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ACCORDING to a study by the University of California this year, the allied health sciences industry makes up to 60 per cent of the total health workforce. In Malaysia, the importance of allied health sciences has gained significant appreciation over the recent years due to the rapid development in the country.
This situation was spurred due to the advancement in the healthcare system, which has become increasingly sophisticated with new and complex medical procedures, combined with a stronger public demand for excellent medical services. This trend in expanding the diversity in the allied health workforce is further encouraged by a growing and aging population.
Recognising this, MAHSA University College was established back in 2005 with the belief that higher education in the healthcare field is vital to the development of the nation. According to Professor Dr Abdul Rahim Md Noor, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, and the Dean of the Faculty of Allied Health Sciences in MAHSA University College, the allied health profession will be the leading profession in the near future.
“As the population grows, more people will require health services and they will require more professional help, more so as the society evolves and the population becomes more aged,” he says.
He adds that as the society becomes more and more affluent, the increase of affluent diseases such as heart attack, stroke, and diabetes require professionals from the allied health sciences to specialise in specific healthcare to address to those issues. For that reason, graduates from MAHSA are not only trained to work in the public and private sectors, but to also to be able to open their own private healthcare centres to cater to these specific needs.
Among the allied health sciences programmes offered in MAHSA are the environmental health, medical imaging, biomedical sciences and physiotherapy programmes. In the environmental health programme, students will learn about the aspects of the natural and built environment that may affect human health, such as air and water quality, disaster preparedness and response, food safety, liquid and waste disposal.
Medical imaging students study the techniques and processes involved in creating images of the human body for diagnostic purposes such as using modalities like ultrasound, CT scan and MRI. Students in the biomedical sciences programme will learn about forensic science in laboratory research and tests to assist in making clinical decisions. Physiotherapy students are taught to provide services to individuals to maintain and restore maximum movement and functional ability that may be threatened by diseases, injury, aging or other factors.
Besides theory classes and practical trainings on campus, students are also exposed to early clinical training and at the end of their study they have to complete a full semester of clinical training at a hospital. This gives them the opportunity to explore the vast learning skills under professional supervision. They will have to go on rotation every few weeks to be trained in various specialities such as paediatrics, surgery, women’s health, trauma and others.
The facilities in MAHSA are state-of-the-art to ensure they meet the desired standards in education. As all of its programmes include practical and clinical trainings, MAHSA invests in skills labs to complement the students’ learning and development. Professor Rahim adds that MAHSA is also looking into areas of virtual training so that before students go into clinic postings, they will be trained in the institution so as to become more competent when they enter the wards.
In addition, medical tourism is taking root in the country, as the country has hit a record of more than 30 per cent growth in this industry annually for the past few years. Professor Rahim explains that the reason to this development is because healthcare in Malaysia is of international standards and is still relatively cheap in comparison to its nearest neighbours. As such, the allied health professionals must prepare themselves to cater for international needs.
“Now, not only do we have to cater to the local needs, we also have to cater to foreign needs. That is why in MAHSA, we train our graduates not only to be skilled but also to have good communication skills” he says.
The good learning ambience in MAHSA is enhanced by its foreign students and staff he continues. As a result, students are exposed to different cultures and ideas that make learning interesting, and this further develops the competencies for cross-cultural communication.
Although the field of allied health sciences is in demand globally, Professor Rahim advises that students must first be genuinely interested in the area of study when considering a career in allied health sciences.
“The healthcare industry requires individuals who are committed, responsible and have a caring attitude,” he says. “How this is done? In MAHSA the lecturers exhibit the caring qualities by being helpful and supportive towards the students during lectures, practicals and in the wards. That is teaching by example. The programmes in MAHSA are designed to inculcate these values so that graduates produced will be globally competitive.”
An advocate of quality, Professor Rahim emphasises that MAHSA does not compromise on the quality of education. “We provide the best learning environment in terms of qualified and credible academic staff, state-of-the-art facilities and accredited curricula. We recently received international recognition for our environmental health programme by the Chartered Institute for Environmental Health in the United Kingdom. This allows its graduates to be employable, not just locally, but also in the UK and Europe. MAHSA has also obtained other awards in the academic fields.”
MAHSA is ambitious. Four years after its establishment, MAHSA achieved University College status in 2009, and expects to be a full-fledged university by next year. Eventually, MAHSA plans to offer postgraduate programmes in allied health sciences, starting with a master’s programme, to begin next year.
As part of its expansion plans, a new main campus is also expected to be completed in Saujana Utama to cater to more faculties and programmes by 2014. With a commitment to deliver high quality of education in the healthcare field, MAHSA University College is determined to produce competent and highly skilled professionals to meet the demands of the healthcare industry.
For more information www.mahsa.edu.my