Universiti Malaya To Offer Cardiothoracic Postgrad Programme In October: Zambry

Zambry Kadir says Universiti Malaya will offer a cardiothoracic surgery postgrad program in October, as an alternative “pathway” to UiTM. UM’s cardiothoracic surgery division has 1 assoc professor who’s a CT surgeon; UiTM has 3 professors, all CT surgeons.

KUALA LUMPUR, June 26 — Higher Education Minister Zambry Abdul Kadir today announced that Universiti Malaya (UM) will offer a cardiothoracic surgery postgraduate programme in October, providing alternative “pathways” for this specialty.

Zambry was responding to Bukit Gelugor MP Ramkarpal Singh in the Dewan Rakyat today, who asked if the government plans to allow institutions other than Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) to offer cardiothoracic surgery courses, given the shortage of such programmes.

Currently, the only local cardiothoracic surgery postgraduate programme is offered by a collaboration between UiTM and the National Heart Institute (IJN).

“I do not deny that the recent issue of the shortage of specialists in the field of cardiothoracic surgery has caused some controversy involving UiTM,” Zambry said during Question Time.

“But I want to clarify that this course originally used Universiti Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC), along with Penang Hospital, Serdang Hospital, National Heart Institute (IJN), and the Sarawak Heart Centre as training centres.

“What happened was there was some misinterpretation by the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC). [Apa yang berlaku ialah ada sedikit kekeliruan interpretasi yang dilakukan oleh MMC].

“Therefore, we have tried to find the best approach to resolve the specific issue for the four specialists who have completed their training through the parallel pathway or Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in Cardiothoracic Surgery (FRCS Edinburgh). This has led to some misunderstanding that the course is only available at UiTM.

“However, at the ministry level, we are trying to find the best approach to resolve this issue.

“Consequently, discussions have already been held with Universiti Malaya through UMMC, and they were planning to introduce this course at UM.

“So, God willing, in the near future, we will resolve such issues promptly. We expect that by October, the issue related to the cardiothoracic surgery course will be resolved – meaning there will be other pathways besides UiTM, and other universities will also offer it.

“By October, we expect UM to offer this course, allowing those who want to pursue this specialisation to do so there, followed by other universities,” Zambry added.

Currently, UM’s cardiothoracic surgery division under the surgery department has one professor and one associate professor. UiTM’s Department of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery, on the other hand, has three professors and one associate professor.

UM surgery department head Prof Dr Shanggar Kuppusamy isn’t a cardiothoracic surgeon; he is a urologist, according to his CV. However, Assoc Prof Dr Sivakumar Krishnasamy, who heads the cardiothoracic surgery division, is a cardiothoracic surgeon.

At UiTM’s Department of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery, all three professors – Prof Dr Zainuddin Md Wazir, Prof Dr Raja Amin Raja Mokhtar, and Prof Dr Mohd Zamrin Dimon – are cardiothoracic surgeons. Assoc Prof Dr Muhammad ‘Abid Amir also specialises in cardiothoracic surgery, according to the National Specialist Register (NSR).

It is uncertain whether UM can get accreditation for its planned cardiothoracic surgery postgraduate programme with its current expert manpower. Contrary to public perception, it isn’t easy for universities to simply open up postgraduate programmes in medicine, due to the country’s specialist shortage, particularly cardiothoracic surgeons. 

Arau MP Shahidan Kassim told the Dewan Rakyat that questioning the opening of UiTM to non-bumiputera was “not appropriate to ask” (tak wajar ditanya), as there are other avenues for cardiothoracic training instead of amending the UiTM Act 1976 (Act 173), which states that UiTM was established in accordance with Article 153 of the Federal Constitution.

“I applaud the minister for providing a response that, firstly, defends the UiTM Act and Article 153 of the Federal Constitution. Secondly, this opportunity can be made available in other universities. My point is that this question is not appropriate to ask (tak wajar ditanya),” Shahidan said.

“This question is being asked to amend the UiTM Act when we have other avenues for offering this cardiothoracic programme, or ‘cardiotract’ as mentioned by Dr Raja Amin. We can do it. We don’t need to amend an Act that was specifically made to allow bumiputera to thrive in the field of knowledge,” added the Periktan Nasional lawmaker.

Dr Raja Amin, who is on the Board of Studies of the UiTM-IJN cardiothoracic surgery postgraduate programme, previously proposed opening admissions to the UiTM programme to non-Bumiputera or non-Malays for a limited period, until the opening of a similar programme at UM.

This was touted as a solution for cardiothoracic surgery parallel pathway trainees and graduates to transfer to UiTM, after the MMC rejected NSR specialist registration applications by four pioneer graduates of the parallel pathway on the basis of not recognising their FRCS Edinburgh in Cardiothoracic Surgery.

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