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What Is #MahasiswaUiTMBantah & Its Relation To Cardiothoracic Surgeon Shortage In Malaysia?

What Is #MahasiswaUiTMBantah & Its Relation To Cardiothoracic Surgeon Shortage In Malaysia?

Due to the shortage of cardiothoracic surgeons in Malaysia, UiTM is asked to consider temporarily opening up its postgraduate programme to non-Bumiputera students but UiTM student council is against it.

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Universiti Teknologi Mara’s Student Representative Council (MPP UiTM) is holding a #MahasiswaUiTMBantah protest from 14 to 16 May 2024 intending to spread awareness to its students about their Bumiputera rights.

This comes after suggestions to open up the university’s cardiothoracic programme to non-Bumi students to help fill up the shortage of specialised doctors in Malaysia.

MPP UiTM reiterates that they do not support opening up the university to non-Bumis per Article 153 of the Federal Constitution.

How did we get here?

There are two pressing issues to solve here:

  • Malaysia has a shortage of cardiothoracic surgeons.
  • UiTM and National Heart Institute’s (IJN) ‘parallel pathway’ cardiothoracic surgery training programme is the only one offered in the country.

The shortage means patients wait a long time for surgeries in public hospitals. According to the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA), patients wait between six months and a year for a heart bypass surgery in hospitals and some die while waiting.

At the rate it’s going, MMA president Dr Azizan Abdul Aziz said the country will not meet the target of having 28,000 medical specialists by 2030.

To increase the number of cardiothoracic specialists, Prof Dr Raja Amin Raja Mokhtar, who is on the Board of Studies of the cardiothoracic surgery postgraduate programme by UiTM-IJN, suggested UiTM temporarily open its doors to non-Bumi students in the national interest.

According to Code Blue, Dr Raja Amin said legislative amendments are not needed for UiTM, which was formed under Article 153 of the Federal Constitution, to admit non-Bumi students.

The senior consultant cardiothoracic surgeon at the Department of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery at UiTM’s Faculty of Medicine said that alternative routes for non-Bumi students like the public university’s private wing or the postgraduate programme for international students can be considered.

If UiTM can open its doors to international students, we don’t see why it can’t open up to all fellow Malaysians, on a needs basis.

MMA president Dr Azizan Abdul Aziz
For illustration purposes. Credit: @DGHisham/Twitter

When the news of opening up the university was first reported, Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Zambry Abdul Kadir said there had been no discussion on the matter.

Meanwhile, UiTM vice-chancellor Professor Datuk Dr Shahrin Sahib said the university will remain closed to non-Bumis but will accept whatever the government decides with the king’s blessings.

Former law minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim said there’s no tangible reason not to allow non-Bumi students into UiTM as the nation must come first.

UiTM was started to help bumiputeras, this should continue. But today, we have to recognise that (letting) non-Malays into UITM is also assisting the bumiputeras by solving the nation’s problems. The fear of having more non-Malays as doctors, nurses or lecturers (belongs in) the 1970s. We are now one country with more significant problems but have enough resources to serve every group. Do not continue to govern this country with the fear of the past.

Former law minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim

TLDR: Opening up the cardiothoracic surgery postgraduate programme to non-Bumis is in the interest of the population’s health. It should be putting people’s needs first as there’s an acute shortage of specialists and cardiothoracic surgeons in the country.


UiTM-IJN’s cardiothoracic programme is for post-graduates. UiTM right now already has an offering for international students to do their post-graduate studies (this means non-Bumiputera).

They welcome international students for various programmes including a doctorate in cardiothoracic surgery.

What triggered the suggestion to open up UiTM to non-bumi students?

Last December, the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) rejected applications by four pioneer graduates of the cardiothoracic surgery parallel pathway programme to register as specialists on the National Specialist Register (NSR). The parallel pathway programme was initiated by the Health Ministry.

This is because MMC did not recognize the Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in Cardiothoracic Surgery qualification.

The four have also passed a mandatory RCSEd Joint Specialty Fellowship Examination in cardiothoracic surgery, which is used in Hong Kong and Singapore.

The four graduates took legal action against MMC for refusing to register them on the NSR at the beginning of April.

There are two other lawsuits against MMC filed by a neurosurgeon with FRCS Ireland in neurosurgery and six pathology graduates in medical genetics from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM).

What’s the status of the issue so far?

On 2 April, the Health Ministry announced that the Parallel Pathway Programme would be recognised and proposed to the Cabinet to expedite the amendment of the Medical Act 1971 9Act 50) for that purpose.

On 19 April, the Higher Education Ministry and Health Ministry agreed to resolve the issue with the programme for medical experts.

On 25 April, Code Blue reported that UiTM is agreeable to temporarily open up its cardiothoracic surgery postgraduate programme to non-Bumi parallel pathway trainees and graduates until the opening of a similar programme at Universiti Malaya (UM).

The proposal to open the UiTM-IJN cardiothoracic surgery postgraduate programme to all races was made after the Health Ministry and the Higher Education Ministry requested UiTM for a solution.

That said, UiTM signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Universiti Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) in 2021 to help develop a curriculum for UM to start a cardiothoracic surgery postgraduate programme.

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