1. It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the 2022 Asia-Pacific Medical Education Conference, being held for the first time outside of Singapore. Although we are meeting virtually, I do hope participants will get some flavour of our rich Malaysian culture, in keeping with the theme of this conference – “Our Heritage Our Strength: Future Proofing Healthcare Professionals”.
  2. Medical education as a discipline is at the forefront of preparing our global community for the challenges of tomorrow. The Covid-19 pandemic has forcefully reminded us of the utmost urgency of this task. Despite the fast pace of new medical discoveries and the development of innovative therapies and interventions, our practice must always remain grounded in culture. Doctors and healthcare professionals must always remember that they are treating a patient as well as a disease, and that each patient is part of a community.
  3. The fast-evolving tools and treatments that are now coming onstream promise many new medical options for patients. They should deliver improved outcomes for many conditions. But some of these technologies and techniques also create new dilemmas. These relate to privacy, and the ownership of personal medical information. Further challenges concern the rights of individuals to make their own choices, even in the face of accepted medical advice.

4. The pandemic has highlighted clearly the extent to which culture and behaviour can influence medical outcomes. While the Covid-19 virus has caused death and destruction around the world, its impact has also varied considerably. This can be seen both between different countries, and within populations, and is due in part to cultural and behavioural factors. We must learn from these different experiences, and develop ways to take account of the interactions between scientific and medical principles and models, and the way reality unfolds in practice.

5. In-depth research on the pandemic and beyond will be shared and discussed during the carefully crafted plenary, symposia, and panel discussions being held during the conference. These sessions provide a wonderful opportunity for everyone here both to learn from your peers, and to reconnect with your colleagues. These thoughtful and informed dialogues can then be taken back and shared in your own distinguished institutions.

6. A large part of the work of medical educators lies in the development of the next generation of doctors and health professionals. As we look to the future, it is necessary to consider the virtues that have transcended time. It is these same virtues and qualities that will continue to shape the world of healthcare of tomorrow.

7. Medical education has evolved considerably, from the instructor-centred and content-focused programmes of the past, towards an approach that instead prioritizes the development of empathetic as well as proficient doctors. This traditional focus can be expanded further to inculcate qualities such as adaptability and resilience. In this way, providers of medical education can help to ensure that all patients are treated with respect and dignity, and given the most appropriate and effective healthcare.

8. Malaysia has a rich history and a deep respect for culture, which is apparent in our diverse multi-ethnic population. Communities of all faiths are able to celebrate their time-honoured traditions, with the support of their neighbours. This spirit has translated to the medical education community of Malaysia, where respect for and belief in the individual above all, are prioritized. Our multi-ethnic culture and mutual respect make Malaysia an ideal host for this year’s conference, given its theme.

9. As you participate in the various multi-disciplinary sessions in the coming days, I encourage you to reflect on the role and importance of your own heritage and traditions. It is interesting and instructive to consider how these shape your own practice as clinicians, healthcare professionals, and educators. By bringing this self-awareness to your day-to-day responsibilities, I am sure you will foster deeper and more fulfilling connections with those around you.

10. In closing, let me briefly refer to the link between the work that you all do to safeguard human health, and the current state of health, or rather ill-health, of the planet. As we all fight the latest surge in Covid-19, and as Malaysia grapples with its recent catastrophic flooding, we see the impact of such events on our health – mental and physical – at community and individual level.

11. That there is a direct link between the health of the planet and our health is, I am sure you will agree, beyond doubt. And so let me ask that you also consider here what more the members of this noble profession can do to advocate for policy-makers, politicians, and others in positions of influence, to address broader planetary health with the same vigour they have directed towards this pandemic.

12. Despite the wish to meet in person, do remember that a virtual conference allows more delegates to access and contribute to the knowledge that will be shared. I encourage you to put effort into connecting with unfamiliar colleagues, and to make the most of the various opportunities for discussion and collaboration available throughout the conference.

13. As you move into the main proceedings of APMEC2022, I wish all of the participants a very successful conference, and a healthy new year.

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