Hello, my name is Swee Kheng.
Council on Foreign Relations (for the Global Health Initiative)
Council on Councils (an initiative of the Council on Foreign Relations)
South China Morning Post (op-eds in Hong Kong)
Vital Signs (my column in The Star, Malaysia)
ISSUES (my monographs for Penang Institute, Malaysia)
Malaysiakini (my essays for Malaysiakini)
The Edge (longer essays to The Edge, Malaysia)
New Mandala (on Southeast Asia, hosted by Australia National University)
Health: The Nuts & Bolts (my radio show on BFM)
Health Matters (a TV show on Astro Awani)
Public Talks & Lectures 2019 (in Malaysia)
Public Talks & Lectures 2020 (in Malaysia, India & UK)
I am currently a Master of Public Policy student in the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford.
I receive fair value compensation for my columns in The Star (Malaysia) and South China Morning Post (Hong Kong).
I do not receive any financial benefit, compensation or other consideration from my work for the Malaysian Health Coalition or its member societies, or from my fellowships, other writings for other platforms, and speaking & media engagements. Since April 2019, I do not receive any regular salary or benefit from any organisations, companies, legal entities or individuals. I hold no shares in any companies, and declare no conflicts of interest.
I’m an interdisciplinary Health Systems, Health Policies & Global Health practitioner.
Since 2003, I’ve performed progressively senior roles in the government, private, non-profit and academic sectors in five practice areas:
1. Clinical Medicine (2006-2010)
2. Refugee & Disaster Relief (2003-2008, 2011, 2015)
3. Clinical Research & Medical Affairs (2011-2012)
4. Healthcare Anti-Corruption & Governance (2013-2019)
5. Health Systems, Health Policy & Global Health (from 2019).
I’ve lived, worked or studied in nine countries across four continents. My professional experience covers >90 countries in Africa, Asia (including China & Central Asia), Europe (including Russia & Ukraine), the Middle East and all Least Developed Countries.
Initially trained as a physician, I have postgraduate degrees in Internal Medicine (Royal College of Physicians) and Public Health (Berkeley).
As a fun fact, I can say “thank you” in 65 languages (including Sign Language).
I was born and raised in the small town of Taiping, Malaysia. My parents were career civil servants.
My younger sister and I grew up in frugal surroundings. Although we were poor, we were fortunate to have a loving family, great friends, and nearly-free education provided by the government. My best memories were the Scouts, football, hiking, lots of reading, and all sorts of activities in St George’s Institution, my secondary school.
My days in UKM Medical School were filled with studying, but also English language debating and the Asian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA). Debating offered my first glimpse into a world beyond Taiping and Malaysia, with challenges and opportunities much larger than what a small-town boy could have ever imagined. Together with some wonderful team-mates, we enjoyed ourselves and won multiple Malaysian and world championships (I won a few individual awards too).
My working life has taken me back to Taiping to serve my hometown, and also to countries far away. I’ve been fortunate to serve the world in big and small ways. I’m equally fortunate to understand that there is a place in this world for human beings who want to contribute in sincere and meaningful ways. My father’s death in 2006 in a traffic accident showed me the impermanence of life, and gave me a moral urgency to “do what you can with what you have, where you are”.
Gratitude, Duty and Justice are crucial to my life. This is why I taught myself how to say “thank you” in 65 languages (so far), and why I have committed my life to Healthcare Justice.
I finished STPM in 2000, and was fortunate to be accepted into Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Medical School in 2001 after a very competitive entry process.
My Masters were obtained on a part-time basis:
- Specialist in Internal Medicine (Membership of the Royal Colleges of Physicians of the UK (MRCP UK), 2011).
- Master in Public Administration (National University of Singapore, 2012). I completed one semester of four, before a job transfer from Singapore to Dubai.
- Master in Public Health (UC Berkeley, 2016).
- Master of Public Policy (University of Oxford, 2020)
in 2018, I was accepted into the LSE-Chicago Double Executive Masters in Public Policy and Health Policy, but was unable to start the program because I was caring for my mother as she underwent chemo for lymphoma.
Part-time study is tough, and I’m fortunate (and proud) to balance life/work/study commitments and to self-fund my entire tertiary education without scholarships.
The MRCP was the toughest exam I’ve ever undergone, because studying after a 90-120 hour workweeks is unimaginable. I’m fortunate to meet so many inspiring Asian leaders while in NUS (the #1 university in Asia). Finally, I’m proud to be from Berkeley (the #1 public university in the world), and will continue its famous commitment to social justice.
Since 2003, I have performed progressively senior roles in the government, private, non-profit and academic sectors. By design and by luck, I have covered five distinct health sectors:
- Clinical Practice (in Taiping Hospital, 2006-10),
- Refugee & Disaster Relief (in Malaysia for refugees from Myanmar and Acheh [2003-9], in post-flood Cambodia , and in post-earthquake Nepal ),
- Clinical Research and Medical Affairs (in Singapore, 2011-2),
- Healthcare Anti-Corruption & Governance (in Dubai, Shanghai and Paris, 2013-9), and
- Health Systems and Policy (in Kuala Lumpur, since April 2019).
Along the way, I’ve had great managers/leaders, a great team, and great colleagues. I’ve worked with people from more than 90 countries across all the continents of the world, and learned to strip away my identities and to be a human being with them. In turn, they have taught me their cultures, languages, philosophies, and ways of life. I’ve realized that there is so much more that unites us than divides us; we are all children of all nations, in the words of Pramoedya Ananta Toer.
Even with all those international adventures, I am most proud of my four years of service in Taiping Hospital, where I could serve my hometown and the country I grew up in.
I believe that human beings are too sophisticated to be easily-labelled, and that we are capable of transcending our biology.
Once a year, I read Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. My favourite authors are Rumi, Murakami, and Orwell, and favourite movie is The Matrix.
Currently, I am reading for a Master in Public Policy in the University of Oxford. Concurrently, I am:
- Senior Fellow, Health Systems and Policy, Faculty of Medicine, Universiti of Malaya
- Senior Fellow, Health Cluster, Penang Institute
- Columnist, Vital Signs, The Star newspaper
I hope that this site will meaningfully contribute to Malaysia’s collective journey towards Health for All. Thank you for joining me, and I look forward to our shared journey.