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Lessons Taught by the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Time to Pursue a MSc in Molecular Medicine

27 Aug 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has definitely sent shivers down the spine of many people and caught the world by surprise. It has caused a colossal disaster in both public health and global economy resulting in governments around the world uniting and throwing every resource they have to fight and mitigate the disastrous ill effects towards the economy and healthcare system. As the situation began to yield positive improvements in our home country of Malaysia, thanks to our dedicated frontliners’ hard work as well as strict measures imposed by our Government, deep down we all know that the battle against this dangerous infectious diseases is far from over as long as no effective treatment or vaccine has been successfully developed. Rich or poor, regardless of society status, everyone is vulnerable. Members of our society has come to realise and accept that post pandemic control measures, as we all know it as the “new normal” practices will be inevitable, from practice of physical distancing, wearing of face masks, constant hand washing etc, it is very crucial for all of us to focus on lessons learned and prepare ourselves better in the event that there is chance we will be facing another round of disastrous pandemic in near future.

So what have this scary pandemic taught us?
First, we have learned that we all must stand united together and comply with counter measure initiatives ordered by the government. Many people suffered some sort of mild depression as the result of having stay home for months and deprived of their usual activities such as outdoor strolling, food hunting, shopping adventures and many more. Many also find it extremely uncomfortable wearing a face mask for a lengthy period of time and it is troublesome and irritating to keep sanitizing our hands. However, for the sake of winning this war, we still comply and stand united together in complying with the rules and regulations set by our Government. Judging by the latest infection figures, we can proudly proclaim that Malaysian has really excelled during the movement control order (MCO) period. Our public compliance and discipline is the key major factor that allows us to bring the disease under control at much faster pace compared with other countries.
Secondly, we have learned that by preparing and having sufficient quarantine facilities, hospital beds, laboratories, equipment (such as respirators, personal protective equipment) and of course skilled and brave front-line healthcare professionals has also played an important part in winning this battle. MCO implementation has bought us time to prepare ourselves before the pandemic overwhelms our healthcare system. The extraordinary selfless act of our healthcare professionals, police and military personnel who put their lives on the line in helping the patients and the general public shall also be lauded. Subsequently, we should also continuously strengthen our emergency diseases and public health emergency work plan to enable quick action when a new pandemic arises.
Third, we have learned that being dependent on other countries for essential equipment such as face mask, respirator and diagnosis kit is not ideal when combating a pandemic. As we have learned during our battle with this pandemic, the lack of the ability to produce strategic items such as diagnosis kit will impair our ability to carry out mass testing making us more vulnerable as we lack the capability to quickly identify those virus carriers. We must not be satisfied in merely buying or manufacturing these items. Instead, we should invest in nurturing scientists, funding research and set up our biotechnology industry. These will allow Malaysia to take part in the global collaborative efforts in discovering and creating new diagnosis tools, drugs and vaccines.

In order to transform Malaysia into a country capable of advanced healthcare research and innovation, it is imperative and crucial that we will need to have experts with knowledge in both research and clinical/medical fields. Frontline medical doctors, nurses and laboratory personnel do not possess the knowledge in conducting advanced biomedical/biotechnological research. Whereas, biotechnologist and scientists do not understand the needs of the frontline medical personnel and thus do not fully understand what innovation/products are needed.

The Master of Science in Molecular Medicine (MMM) programme is designed and introduced by International Medical University (IMU) to fill in this gap. Since 2012, it has attracted medical doctors, pharmacists, laboratory technicians, biomedical scientists and biotechnologists from various countries to join the programme. MMM prepares the graduates to develop, improve and apply their skills for diagnosis, prognosis and treatments. Many of the MMM graduates had progressed into studying their PhD or been assigned important roles in their organisation locally or overseas. Although many health professionals wish and is more than willing to improve their knowledge in molecular medicine, fitting a Master degree study into their busy schedule is challenging given the hectic life of a medical professional. Hence, the programme has been offered with two learning modes which are: conventional mode (face-to-face/synchronous online learning activities during weekends) and open and distance learning (fully online, mostly asynchronous learning activities) mode. These arrangements will provide flexibility to working adults in planning their learning. For those who wish to push their limits and take on this great challenge, MMM has collaborated with Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) to offer a double degree in molecular medicine and genomic medicine. It equips graduates from this programme with both advanced knowledge and skills in molecular biology and genomic medicine. The graduates will be able to use big data analysis to discover new findings from the data they have generated or sourced from public databases. Last but not least, IMU is pleased to offer a very exclusive bursary to international students who enrol into MMM this year – 2020 – where each student will receive a RM12, 000 bursary upon enrolment. Besides that, for IMU alumni, they can expect to receive an impressive deal of 25% bursary from the total tuition fees if they sign up for the MMM programme now. Related article: Queen Mary University of London Expands Collaboration with IMU for its Postgraduate Programme

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