UiTM Medicine Steps Up Medical Research during COVID-19

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As Malaysia continues to show positive signs in recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic in June 2020, the Faculty of Medicine Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) Malaysia keeps seizing the opportunities to further the research agenda by capitalizing on its dual roles as educator and healthcare provider.

The scenario in the university now has changed to open distance learning (ODL) using various platforms and has become a new normal for all lecturers. Many research on best-practices and lessons learned in medical education area which started even before the Covid-19 pandemic have now intensified.

For instance, Dr. Nurul Alimah Abdul Nasir, a medical lecturer in pharmacology, shared the outcome of using a digital platform as a pre-lecture tool and has inspired many lecturers to transform their newfound experience in ODL. Her research titled ‘Usage of GoogleForm as a Guided Pre-Lecture Preparation Tool in Pre-Clinical Pharmacology Lectures’ was presented at the OTTAWA 2020 Conference held in Kuala Lumpur from 29th February – 4th March 2020.

The faculty’s role as front-liner involved providing clinical services to the surrounding community and to support the neighboring Ministry of Health (MOH) designated national COVID-19 center (Hospital Sungai Buloh). The latter role which enhances inter-ministry collaboration resulted in more opportunities in the research area of clinical service management. For example, two medical lecturers Dr. Shah Jumaat and Dr. Akmal Hisham from Hospital Sungai Buloh, published an article on new implementation strategies to handle patients hospitalized for burn injury. This research highlights the fact that the pandemic has drastically changed the way in handling burn patients and puts emphasis on patients and health care workers’ safety as the utmost priority. This article can be viewed at doi:10.1016./ j.burns.2020.05.008.

Many medical experts took up the research agenda one step further by volunteering to be part of a Covid-19 pandemic task force set up by the Ministry of Higher Education-Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOHE-MOSTI). The medical team includes microbiologist Prof. Dr. Ariza Adnan; medical epidemiologists Assoc. Prof Dr. Mariam Mohamad, Dr. Nurhuda Ismail, Dr. Mohd Rodi Isa and Dr. Zahir Izuan Azhar; and health economists Prof. Dr. Sazzli Sahlan Kasim, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ahmad Taufik Jamil and Dr. Leny Suzana Suddin.

The research area of interest was on Covid-19 community surveillance. The medical epidemiologist team looked into data recorded by the Coronavirus Mobile Test (COMBAT) Screening Unit to estimate the magnitude of Covid-19 cases in Selangor which is very useful for health authorities in the prevention and control of the disease. The health economists focused on quantifying the economic impact of this surveillance aspect to forecast future healthcare resource requirements.

Recently, the faculty’s team of medical epidemiologists, Zahir Izuan and others also shared their perspectives in the Journal of Clinical and Health Sciences JCHS on their review on Malaysia scenario of handling the pandemic. They highlighted that ongoing public health strategies executed in Malaysia such as the track and trace strategies, law enforcement to enhance MCO compliance, and, information exchange between countries on the experience in tackling the infections have demonstrated significant results. This research can be viewed at https://doi.org/ 10.24191/jchs.v5i1.9002

In conclusion, the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic have resulted in the intensifying faculty’s focus on research which is a major strategy for educators and healthcare providers as a way forward in the medical arena.