Project on a fast track
Date: December 1, 2010
Although the timetable for the Malaysian academic medical center complex is ambitious, it reflects a rapid tempo that has characterized the project since the earliest discussions.
In June 2009, Mohan Chellappa, senior executive of Johns Hopkins Medicine International, met in London with Malaysia’s economic planning minister to talk about plans to improve medical education in that Southeast Asian nation. Also on hand that day was Tan Sri Datuk Dr. Mohan Swami, a private developer and philanthropist whom Chellappa knew when both men were young physicians.
(Tan Sri and Datuk are honorific federal titles awarded to influential Malaysians whose professional work and civic contributions have proved exceptional.)
Swami was eager to establish a public-private partnership with the government to create a U.S.- styled medical school that could set a new standard of medical excellence for his country and also stem the exodus of young Malaysian physicians. At least a quarter of the students whose education is paid for by the government ultimately leave their country to practice medicine elsewhere, he says.
Talks continued. Last spring, a Malaysian delegation toured Hopkins and was impressed by the curriculum, the new medical education building and the collegiality and warmth of the faculty, according to Swami. Then a group from East Baltimore visited the 130-acre site for the proposed complex to discuss potential collaboration in greater depth. In September, Hopkins signed a memorandum of understanding, and negotiations moved to their final stage.
Establishing a world-class medical education center near Kuala Lumpur should not only retain and develop the country’s cadre of physicians but also gather top students from other Asian countries, Swami says. Perdana University Hospital, the country’s first private teaching hospital, may also attract a growing number of “medical tourists” seeking high-quality health care in Southeast Asia.
Eight years ago, Swami’s company designed and built a complex for the University Malaysia Sabah, a campus with 13 schools and 9 research institutes. He says such public-private partnerships are speeding the country’s economic advancement and goal to become a developed nation by 2020.
Perdana University Graduate School of Medicine will espouse Hopkins’ tripartite mission of pursuing excellence in education, research and patient care.
“Perdana means the first, number one, the premier,” Swami says. “With the help of Hopkins and our government, it will become the number-one medical school in Malaysia.”