It was the inaugural official international trip for the newly minted Health Minister of Malaysia, Dr Zaliha Mustafa. Minister Zaliha, accompanied by the Director General of Health Malaysia, Dr Noor Hisham, made a quick stop in Oxford en route to the World Health Organisation (WHO) meeting in Geneva on 28 January 2023. She took the opportunity to engage with Malaysian students and medical professionals based in the UK while exchanging ideas and views ranging from medical research to improving access to healthcare services back home. She also met Dean Soumitra Dutta of Saïd Business School and learned more about possible opportunities and collaborations in creating more healthcare leaders in Malaysia.
I was privileged to meet Minister Zaliha during her town hall session at Corpus Christi College. She began her address with an overview of Malaysia’s healthcare system. She highlighted the increased access to healthcare services and how it has expanded to cover the most remote areas. She also spoke about the anticipated healthcare reform, which spans healthcare service delivery, preventative care, equitable health financing model and improved governance.
Director General Hisham, also a renowned Breast and Endocrine surgeon, then took over and passionately shared his plan and mission to close the gaps in global surgery. He highlighted that over 5 billion people do not have access to safe and affordable surgery. About 143 million additional surgical procedures are needed each year globally to save lives and prevent disability. Malaysia, as a small Southeast Asian country with a population of 32 million people, may not have the necessary scale and influence to fix the global healthcare challenges, but DG Hisham reminded us that every nation should play a role, albeit on a small scale, to make a difference.
Malaysia has been a long-standing player in the international healthcare mission, such as establishing a field hospital in Cox’s Bazar, Southeastern Bangladesh, and a strong advocate to reduce the cost of treatment of neglected diseases such as hepatitis C in the low and middle-income countries. The Honorable Minister Zaliha was also honored to chair the 152nd Session of the WHO Executive Board Meeting in Geneva and DG Hisham was recently appointed to lead WHO’s Standing Committee on Health Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response (SCHEPPR).
The role that Malaysia plays internationally reaffirms my own personal mission in pursuing the MSc in Global Healthcare Leadership at Oxford Saïd. With a diverse cohort from Asia to America to Africa, we are able to explore a large spectrum of healthcare challenges globally; from the hospital sanitation challenges in rural Congo to the web of complicated challenges in NHS England. This exposure is what I am here for. The world’s healthcare challenges are growing, and healthcare systems around the globe are barely recovering from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Each of us in this cohort are taking the opportunity to learn from each other to deal with our own healthcare challenges back home, while forging a strong bond to take part in the international healthcare scene. Healthcare is universal and borderless after all.