Inaugural Cohort of Graduates for the Postgraduate Diploma in Primary Care for the Elderly

The first cohort during their first semester: (standing from left to right Dr Wong Ping Foo, Prof Datin Dr Chia Yook Chin (Head, Department of Medical Sciences), Dr Tan Wan Chuan, Dr Ho Willee, Dr Lawrence Ng, Dr Chung Wai Mun, Dr Ooi Q-Lun and Dr Gan Jia Ching. (Seated from left to right): Dr Nor Faizah binti Ghazali, Dr Nagammai A/P Thiagarajan, Dr Nabeela Saadah binti Shafwan Badrie and Dr Khoo Vi Vien.

The end of 2020 saw the inaugural cohort of 12 medical doctors completed their training in the Postgraduate Diploma in Primary Care for Elderly (PGDPCE) programme, under the Department of Medical Sciences at the School of Medical and Life Sciences, Sunway University. These were medical officers and general practitioners from throughout Malaysia. They began their training in January 2020.

With the growth of the ageing population in mind, this postgraduate diploma programme was developed in collaboration with the Malaysian Society of Geriatric Medicine (MSGM) to address the current needs of doctors. It was designed to provide medical practitioners with advance knowledge and competencies in geriatrics, which is a specialization within medicine that focuses on health care of elderly people.

Led by Head of Department and Program Leader, Prof Datin Dr Chia Yook Chin, the one-year full time programme consists of seven core modules and one elective, with each module running for six weeks at a time. These modules include weekly live stream, three days of clinical attachments every six weeks and with weekend workshops every three months for face-to-face learning.

The lecturers for the programme were experts in geriatrics. They were:

  1. YTM Dato’ Dr Tunku Muzafar Shah bin Tunku Jaafar Laksamana, Deputy Head of Geriatrics Service, Ministry of Health Malaysia, and Consultant Geriatrician, Hospital Selayang.
  2. Dr Ungku Ahmad Ameen bin Ungku Mohd Zam, President of the Malaysian Society of Geriatric Medicine (MSGM)
  3. Dr Duncan Forsyth, Addenbrookes Hospital, Cambridge UK
  4. Dr Nor Hakimah Makhtar, MSGM member
  5. Dr Low Chung Min, MSGM Member
  6. Dr Nor Azlina Abu Bakar, MSGM Member
  7. Dr Aln Ch’ng Dr Hakimah Sallehudin, MSGM Member
  8. Dr Goh Cheng Beh, MSGM Member
  9. Dr Nor Azleen Ahmad Tarmizi, MSGM Member

Clinical trainers at geriatrics attachment centres were all consultant geriatricians as well. They were:

  1. Dr Cheah Wee Kooi, Hospital Taiping
  2. Dr Elizabeth Ching Gar Mit, Hospital Kuala Lumpur
  3. Dr Rizah Muzzain binti Ghazali, Hospital Kuala Lumpur
  4. Dr Alan Pok , Hospital Kuala Lumpur
  5. Prof Tan Maw Pin, Universiti Malaya Medical Centre
  6. Dr Khor Hooi Min, Universiti Malaya Medical Centre
  7. Dr Keng Jun Ni, Melaka Hospital
  8. Dr Harnek Singh, Hospital Sultan Ismail Johor Bahru

Graduate of the programme, Dr Lawrence Ng, a Medical Officer at Klinik Kesihatan Taman Universiti, Johor Bahru, commented that the programme was very timely and needed because geriatric medicine was hardly a topic during his basic medical training. “This programme has given me the confidence in examining and treating elderly patients, as well as helping them prevent many common health problems associated with older people. Our trainers were a group of very dedicated geriatricians from around the country. We had maximum learning from weekly online classes and hospital attachments, all for a very reasonable fee!” said Dr Ng.

Three of the PgDip PCE trainees during their attachment at Hospital Melaka. Geriatricians, Dr Keng Jun Ni, from Melaka Hospital, and Dr Harnek Singh from Hospital Sultan Ismail Johor Bahru are flanked by the specialist trainees (from left to right) Dr Ho Willee, Dr Lawrence Ng and Dr Gan Jia Ching.

Dr Ho Willee, who is a general practitioner in Tangkak, Johor expressed his great satisfaction with the programme with regard to gaining very relevant clinical skills, as well as new friends from other states. He said that it was very impactful for him to realise the condition of current geriatric practice in Malaysia compared to more advanced countries. Dr Ho added, “Geriatric medicine is very important because of the increasing ageing population but yet is commonly neglected with more emphasis given to the health of younger populations. This programme provides comprehensive modules on elderly care and management by very experienced geriatricians”.

When asked about value-added skills that he appreciated about the programme, Dr Ho replied, “I learnt that process of clerking (which is the assessment and examination of patients) in geriatrics involves a very comprehensive and relevant history which provides a more holistic approach to managing elderly healthcare. I find this new knowledge to be very enhancing to my current clinical skillset.”

Prof Chia expressed her joy and pride on the success of her first batch of graduates, “I am happy that this programme took off and produced medical practitioners who are more adept at dealing with geriatric issues. I’m very grateful to all the instructors who took time off their very demanding schedules to contribute to upskilling medical officers!” She added, “We focus on empowering more medical practitioners to have a caring, systemic and holistic approach in managing the health of their older patients, especially now during the COVID-10 pandemic.” Prof Chia is also a reviewer of a manual for aged care during the current pandemic (See link: Care of Older Persons in Aged Care Facilities During COVID Pandemic).

The School of Medical and Life Sciences congratulates the new graduates of the Postgraduate Diploma in Primary Care for Elderly programme, and wishes them all the best in their endeavours towards better healthcare for the ageing population. We also hope that this programme continues to produce competent medical practitioners in geriatric medicine to ensure there is adequate health care for the ageing population.