The Department of Social and Preventive Medicine (SPM) is the first Public Health Department in Malaysia and was established in 1964. It is the premier academic destination for public health professionals and academics over the past half a century. Over time, we have consistently increased our academic course offerings, staffing and student intake numbers. The SPM Department first started offering the Master of Public Health (MPH) program in 1973. Since then, the department has further offered various Master by Specialty programs in various core disciplines of Public Health and Master of Medical Science in Public Health (MMedScPH) program (History of Public Health Education in Malaysia). The dynamism of the Department under the previous headships has resulted in the Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) program. In 2022, we started offering the Master of Epidemiology programme.
In 2020, the world has been confronted by a once-in-a-century event, the COVID-19 pandemic. Everyone has anticipated the pandemic; however, no one could have predicted the breadth and depth of how it has affected all of us in such a short time. Before the pandemic, the world of medicine has focused on the great technological achievements it has made, and it seemed invincible. The pandemic has taught us that even a country with the most advanced medical care, crumbles with the sheer reach and speed of the spread of the pandemic. Countries with the successful roll-out of the vaccination programmes are also seeing a resurgence of infection due to the new variant. The pandemic only strengthens the importance of Public Health for everyone and in everything we do.
When comparing countries’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, it becomes clear that those with a better handle on the pandemic are those with better public health policy and infrastructure. It also highlights that having immense knowledge of Public Health Sciences is not enough. For successful prevention and control of a pandemic, a country also needs political will and politicians who understand the importance of public health measures on top of appropriate public health infrastructure and public health expertise.
Participation during the COVID-19 Pandemic
During the COVID-19 pandemic our academics and students have been actively engaging in advocacy work through participation in the following COVID-19 task force and committees as Chairperson, Head, Expert Panel, Lead, Consultant, and members:
- Independent COVID-19 Vaccination Advisory Committee
- CEASe – COVID-19 Epidemiological Analysis and Strategic Task Force
- Greater Klang Valley Special Task Force
- Sarawak Infectious Disease Centre Technical Committee
- Academy of Science Malaysia (ASM) Special Interest Group (COVID-19)
- UMMC COVID-19 Task Force
- UM Post-COVID Recovery Efforts – Health Recovery Group
- COVID-19 Evidence Retrieval Services (CERS), Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya
- Committee for UMMC Special Vaccination Centre
- UMMC Outreach Programme
- COVID-19 Long-term Effects And Recovery (CLEAR) Study
- COVID-19 Vaccine for MOSTI
- Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Covid-19 Advisory Expert Group
- International Teleconference on Technology and Policy for Supporting Implementation of COVID-19 Response and Recovery Plan in Southeast Asia (ITTP-COVID19), ASEAN University Network
- Science and Technology Expert Panel for Disaster Risk Reduction, Emerging Health Threats, National Disaster Management Agency
- Buka Sekolah Kami NGO
- Malaysian Health Consortium
- UMMC Ventilation Improvement Committee
The staff of the department have also engaged the public and communities by publishing many articles in newspapers and online news portals and providing comments and opinions for local and international newspapers and television networks. The Department has also developed the COVID-19 Epidemiology for Malaysia Dashboard.
The staff of the department also contribute to the services in the UMMC through the Public Health Department. The Head of the SPM Department leads the Public Health Department (PHD). It is divided into Secretariat and Clinical Services, which is further divided into Public Health Services and Occupational Safety Health and Environmental (OSHE) services, which includes the Occupational Health Clinic. During the pandemic, the PHD and OSHE were involved in the prevention of intra-hospital transmission of COVID-19. The activities include contact tracing and risk assessment, healthcare worker surveillance, return to work assessment, and outbreak investigation.
40 Years of Public Health Graduates
The Department celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2014 and the 40th anniversary of the Master of Public Health programme in 2013. In 2018 the Department launched a re-branding exercise to unify Public Health teaching, research and consultation with the launch of the PublicHealth@UM logo and tagline “Creating the future of Public Health”.
Multi-Disciplinary Expertise Team
The strengths of the SPM Department lie in her multi-disciplinary expertise pooled from our academics, the appointment of visiting professors from renowned universities, and the regular audit exercises on her curriculum by assessors from established universities in Australia and European countries.
We ensure the relevance of our curriculum and quality of our teaching by joining the National Conjoint Committee of Public Health program at the national level, Asia-Pacific Academic Consortium for Public Health (APACPH), and ASEAN University Network (AUN) accreditations at the international level, besides meeting the standards as specified by the Malaysian Qualifying Agency (MQA) on our programme.
Public Health Research Centres
The department has been and continues to be the hub for quality Public Health research in Malaysia with the establishment of two research centres. The Centre for Epidemiology and Evidence-based Practice (CEBP) has successfully pioneered the fields of clinical epidemiology and evidence-based medicine (EBM) in Malaysia and is a centre of excellence for clinical research. The Centre for Population Health (CePH) conducts many community intervention projects and actively contributes to our local communities. Our research publications have been growing exponentially since 2005 when we started to embark on Clinical Epidemiology and Evidence-Based research. Part of the success was our collaboration with the University Medical Centre, Utrecht, the Netherlands and Queen’s University, Belfast, United Kingdom.
CEBP and CePH has done exceptionally well in 2022 and were among the top 10 Science and Technology Centre of Research at the Universiti Malaya. Both centres have come a long way since their establishment more than 10 years ago. Together with Centre for Excellence for Research in AiDS (CERIA) they are the top three Centre of Research in the Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Malaya.
The number of students in recent years has been overwhelming, especially the Master of Medical Science and PhD, in various Public Health disciplines. We have had to limit our acceptance to only those with the highest potential. The Public Health relevance, scope, and quality of our graduates have been complimented by many local and international universities.
We are a team that aspires for transparency and togetherness akin to a family. This team spirit has been essential in organizing various faculty and university events, and international-level conferences. We are well supported by the higher management at the faculty and at the university level and sincerely thank them for their support in our pursuit of education and research excellence.