Asia Matters logo

Harvard Partners with Malaysian University, Medical Center for New Leadership Program


Starting in early 2017, Harvard Medical School will offer a one-year certificate program called the Southeast Asia Leadership (HMS-SEAL) Program. The new initiative is Harvard’s latest collaboration with Sunway University and Sunway Medical Centre, both of which are located in Selangor, Malaysia.

Harvard Medical School’s Office of Global Education currently offers ten international programs, including one in Shenzhen, China, but HMS-SEAL is the only one in a Southeast Asian country. HMS-SEAL will combine online and in-person teaching through webinars, pre-recorded lectures, and workshops. The first two of three workshops will be held in Bandar Sunway, Malaysia, while the last will take place in Boston, Massachusetts. The curriculum aims to provide “emerging healthcare leaders in Malaysia, Southeast Asia, and Australasia,” with training to develop management skills.

Both Sunway University and Sunway Medical Centre are affiliated with Sunway Group, a conglomerate headed by Tan Sri Dr. Jeffrey Cheah. HMS-SEAL is not the group’s first interaction with Harvard. In 2013, the Jeffrey Cheah Foundation, also associated with Sunway Group, donated $6.2 million to Harvard to develop its Southeast Asian studies. The endowment established a professorship, a visiting professorship, and a fellowship, as well as travel opportunities. Earlier this year, Sunway University also hosted the Malaysia leg of Harvard’s Asia Leadership Conference.

This initiative is the latest in growing educational ties between the US and Malaysia. During the 2015-2016 academic year, there were 7,834 students from Malaysia studying in the United States, an 8.3% increase from the previous year. According to the Department of Commerce, Malaysian students in the US contributed $268 million to the US economy. Last year, the University Honors College of Portland State University held a 10-day exchange program with the University of Malaysia Sabah. In 2013, the Department of State launched its Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI). The program provides professional development and fellowships in partnership with several public universities in the US. During his 2015 trip to Malaysia, President Obama took part in a town hall with YSEALI participants. His trip marked the second time he traveled to the country; in 2014, President Obama became the first US President since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1966 to visit Malaysia.

Stephanie Gill is a Research Intern at the East-West Center and a student at the George Washington University.