What was the idea behind the establishment of Perdana University?

MOHANADAS: Perdana University was initiated two years ago, a project of the Government of Malaysia, through the public-private partnership unit and the Academic Medical Centre, a private company in Malaysia. It is a private university established in Malaysia, in collaboration with renowned medical institutions around the world. The initial work started with Johns Hopkins University and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, with which we now collaborate to form the medical school at Perdana University. The medical school is named the Perdana University Graduate School of Medicine and it will have a private teaching hospital and a research centre. At the same time, we are collaborating with the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, Ireland to offer another medical degree programme at Perdana University. So, the university is established as part of a public-private initiative, and we are moving forward with our two major partners.

How many students are currently enrolled at Perdana University?

MOHANADAS: Our first intake was September of last year, and we have a total of 95 students for the two schools. The second intake is on now. We will start the two medical degree programmes in September of this year and we expect abou 100 students this year. The Malaysian Medical Council determines the allotment of students per intake. We have encouraging numbers of applicants, and they have to meet the entry qualifications of both of these institutions, plus interviews. It is a strict admission criteria. As we are using the curriculua of these two big institutions, their entry qualifications, and their assessments, we must be stringent. Fortunately, we are supported by the Government, and most of the students are Malaysian Government-sponsored students.

In terms of future capacity, what are some of the numbers that you hope to reach?

MOHANADAS: We are currently at an interim campus. We have been permitted to take one hundred students per intake for each of our schools, so we expect two hundred students per year coming to this campus. Once we move onto the permanent campus, together with our own teaching hospital, we will see an increase in the intake.

In what ways do you partner with international healthcare institutions at the moment?

MOHANADAS: Besides the initial partnerships with Johns Hopkins and the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland, we have signed a memorandum of understanding and have begun working with two of our immediate neighbours. One is the Universiti Putra Malaysia, a research university ten minutes away, and the other is MARDI, which is the Malaysia Agricultural Research Development Institute, which is also located nearby. We also have a memorandum of understanding with the Faculty of Tropical Medicine, Mahidol University in Thailand, which is one of the best universities in the field of tropical medicine. So we look forward to starting programmes with Mahidol. In addition to these, we are in agreement with the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland and the College of Anaesthetists of Ireland, both of which are located in Dublin, to offer short programmes and preparatory courses, and for the students to sit for the postgraduate examinations at this centre in Perdana University. So, aside from these two core partners, we have partners in this region, in Thailand, and more  in Ireland.

Looking to the future, what sorts of partnerships are you looking to pursue, apart from those previously discussed?

MOHANADAS: We must move forward and plan for post-graduate medical education. Our students will have completed one year, and they are curious as to what will happen at the end of their four or five year study. We are working with Johns Hopkins to look into their residency programmes and how those could be offered at our own hospital, and we are also looking for similar programmes with the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. It is  exploratory now, and we hope to crystallize and offer such programmes in the future. Before our students complete their first degrees, they will be aware of the other programmes that are available to them.

Healthcare is one of the fastest growing sectors here in Malaysia. In what ways do Malaysia’s medical universities meet the demand for healthcare practitioners?

MOHANADAS: One main focus is quality medical education and quality education in all other life and health sciences. Because we are a private university, we are heavily scrutinized and regulated by the government to make sure we produce the best healthcare providers in this country. In terms of medical education, such as undergraduate studies in medicine, we have about forty programs right now, which are being  monitored by the Malaysia Medical Council. In our own example, we meet the criteria of the Malaysia Medical Council, the Irish Medical Council, and the National University of Ireland, so this assures the quality of our graduates. A second is, of course, the numbers, doctor to population. As Malaysia aspires to be a developed country by 2020, I think the numbers are specified, and we have to meet the target numbers at the same pace as we meet the quality standards. In terms of healthcare facilities, I think we are now with a population where health literacy is  growing higher and higher, expectations are greater, and we as providers are obligated to meet those standards and aspirations. Again, we want to be global players in this field, we need accreditation in terms of healthcare facilities, and I am confident we our moving forward in that direction. We must have adequate  numbers, and at the same time, make sure that those numbers are quality providers of healthcare.

How much of a concern is “brain drain”, with medical graduates leaving for places such as Singapore and Hong Kong?

MOHANADAS: I am glad to say we have reversed some of that – Malaysians who have been abroad for fifteen or twenty years have come back to join this university as returning experts. With our plan of development for this campus and private teaching hospital, I think more and more Malaysians are looking at us and willing to connect with us. In the last two days, a Malaysian professor of medicine working  overseas visited us, and I am sure that we will have more Malaysians coming to both this university and other universities in Malaysia as well. I think the government is assisting in several different ways to attract these people.