Thursday, 28 October 2010

Mahadevan Travelling Fellowship to Harvard University - a First Year report

Many of us remember that on 9 September 2009 Tan Sri Dr Mahadevan launched the Mahadevan Traveling Fellowship, entitling one candidate versed in medicine and clinical hypnosis to travel to Harvard University and to study at Massachusetts General Hospital.

One year later the first Mahadevan Fellow, Dr Sharifah Eliza Jamalullial has returned and is working with the custodians, the London College of Clinical Hypnosis (LCCH Malaysia). She is the first Mahadevan Fellow entrusted to walk in Tan Sri Mahadevan foot-steps. A tall order, since Tan Sri was also Malaysia’s first Chief Psychiatrist and is adviser to the London College of Clinical Hypnosis. In fact, Tan Sri Mahadevan himself has been recognized as a Fellow of the British Society of Clinical Hypnosis. 

Mahadevan Fellows are entrusted to share their privileged learning so that everyone involved in medicine and healthcare in Malaysia may benefit. Dr Sharifah’s first task was to work with the LCCH to organize a return visit to Malaysia from Harvard University.  The fellows will also work with the LCCH to ensure that the new learning from Harvard is incorporated into the LCCH curriculum making it widely available for healthcare professionals and doctors in Malaysia and worldwide.

The Harvard team visited in March 2010 and the highlight of the visit was a workshop on psychological trauma presented by Dr John Tan from University Malaya, Dr Dave Henderson from Harvard University and Peter Mabbutt FBSCH from the London College of Clinical Hypnosis. It was open to both doctors and allied healthcare professionals and a comprehensive report will appear in European Journal of Clinical Hypnosis.

Peter Mabbutt and Dave Henderson went on to present their work at Sultan Abdul Halim Hospital in Sungai Petani. The North country visit was organized by Dr Gayathri K. Kumarasuriar, second Mahadevan Fellow who is in Harvard this October.

The first Fellows nominated for the Mahadevan Travelling Fellowship were selected by a committee presided upon by Tun Dr Siti Hasmah. It is her express wish that the first candidates selected should all be eligible and the first three successful candidates are Dr Sharifah Eliza Jamalullial, Dr Gayathri K Kumarsuriar and Dr Ng Khian Boon. Each Fellow is selected for out-standing contributions to the community, to medicine and for their active love of psychiatry and clinical hypnosis. Tun Siti Hasmah and our Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib entrusted each candidate to work hard and to share the achievements of Malaysian Medicine with the US doctors.  The Prime Minister then signed the coveted Mahadevan Fellowship Award and presented this to Dr Sharifah.

Tan Sri Mahadevan, The Prime Minister, Tun Siti Hasmah, Dr Sharifa and Sheila Menon

In accordance with her responsibilities, Dr Sharifah presented a lecture on psychiatric treatment available in Malaysia to leading professors and doctors at Harvard. They were impressed by the work at Tanjung Rambutan, now Hospital Bahagia in Perak. Several commented that the Tanjung Rambutan mental hospital resembled a resort with its flower gardens and parklands. They remarked in USA such facilities are confined to hospitals or clinical buildings. One doctor even joked he “wouldn’t mind being a patient there!” recounts Dr Sharifah. The US psychiatrists were inspired and Dr Dave Henderson requested specifically to visit both the Half-way house and Hospital Bahagia. Dato’ Dr Majumder Madhuri and Dato' Dr Suarn Singh were there to meet the Harvard team.

For colleagues considering the Mahadevan Fellowship, Dr. Sharifah describes her visit to Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) as a jam-packed timetable with clinics, research meetings, ward rounds; child consults visits, acute psychiatry services, grand rounds, lectures and community visits. “It has armed me with an increased knowledge in psychiatry and mental health which I hope to put to good use in Malaysia,” Dr Sharifah continues, indicating why she was such a natural first choice.  Dr Sharifah was invited to speak at the historic Ether Dome, at Harvard University. Upon her return, she shared this and other experiences in a presentation to colleagues and students at the LCCH. 
Dr Sharifa and her Fellowship Award

In keeping with Tan Sri’s love of clinical hypnosis, Dr Sharifah met Dr Owen Surman, a psychiatrist who practices hypnosis. “He described to me how he used hypnotherapy as a tool with his heart transplant patients to help them recover faster by encouraging them to imagine that the operation was a huge success and they were on the way to complete recovery. Dr Sharifah described that using hypnosis in this way is done in a safe and controlled manner.”

“Dr Surman also published ‘Hypnosis in treating warts’ as hypnotherapy has a general effect on host response to the causative virus.” Dr Sharifah is in constant discussion with the Medical Director for the LCCH Asia, Dr Gayathri, who will travel to Harvard in October 2010. Together they are exploring new ways to increase knowledge and benefits within Malaysian healthcare. This broader approach to medicine is supported by the Academy of Family Physician Malaysia who work collaboratively with the LCCH and accredit the clinical hypnosis training in Malaysia. 

Another highlight was her visit to the Benson-Henry Institute for mind body medication and meeting the famous Dr Benson. “The Benson-Henry Institute deals with patients with stress related medical conditions by combining conventional medicine with self-care approach that places greater control of health in the patients’ hands. This centre encourages patients to cultivate positive thoughts and mind body healing by turning off stress through new behaviour and attitude. This can be used to treat anxiety, depression, asthma and cancer.

Dr Sharifah also pinpoints the PACT Team as a major highpoint of her month long sojourn. PACT stands for Programme for Assertive Community Treatment and is a community based treatment programme for people with severe and persistent mental illness who may have been under-served by traditional levels of care and can require rehospitalisation. PACT is also seen as a hospital without walls. Dr Sharifah was attached to a PACT Team comprising psychiatrist, nurses, vocation specialists, housing specialists, social workers and peer specialists.

She visited 2 women with bi-polar disorder in their homes in Cambridge learning that PACT kept them out of hospital and helped them pursue productive hobbies like painting, reading, gardening and writing. Dr Sharifah has always been interested in Community Psychiatry stating “Hopefully I can bring what I learned with the PACT Team back to Malaysia. After all, Tan Sri Dr Mahadevan is the pioneer of community mental health in Malaysia and it only seems right a Mahadevan Fellow should follow in his footsteps.”

Dr Sharifah was privileged to meet the renowned Dr Chester Pierce who has dominated mainstream American psychiatry for the last three decades as president of American Orthopsychiatry Association and American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. It is through his friendship with Tan Sri Mahadevan that this fellowship is possible. Dr Pierce was unassuming, modest and intelligent. At 82, he is still actively doing research on racism, a subject close to his heart. Our former Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad was intrigued by his work. On his visit to the Antarctica, Tun noticed Pierce Peak named after Dr. Chester Pierce for his research in Antarctica. He requested Tan Sri Mahadevan to obtain a personally autographed copy of the book “Race and Excellence” which was written by the Yale Professor of Psychiatry, Prof Ezra Griffith on the life and work of Professor Pierce. A copy of this book is available for all to read at Tun’s Perdana Putra.

“After a month at Massachusetts General Hospital, I know why it is ranked #1 in psychiatry for 14 consecutive years in the US News and World Report Survey of ‘America’s Best Hospitals’. The Mahadevan Fellowship allows Malaysian doctors to experience a life-changing experience there,” reports the first Mahadevan Fellow.

In 1965 Tan Sri Mahadevan saved the life of a road accident victim using clinical hypnosis. It was an act of remarkable courage and skill and it put both Malaysia and clinical hypnosis onto the map. Tan Sri was first acknowledged in Britain and then in the USA for his remarkable work and contributions. The Mahadevan Fellowship is created to provide study for one Mahadevan Fellow each year at Harvard University. But this Fellow is entrusted to return to Malaysia and to work with the LCCH and Harvard colleagues to ensure that their privileged experience and learning is made widely available through the teaching structure of the LCCH.

The Mahadevan Fellowship continues as a living legacy created so that future generations of doctors and healthcare professionals may benefit from the doors and opportunities that Tan Sri Mahadevan has already opened. 


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