Centre of Population Health (CePH) members visit to the Queen’s University Belfast – 20-26 June 2010.

The members of the Centre of Population Health, Associate Professor Dr Nabilla Al-Sadat, Dr Tin Tin Su and Dr Loh Siew Yim paid a courtesy visit to the Queen’s University, Belfast from the 20-26 June 2010. The visit was facilitated by Prof Liam Murray.

On 21st June, they attended the “cancer awareness and early diagnosis conference” and met up with Prof Liam Murray and Dr Michael Donnely of QUB and Dr Allison Smith of UCL. The United Kingdom (UK) has set up a “National Awareness and Early Diagnosis Initiative” (NAEDI) which is looking at the reasons why there is a lower survival rate of cancer patients in UK compared to the Scandinavian countries. From this point, Malaysia has also similar problems especially among the Malay community which the team would think there will be a lot of advantages if the findings allow us to improve the awareness and health seeking behavior of our population. They also discussed Roshidi’s PhD project. He will be looking at using an identical measure of cancer awareness and compare the levels between the two countries as his PhD project. He will also be doing a qualitative study on the reasons why the awareness is lower among certain pockets of the population.

On 22nd June, the team had the opportunities to meet up with Prof Frank Kee, the Director of Public Health Centre of Excellence, whom some of the work has been on urban regeneration with the help of Schools of Built environment and engineering. They managed to get funding from The National Big Lottery (40 million pounds) and regenerate the poorer part of Belfast (East Belfast). This is one of the projects CePH can look forward to work with our counterparts in Engineering (Prof Ali and I have been discussing about this). Contact person in QUB – Dr Geraint Ellis.

The team also met up with Prof Ian Young, the head of the Center of Public Health which has done tremendous job in improving research on cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Essentially the Centre is like the Department of SPM but they have a lot of post-doctorals and PhD students that are directed to do research along the lines of focus of the centre. Altogether there are 33 academic staff and 120 other categories of staff (support plus post docs etc)

Dr Tin Tin Su led the discussion we had with the head of health economics there Dr Dermot O’Reilly and his colleague, Dr Sheelagh Connolly. Issues discussed were on collaborative research in the field of health insurance and social interventions.

Dr Loh Siew Yim and Dr Tin Tin Su joined in the discussion on cancer survivorship research, Dietcomplyf study with Prof Liam Murray, Reader Jayne Woodside, Dr. Marie Cantwell etc.

On 23rd June, the team attended the UK-Ireland-Malaysian Postgraduate Engineering Conference at QUB, with the VC, Prof Ali Hashim, AP Hamdi, Prof Phang, Prof Susan Lim, Prof Terence Gomez and Prof Noorsaadah.

On 24th June, they attended the Public Health Research Symposium where more than 70 people attended. Dr Tin presented on the Health Care system in Malaysia, Dr Loh on the cancer survivorship programme and Dr Nabilla on the MyHeARTS study on Adolescent Health in Malaysia. Other than us and speakers from Queens, there were speakers from University of Bristol and Vanderbilt University in USA.

On 25th of June, they met with the Director of Medical Education Centre (Dr Mairead Boohan) of Queens University of Belfast.  The School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences is structured to allow full productivity of the staff. They have essentially divided into four multidisciplinary research centres (Centre of Public Health, Centre of Cancer and Cell Biology, Centre for Infection and Immunity and Centre for Vision and Vascular Sciences) and three academic centres (Centre for Medical Education, Centre for Dental Education and Centre for biomedical sciences Education). The research centres have different KPIs compared to the academic centres. Roughly, for the research centres, there is only 20percent teaching while in academic centres, only 20percent research. Centre for Medical Education set up: It has more than 30 academic staff. Members consist of general practitioners (GPs), Paediatricians, Surgeons, Epidemiologists, Sociologists, psychologists, etc.

The time allocation of staff in medical education centre is 80% for teaching and administration related to teaching, and 20% for research. The research focus is only on medical education.

On the undergraduate medical curriculum, Dr Mairead Boohan explained to us that the University has reverted back to the traditional programme two years ago after involving in the integrated programme since 1996. This was because they found via the satisfaction survey, the students’ satisfaction for traditional programme is higher than integrated programme. They have an intake of 280 per year and they found that the traditional way was kinder to the staffing. In fact, she went on to explain that other universities with high intake of medical students such as Manchester U with an intake of 520 are reverting back to traditional approach for pragmatic reasons as numbers of students are increasing. Queens curriculum is a hybrid curriculum with an inbuilt intercalated programme. On collaboration between us and them, she suggested the electives as one of the ways. In 4th year, they have clinical electives of 6 weeks overseas which Malaysia would definitely be a good place for their students to do their electives. The possibility of them doing a public health elective was also discussed but there is no conclusion yet.

Dr Boohan will be visiting Malaysia early next year around the 22nd of January as she is involved in the interviews of future undergraduates in KL.

Future plans:

  • Funding acquisition for two cohort studies: Adolescent Health (MyHeARTS) and Cancer Survivors.
  • Postdocs post to be filled
  • PhD students identified on both areas and now in final stage of proposal development.

The report was prepared by Dr Nabilla Al-Sadat the Head of the Centre for Population Health, Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Malaya.

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