History of IMU
Tan Sri Dr Kamal Salih
Dr Mei Ling Young
The Late Dr Saidi Hashim
20 years ago, it was clear that Malaysia was facing a serious shortage of doctors. Dr Kamal Salih, a visionary, and Dr Mei Ling Young, a social scientist with a strong interest in development, hit on a brilliant, simple idea – if young Malaysian students could not go out into the world to get the medical education they wanted and deserved, they would bring it to them.
And so the idea for the International Medical College (IMC) was born.
Kamal and Mei Ling roped in Dr Saidi Hashim, who had helped start the Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM)’s Medical School and Professor Ong Kok Hai, also a USM colleague, to help put the plan for the school together. They in turn invited two leading medical educationists – Professor Ron Harden and Professor Ian Hart to join the team.
The six of them then put together a unique model that would see medical students spend the first 5 semesters at the International Medical College (IMC) in Kuala Lumpur, before moving to any one of the Partner Medical Schools (PMS) around the world. It was a radical idea – a world’s first – that changed the model for medical education. And in the process, helped build a better Malaysia.
The IMC curriculum was unique not just in its teaching and learning methods, but also in the fact that it was designed to be universally accepted as a Phase 1 by some of the world’s best medical schools. And its unique Self-directed Learning approach taught students to break away from teacher-dependent learning and to be responsible for their own learning.
In November 1992 – after only 2 years of intense planning and with five leading PMS on board – the IMC opened its doors to students in Jalan Selangor, Petaling Jaya.
The college was officially launched on 13 April 1992 by the then Education Minister, YB Datuk Amar Dr Sulaiman Haji Daud, demonstrating the full support of the Malaysian Ministry of Education and Ministry of Health.
Since 1993, there have been 32 cohorts of PMS students, totalling 2,519 in number. Today, IMU has 29 renowned PMS, which between them offer around 240 places a year to IMU in this exciting, innovative and transformational education model.
IMC Becomes the International Medical University
From 1992 to 1998, IMC focussed on Phase 1 of its medical programme – the building of its Medical Sciences programme – so that Malaysian students could transfer seamlessly to the PMS. In 1995, IMC started two intakes, and by 1998, transferring approximately 68 students a year.
Everything changed dramatically, when in 1998, the Asian financial crisis struck. Fluctuating currencies and the massive depreciation of the Malaysian ringgit hit both parents and the Malaysian government, as they had been sending students abroad to study medicine. The scale of uncertainties was unprecedented.
To overcome the problem of potentially stranded students from our Phase 1 programme, IMC quickly put into place a Phase 2 programme to be done locally. It was the IMU MBBS.
The then Minister of Education, YB Dato Seri Mohd Najib Tun Razak, now Prime Minister of Malaysia, asked Kamal and Mei Ling to fast-track the setting up of IMC’s Clinical School to help solve the problems of parents as well as the government-sponsored students. IMC was invited to become a university thereby being able to award its own degrees. IMU was born.
This had vast implications for IMC – upon completion of their Phase 1, students would have a choice to transfer to a PMS or to the Clinical School to complete their education locally.
Again, with the help of Professor Ron Harden and Professor Ian Hart, both who already had key roles in establishing the IMC, and senior medical deans Professor Michael Orme of the UK, Dr John Ruedy of North America and Professor Ian Simpson of New Zealand, collectively representing UK, North America and Australasia, the curriculum for Phase 2 and the physical design of the Clinical School were drawn up. A handful of clinicians, under the inspiring leadership of Professor John Joseph Bosco, (scheduled to be the Foundation Dean of the Clinical School), fleshed out the modern, innovative curriculum with eight outcomes, the Phase 2 curriculum. This curriculum incorporated the most forward- looking aspects of medical curricula.
The IMU Clinical School, comprising its curriculum, building and staff recruitment was completed in record time – just one year.
On 4 February, 1999, IMC was granted university status and became the International Medical University (IMU), thus providing students the additional option of reading the whole medical degree in Malaysia, graduating with the IMU MBBS. With this, IMU also became the country’s first private medical college to be upgraded to a university.
On 20 September, 1999, the IMU Clinical School welcomed its first batch of 46 medical students. The School was located on the grounds of the Seremban Hospital, now Hospital Tuanku Ja’afar. In 2001, just 3 years after launching the programme, the IMU MBBS programme earned accreditation from the National Accreditation Board.
IMU then went on to establish teaching relationships with several other hospitals, the result of which was that IMU MBBS students were exposed, over the course of their degree, to the full spectrum of primary, secondary and tertiary care. The implementation of the “Senior Clerkship” programme when the student in their final semester behaves like a houseman is one of the distinguishing features of the IMU MBBS programme, and one that has contributed significantly to the quality of the IMU medical graduate.
100% Medical and Healthcare Education Specialist
Well before the development of the IMU MBBS programme, the IMC was already exploring ways in which it could expand its healthcare education offering.
It introduced a twinned Pharmacy programme with University of Strathclyde in 1996, its own Bachelor of Pharmacy programme in 2004 and dentistry in 2008, which follow the IMU’s unique model – a shared Phase 1 programme, with the option to complete their degree in IMU, or continue to any of their Partner Schools around the world.
Believing that health is holistic, IMU introduced the Chiropractic programme in 2010, the first of its kind in Southeast Asia. The IMU Chiropractic programme features an evidence-based curriculum, meaning the material that is taught is derived from research findings as much as possible.
IMU then introduced the Chinese Medicine programme in February 2011, where students are required to learn the basic medical sciences alongside clinical practices of Chinese Medicine. This integration is important as it combines the best of both types of medicine; students adopt and apply a scientific and an evidence-based approach to Chinese Medicine.
Completing its offering of medical and healthcare programmes are other clinically-based health professions like Nursing, Nutrition and Dietetics, and Psychology as well as non-clinical health programmes such as Medical Biotechnology, Biomedical Science and Pharmaceutical Chemistry.
Since 2004, IMU has been offering postgraduate programmes, their MSc and PhD by research. And in September 2011, IMU welcomed the pioneer batch of students enrolled in the first postgraduate taught programme in IMU, the MSc (Public Health).
Despite the variety, the different programmes share the same philosophy – to produce thinking students who are lifelong learners. IMU seeks to widen access to healthcare education, with courses that are both progressive and innovative. Its aim: to grow into a centre of healthcare educational excellence in the Asia-Pacific region.
Moving Into Healthcare
In January 2010, IMU took a bold step in its plan to be a holistic healthcare provider, with the opening of the IMU Oral Health Centre. This marked a major breakthrough for the university – for the very first time, IMU was receiving and treating real patients.
This was quickly followed by the opening of the IMU Chiropractic Centre in May 2010, the IMU Medical Clinic in July 2010 and the IMU Chinese Medicine Centre in November 2010.
Together, these centres form IMU Healthcare, which is unique in that it brings the disciplines of allopathic (western) medicine under its Bukit Jalil campus beside those of traditional and complementary medicine, offering western medicine, dental services, nutrition and dietary and psychological advice, alongside chiropractic and Chinese medicine services.
In addition, IMU Healthcare also serves a clinical training facility for IMU students, and plays an important role in educating future healthcare professionals who understand the importance and benefits of offering holistic healthcare services. It also allows IMU to extend the learning experience, beyond that already offered by its partnerships with Ministry of Health hospitals and clinics, and helps attract quality faculty. It is both a teaching and service innovation that IMU is proud of.
Research Focused on Medicine and Medical Education
Moving into research was a natural progression in the evolution of the IMU in its continual quest for academic excellence. IMU thrust areas for research are: environmental health, cancer biology, stem cell research, active bio-molecules and cellular mechanisms, pharmaceutics and drug delivery systems, and natural compounds and nutraceuticals.
While medical and healthcare-related research continues to be an area of focus, IMU is also making progress in a new area of research – that of medical education.
Since 2000, when research activities first started, IMU has initiated 947 research projects, consisting of a mix of undergraduate, graduate and faculty research. From 2008 – 2011, it published 568 papers, of which 281 (49.5%) were in ISI papers. These were in respected journals such as the Lancet, British Medical Journal, Cochrane Data Base Systematic Reviews, Human Pathology, to name a few.
IMU’s research efforts are expected to be further enhanced when its proposed Institute of Research, Innovation and Development (IRID) comes on-stream, which will elevate the University as a significant player in biomedical and clinical research.
An Engaged University
One of IMU’s core values is that to be good healthcare professionals, students must be moulded to be good human beings. And this includes being aware of, and sensitive to, the needs of the communities in which they live and work, hence IMU’s tradition of active community engagement.
Through a comprehensive community engagement programme, students, faculty and staff work with local communities, particularly those in need, to build therapeutic relationships, share healthcare knowledge through treatment and counsel and run educational programmes. Amongst these are IMU’s long-running “Kampung Angkat” (village adoption) programme, its “Health and Wellness Programme”, its IMU Cares programmes and its regular Health Awareness Days.
Today IMU is an integrated medical and healthcare institution, offering education, healthcare and research in partnership with some of the world’s most respected individuals and universities in the field of medicine and healthcare. It is Malaysia’s only university focused a hundred percent on medical and healthcare education, and continues to play a significant role in nation-building.
It has remained focussed on the central philosophy that guided its founders – access to quality medical education, innovation and imagination as its cornerstone, and continuous reflection leading to insight to guide IMU into the future.
Its success stems from a lot of hard work, and the belief that everything that IMU does must draw from its core ethos of Innovation, Imagination and Insight. Innovation, to be creative and productive and to be focused on continuous innovation, Imagination to be realistic about what can be achieved and measured, and Insight to be focussed on productivity and responsiveness, to be acceptable to those IMU serves.
In January 2011, IMU launched its 5-year Strategic Plan – ASPIRE, which will see the University work towards becoming a truly Learning Organisation, as envisaged by Peter Senge.
Forging ahead, IMU will have to develop an academic health centre where all the three components of education, research and healthcare will add value to each other. This will also differentiate IMU.
As it celebrates its 20th anniversary, IMU continues to be focussed on its most important role – to help mould individuals to be better people, and to be better medical and healthcare professionals.