School of Medical Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia: Medicine for Sustainable Tomorrow

“We provide a globally-recognized medical education, services of the highest standards and to lead translational research for a sustainable ecosystem”

The importance of medical education cannot be overlooked as it transforms the students from practitioner to healer. One such school, which is making remarkable achievement in the field of medicine, is School of Medical Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM). It is one of the leading medical schools in the country which was established in June 1979. Located in Kubang Kerian, Kelantan, a state in the east coast of peninsular Malaysia on 220 acres of land, the school has much more to offer. The Health Campus encompasses Hospital Universiti Sains Malaysia, School of Medical Sciences (SMS), School of Dental Sciences and School of Health Sciences. The diversity of the students reflects the ethnic distribution in Malaysia.

The Kelantan campus is a branch campus; the main of which is situated in Penang, an Island state in the west coast of peninsular Malaysia. Currently USM has 26 Schools, 14 Centres of Excellence and 3 Higher Institution Centre of Excellences (HiCOE) with a total student population (undergraduate and postgraduate) of more than 32,000. In 2009, SMS signed a MoU with KLE Society, which led to the establishment of an offshore medical campus in Belgaum, Karnataka, India. SMS has opened the program to international students since 2016. Currently, there are 13 international students studying medicine in the SMS from various countries. The school is guided by the vision of “Medicine for Sustainable Tomorrow”.

Diversified Programs and Individualized Learning

The school pledges to produce a holistic graduate as evident in its motto, “Compassionate Professional”. Via its Personal and Professional Development Program, the curriculum equips students not just with clinical knowledge but also the humanities. Through a weekly dedicated slot, the students discuss with clinicians ethical issues related to the diseases they learn, interact with patients and relatives, and discover other opportunities such as volunteerism and activism. Through this platform, the students are exposed to activities such as ‘A Day in the Ward’ from first semester.

As the medical fraternity deals with increasing burnout issues, the school started an initiative called the Student Medical and Academic Response Team (SMART) to professionally and proactively support the students. The structured mentoring program allows early detection of students who need help and counselling to improve their academic performance. Through the schools’ structured professionalism assessment in pre-clinical and clinical years, the team is able to detect students who have shown professionalism lapses and construct plans to prevent unprofessional acts in the future.

As the first school in the nation to adopt an innovative curriculum, the school is known for its Community and Family Case Studies program (CFCS). Ever since its conception in 1980, the research-based community program has promoted the students’ community participation through various health promotion projects. The community projects are interwoven throughout the curriculum and allow students to engage and empower the community by guiding them to actively act on common diseases such as diabetes, tuberculosis and dengue.

In order to enhance work-preparedness among our graduates, the school has also initiated an intern shadowing program – Shadow House Officer Training Schedule (SHOTS). SHOTS serve as a training ground for final year students to develop essential skills and the professional role as an intern under the guidance of educators. The program enables the students to do under close supervision various hands-on skills required in internship. The platform also empowers students through frequent feedback provided by educators, doctors, allied health members and patients.

Guidance Worth in Gold

USM is led by a Vice Chancellor, currently Professor Datuk Dr. Asma Ismail. The Kelantan Health Campus is led by Professor Dato’ Dr. Ahmad Sukari Halim as the Campus Director. A Dean is appointed for each school in USM. Professor Dr. Shaiful Bahari Ismail, the 7th Dean of the medical school, has served as the Dean since November 2016. The Dean’s administrative style is consultative and inclusive. Major policy decisions are taken following thorough discussion among faculty members at the School Board meeting. The Dean is assisted by five Deputy Deans, including one deputy dean in the USM-KLE International Medical Program in Belgaum, India. Under the current leadership, USM has become the preferred university and significantly improved its ranking to become 207th in the world ranking, 46th in Asia and 8th best universities in the ASEAN region.

Annual Events- Bring the Community Together

Extracurricular activities hold an importance for adolescents as it improve their academic score and social life. Students who participate in these activities improve their social life and social skill. At USM, vibrant campus experience complement the academic hours. Through various societies such as the Medical Student Society, Symphony Orchestra Team, Basketball Club, Wushu Club and Debate Club, the students are encouraged to pursue their multiple intelligences and make active contributions to the campus life. These activities create well rounded students who learn what their interests and talents because they have been exposed to such opportunities”. Annual event at college includes Cultural Nights, Debate Tournaments, Inter-year Sports Carnival and many more. These extra-curricular activities are not limited to the campus vicinity but also extend to the community such as the Aboriginal Outreach Program in the rural area of Kelantan. The access to many needy communities has motivated many students to be active in volunteerism and health programs. These platforms have nurtured many essential qualities in the students such as working in teams, self-confidence, leadership, communication skills and respecting sensitivities of cultural differences.

Meanwhile, the students here also conduct career enhancement program such as the Medical Student Conferences (MEDXUSM) to expose them to wide opportunities in medicine.

Rainbow of Offerings

Since 2006, the Islamic and Asian Civilizations (TITAS) course, together with Ethnic Relations were introduced in all the public institutions of higher learning in Malaysia as compulsory courses. The main objective of TITAS and Ethnic Relations Course are to provide the students with a comprehensive understanding of the history, worldviews, principles, values and issues related to important aspects of the Islamic, Malay, Chinese, and Indian culture and civilization. It is hoped that the academic exposure of the various religions, cultures and major achievements of the Islamic and Asian civilizations and culture will enable the students who will be Malaysia’s future leaders, administrators and professionals, to be more informed and sensitive to is relevant facilitate greater understanding, integration and unity among the peoples of diverse ethnicity and religions in Malaysia.

Other than that, the school provides Core Entrepreneurship course where the learning approach comprises of interactive lectures, practical sessions, preparation of business plans, and implementation of entrepreneurship projects and presentations of reports. The exposure of undergraduates to entrepreneurial knowledge is expected to expedite efforts to increase numbers of entrepreneurs in the country.

The process of recruitment and selection of local students is done under the Admission Unit of USM. The criteria strictly follow Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) guidelines. Candidates who fulfill the criteria are called for Multiple Mini Interview (MMI). As for international candidate, the application is open through out the year and application can be done through https://pohon.usm.my/t_international.php. Candidate who has completed 12 years of primary and high school education with good results will be called for the online interview. Diploma or degree holders are also accepted to apply to SMS.

The student’s day begins with morning class for pre-clinical year students or ward rounds in the hospital for clinical year students. USM offers teaching modes that suit different needs of students such as small group discussions, hands-on activities in Clinical Skills Lab and tutorials. The students are encouraged to see patients in the teaching hospital that is also the centre of  excellence for many specialties. In the spirit of multiprofessional education, the students learn side-by-side with other allied health students.

In the evening, the students take a break from studying by de-stressing in sports facilities such as a running track, tennis courts or even playing frisbees with their friends. During night-time or weekends, most students join study groups, engage with nearby communities or visit nearby beaches.

Words of Trust

“Currently, I am working as a house officer in Kuala Lumpur; while pursuing Master of Science (Medical Physiology) in SMS, USM. Previously, I am the recipient of Young Investigator Award for 2018 National Heart Association of Malaysia Annual Scientific Meeting and seized the opportunity to be an academic visitor at the Oxford Centre for Clinical Magnetic Resonance Research.

‘Opportunity’ is the single-word summary for my experience as a medical student in the SMS, USM, where empowerment of students is the core emphasis. There is opportunity to have a conducive learning environment with dynamic peer interaction. The school supports the Medical Students Society, which plays an active role in advocating change in teaching and learning for academic excellence. There is opportunity to experience personal and professional growth with medical education-oriented policy. Students have the strategically-placed reflective sessions, for examples, the Personal and Professional Development Program and mentor-mentee meetings to facilitate the incorporation of profession-related values. There is opportunity to interact with field experts for a guided exploration of medical interests in clinical service and research. Advice and motivation from experienced mentors spark a long-lasting endeavor to strive for career success.”

-Dr Yeoh Boon Seng, 32nd batch USM medical graduate and a lifetime member of Persatuan Alumni Doktor USM (PADU).

“I am proud to say that I was an undergraduate of USM. My five years in USM medical school equipped me with the knowledge and skills needed to be a safe and competent doctor. It wasn’t all easy but the lecturers made it possible. Some have given great encouragement during the toughest of times and others have inspired me to continue pursuing bigger goals in this medical field. There were many opportunities for leadership building. From a committee member to a director of a national event. In whole, these 5 years helped me complete my house-officership and not long after, helped me decide to further my studies. Currently, I’ve completed my master’s program in USM too.”

– Dr Anna Alicia Simok, 26th batch USM medical graduates and currently works as an anatomy lecturer is USM.

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