning environments is a goal of the Malaysian government, and a laudable goal at that.