What is tropical medicine?

There are various specialities and sub-specialities in the ever-expansive medical field and each speciality has multifaceted sub-specialities which requires intricate skillsets and knowledge. Among the popular specialities include anaesthesiology, dermatology, emergency medicine, family medicine, internal medicine, neurology, obstetrics and gynaecology, pathology and paediatrics. However, some specialties are rarely spoken about and one such speciality is tropical medicine.

Tropical medicine is the study of tropical or infectious diseases and conditions. In the medical field, this is referred to as ‘neglected tropical diseases’ or NTDs. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), NTDs can be found in 149 countries and a majority of these diseases affect more than 1 billion people, particularly communities that live in poverty and lack proper hygiene or sanitation.

Although Malaysia is a rapidly developing nation, we have yet to fully eradicate tropical diseases such as malaria, dengue, tuberculosis, rabies, viral infections and more, but efforts are being made to raise awareness on preventive measures to curb or control the spread of NTDs.

Doctors who specialise in tropical medicine are well versed with general infections and conditions as they have the responsibility to assess, diagnose and manage infected patients at their healthcare facility.

Diagnosing a tropical disease requires one or a combination of lab testing where blood, stool or skin samples are examined. So, those who chose this speciality must have an understanding of the microbiological aspects that are involved in NTD testing. Doctors who do not work in a lab setting will work closely with microbiologists, virologists and public health specialists to detect and treat these diseases.

As research is an important aspect of tropical medicine, SEGi University had set up a SEGi-DUKE-Clinical Research Centre (SEGi-DUKE-CRC), a joint clinical research facility between SEGi University, DUKE University and Sibu Hospital.

Located within the Sibu Clinical Campus, the centre is focused on the study of viruses and had published numerous papers over the years. The centre was recently authorised by the Ministry of Health to conduct Covid-19 testing and was instrumental to the surrounding communities.

The university also puts in the effort to organise large scale programmes and conferences to raise awareness and share the latest developments and breakthroughs in the field of tropical medicine.

Last year, SEGi co-organised the Malaysian International Congress on Tropical Medicine (BMICTM) at Sibu with the Belt and Road Tropical Medicine Alliance to encourage more people to focus their research efforts in this field.

While tropical medicine is rarely given the highlight, there is a major scope for development in this field, especially since the Institute of Medical Research (IMR) in Kuala Lumpur plays a global role in enhancing research on treatment, control and prevention of tropical diseases. In fact, the 120-year-old institute stands as a major global player in the fight against NTD. It even houses the WHO Regional Centre for Research and Training in tropical diseases.

Tropical medicine is indeed a field with many possibilities and choosing this as a speciality can certainly be both, rewarding and satisfying. Interested in the field of medicine? Visit www.segi.edu.my to learn about SEGi University’s M.B., B.S programme. SEGi’s Faculty of Medicine also has a programme in biomedical science for the more research-driven minds

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