ONE of the major causes of death in Malaysia between 2005 and 2014 was heart disease. According to the Statistics Department, in 2014, heart-disease accounted for 13.5 per cent of all deaths recorded. Of that number 57.6 per cent were men and the rest were women.
With the rise of deaths caused by heart disease among Malaysians, there is a corresponding increase in the number cardiovascular centres in the country — that offer prevention programmes, diagnosis, and treatment to patients.
These centres use the latest technologies for investigative and surgical procedures for cardiac care and are operated by cardiovascular technologists. They deal with the diagnosis and treatment of patients with diseases of the heart (cardiac) or blood vessels (vascular).
“They perform cardiovascular examinations and therapeutic procedures with specific high-tech equipment at the direction of qualified physicians, to create easily definable data from which correct anatomic and physiological diagnosis may be developed for each patient.
“Cardiovascular technologists play an integral role in the treatment process, applying their independent judgment, problem-solving skills, analytical thinking, and ability to obtain and integrate accurate diagnostic information while supporting the clinicians,” said Management & Science University (MSU) healthcare professionals department, programme manager Kamarul Azizi Satiman.
He remarked that abroad, the profession is well-regarded, well-paying and marketable, but in Malaysia, it is just beginning to gain prominence.
To cater to the increased demand for technologists at cardiovascular centres around the country, MSU’s Faculty of Health and Life Sciences is offering a four-year Bachelor in Cardiovascular Technology (Honours) programme.
The programme has been designed according to the recommendations of cardiovascular technologists from the Malaysian Society of Cardiovascular Technologists. The society’s input was used to craft 80 per cent of the syllabus.
“Previously, cardiovascular technologists were medical assistants, nurses, medical, biomedical and technology students who either underwent in-house training at Institut Jantung Negara (IJN) - the National Heart Institute - or those medical professionals who went for short courses in the related field.
“The problem with short courses is the depth of learning in the programme. A four-year degree course provides more comprehensive learning and training,” said Kamarul Azizi.
“Our four-year course covers cardiology, electrocardiography, echocardiography, radiology, pacemakers, electrophysiology, and clinical pharmacology. Three years would be dedicated to theoretical studies, while the fourth year would be dedicated to clinical placements at either IJN or the soon-to-be-opened MSU hospital,” he said.
To enter the programme, candidates would need to hold either a Sijil Tinggi Pelajaran Malaysia, Matriculation, A-Level or Pre-University qualification with at least a 2.50 cumulative grade point average (CGPA) in Biology or Physics and Chemistry and pass Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia with five credits, including Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, and Biology.
Alternatively applicants could also use a Diploma (Malaysian Qualifications Framework Level 4) in a related field, from a recognised institution with a CGPA of at least 2.75 .
“CGPA’s below 2.75 must be accompanied by at least three years, or 36 months of working experience in the same field,” said Kamarul Azizi, adding that International students must prove their English proficiency by scoring 6.0 on IELTS or 550 on TOEFL examinations.
When asked about job prospects for graduates of the programme, he said cardiovascular technologists may specialise in invasive or non-invasive cardiovascular treatments, non-invasive vascular, or cardiac pacing and electrophysiology.
“Most cardiovascular technologists work in hospitals, but they may also work in physicians’ offices, educational facilities, medical centres, non-invasive cardiovascular laboratories, electrophysiology laboratories, and mobile diagnostic units.
“Cardiovascular technology related job titles include cardiac catheterization technologist, cardiac stress technologist, cardiology technologist, electrocardiograph (ECG) technologist, cardiopulmonary technologist, and vascular technologist,” said Kamarul Azizi.
MSU had its first Bachelor in Cardiovascular Technology (Honours) programme intake in September last year with 15 students. Fees for the programme come up to RM119,400.
Kamarul Azizi said under the programme students have the opportunity to seek more exposure in partner medical schools abroad via global internship or global mobility programmes.