Dr Murallitharan Munisamy – Study UK Alumni Award finalist

Dr Murallitharan speaking at a public forum on cancer and NCDs

Dr Murallitharan Munisamy (MSc Health Policy Planning & Financing, 2016) has been selected the winner of the Social Action Award in Malaysia. Director of the National Cancer Society of Malaysia, and named the World’s Best Cancer CEO by the global cancer organisation, Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), Murallitharan has served thousands of Malaysians battling cancer. From building new treatment centres to deploying mobile cancer screening hospitals, deploying patient aid and access programmes, and most importantly being able to advocate for and treat patients and their families. We spoke to him about his work, and how it feels to be recognised with this award.

Dr Murallitharan receiving the Union for International Cancer Control's World Best Cancer CEO Award 2022 at the World Cancer Congress in Geneva, Switzerland
Dr Murallitharan receiving the Union for International Cancer Control's World Best Cancer CEO Award 2022 at the World Cancer Congress in Geneva, Switzerland

"I came home from the UK to work in SE Asia, moving first as operations lead for a large multinational pharmaceutical organisation. In 2017, I was asked to come home to Malaysia to head the National Cancer 

Society of Malaysia- a job I took as my own ‘national service’ and have continued to perform until today. I also teach at various regional universities and lead many other civil society organisations including as chairman of the Malaysian Council for Tobacco Control, the Malaysian Medical Association Public Health Society and the umbrella organisation for NCDs in Malaysia, NCD Malaysia. The current large project that I spearhead for the National Cancer Society of Malaysia and the Ministry of Health Malaysia is the 'Leaving No One Behind' programme, a programme in which we are providing 300,000 underprivileged and marginalised girls all across the nation with free HPV vaccination. 

I specifically applied to come to LSHTM to read the MSC in HPPF- a flagship programme which has been running for decades and has trained many eminent personalities in public health who have transformed their national health systems and the lives of their peoples. During my time at LSHTM, I learnt the foundational building blocks of health transformation, and most importantly updated insights and inspiration from ‘giants’ such as Peter Piot, Anne Mills, Nick Black, Martin McKee and countless others who have and continue to shape the way we deliver health in the world today. Many of these foundational insights, implementation methodologies, and most importantly the mentor relationships I have obtained have helped me to develop and deliver multiple innovative approaches aimed at providing aid, succour and relief to Malaysians in terms of accessing healthcare successfully especially in the area of NCDs.

Murallitharan Munisamy administering COVID-19 vaccine
Dr Murallitharan administering a Covid-19 vaccine via an outreach programme to disabled chronically ill patients at home

I am very honoured to have been considered for the award and at the same time, excited to be able to showcase a landscape in which I work currently, civil society.  It is not a landscape which is an immediate choice for young people to work in. However, the work we do here is very meaningful and increasingly the role of civil society as a key non-state actor in societal and national development is coming to the fore. Through the visibility from the nomination, I hope to be able to showcase to younger colleagues looking to build careers that civil society is not only able to provide an avenue for this, but also the fact that a career in civil society can be rewarding financially and extremely meaningful in a holistic manner- as well as providing one with the ability to make a genuine difference."