Dear students and staff,
I hope you and your loved ones are well and safe. The recent weeks have been challenging for all of us. Despite the unprecedented disruption, I am proud of your extraordinary efforts in embracing the new normal. This is evident across the University.
The University of Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) as a designated COVID-19 hospital has been immensely busy. I take this opportunity to thank colleagues from the Faculty of Medicine and other frontliners for their dedication and tireless efforts in treating and saving lives.
Our researchers have been making the headlines for their contributions and innovations revealing our enormous strength as a premier research University. The profound importance of our research and data science expertise is evident in the range of initiatives undertaken by our various Faculties and Research Clusters. Teams from the Faculty of Medicine and the Faculty of Computer Science & Information Technology are leading the way in data collection and epidemiology study resulting in the development of a data repository platform. In the area of diagnostics, the Faculty of Medicine and the Tropical Infectious Diseases Research & Education Centre (TIDREC) have been screening and testing for COVID-19. The Faculty of Medicine and TIDREC have also been working on sequencing COVID-19 isolates from UMMC. I am happy to announce that the first COVID-19 Nanopore Sequencing has been successfully developed by our Faculty of Medicine.
In the Centre for Natural Products Research and Drug Discovery (CENAR), a team is manually producing hand sanitisers in support of hygiene measures and prevention of infection. Also impressive is the initiative of students and alumni from the Faculty of Computer Science & Information Technology who have developed the Remote Electronic Medical Services, a symptom monitoring system for COVID-19 which enables remote monitoring of patients and thereby reducing the burden on hospitals.
Collaborative initiatives of the Faculty of Medicine, the Faculty of Engineering and the Faculty of Computer Science & Information Technology have also resulted in the development of infrared digital thermometer prototype which employs quick body scanning methods. In UM’s Chemistry Innovation Space, researchers and students are producing 3D Printing of face-shields, a simple and cost-effective production of personal protecting equipment. Also deserving mention is our Centre for Innovations in Medical Engineering for having developed and distributed intubation boxes to hospitals to protect health workers from exposure. These are just some of the initiatives being undertaken by our staff and students; not all can be listed here.
At the Management level, much effort has gone into developing the University’s contingency plan in managing this period and beyond. Members of the Senior Management team have been working around the clock to ensure that all aspects of operations within the various portfolios involving teaching and learning, research and innovation, student affairs and administration have been looked into and is being managed effectively.
We also started a campaign on COVID-19 fundraising to assist the University, in particular our students who have been affected by the pandemic. In providing the much needed support to our students, the University has also waived the accommodation fee at all residential colleges throughout the Movement Control Order (MCO) period. Food distribution to students will also continue throughout the third phase of the MCO. We are now working on staff welfare measures and will soon reach out to those who qualify for financial assistance.
It is important that we prepare ourselves for the new normal as we embark on full eLearning effective 27April 2020 and introduce alternative methods of assessment. I recognise that for many, working from home can be an arduous task. Not having the comfort of the office, the quiet space, and the company of colleagues to socialise and support one another can impact people differently. Balancing the needs of the family whilst being productive through remote working is indeed a huge challenge. With the MCO being extended until 28 April 2020, work must go on as usual, albeit remotely. Supervisors must develop a routine with their teams, set weekly goals, encourage discipline, have regular communication and support each other through the virtual environment. Strong leadership is imperative to make this work.
For frontline staff who have been on campus throughout the MCO period, we are grateful for your sacrifices and dedication. For students who participated in the blood donation drive to ensure UMMC’s blood bank remains at an optimal level, thank you for your act of solidarity.
I thank you all for your support. Stay safe.
Abdul Rahim Hashim
April 13th, 2020