Interview: Dr Myung-Whun Sung
How will research and development (R&D) grow in RAK and what role does the SKSH play in this?
DR MYUNG-WHUN SUNG: Without a strong commitment to R&D and a collaborative effort among universities, hospitals and other health care institutions, we cannot guarantee a sustainable, long-term health system. Ras Al Khaimah has an opportunity to enhance its R&D culture with the success of Julphar Pharmaceuticals and the RAK Medical and Health Sciences University (RAKMHSU). Together, these institutions are training the next generation of health care professionals.
SKSH, as a tertiary specialty hospital, is initiating research and training plans. Most of our consultant physicians are teaching and researching, boosting R&D in the health care industry. We will provide onsite clinical training programmes and hold academic conferences in collaboration with local medical schools. This will create a virtuous cycle, ensuring that hospitals, schools, academics and the health care industry are growing sustainably and growing together.
To what extent will the emirate’s health care sector stimulate the growth of related industries?
SUNG: With regard to associated industries, medical tourism comes to mind. In the UAE there are inbound and outbound medical tourism segments. In South Korea, many inbound medical tourists visit for quality clinical services. Seoul National University Hospital, for example, has admitted visitors from the UAE who seek advanced care but also want to sightsee.
One of the primary goals of SKSH is to reduce outbound medical tourism, incentivising locals to get care domestically. Developing the domestic health care sector into an international-standard operation would entice locals to seek treatment here at home and reduce costly travel expenses for the government. There is a lot of interest in the in-bound market from GCC countries, where we are trying to develop a combined package of medical check-ups and tourism.
What policy initiatives could address lifestyle related diseases in the emirate?
SUNG: Early detection and the promotion of healthy lifestyles was included in a proposal to the government when we were being awarded the operation of SKSH. We have great experience in preventive medicine from South Korea, where it is well documented that most people above the age of 30 utilise preventive health care. We would like to see the same here. In some aspects, early detection is more important than high-quality clinical treatment, because even with the best physicians, it is nearly impossible to reverse the course of a terminal disease.
The UAE government has agreed to those health initiatives for which we will collaborate with the Ministry of Health, and as a result, we are planning to introduce them in a two-part system. The first part is targeted at higher-income nationals with the hope that they pass on the benefits to their families and friends. The second part will provide universal access to basic services, where we will share our experience from South Korea and implement best practices.
How will SKSH be collaborating with RAKMHSU?
SUNG: Collaborating with local medical schools is critical to the development and sustainability of a long-term action-plan for knowledge sharing and transfer with the wider health care community. It is our hope that one day they will be able to provide a steady stream of able and competent health care professionals. In addition to our overall contribution, SKSH is establishing a teaching hospital for medical students and general practitioners, which will enhance the learning environment. These are supported by the Seoul National University Hospital. Additionally, SKSH will support the training of physicians and specialists through various educational programmes, and we have regular conferences and symposiums for the doctors in the northern emirates.
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