The Department of Biomedical Imaging, formerly known as Department of Radiology, was set up under the supervision of Dr. Douglas Alton, a radiologist from Canada and it began operation at University Hospital in 1967. The Department was set-up with finance being provided under the Technical Assistance Programme of the Colombo Plan. The following were important landmarks in the establishment:

By late 1963, approval had been obtained from the Australian Government for equipment up to a value of £270,000 ($A540,000) to be purchased and supplied

June, 1964, Dr. P. N. O’Donnell, then Medical Superintendent of the Royal Melbourne Hospital, visited the University of Malaya and advised that either the operating theatres or the radiology department should be equipped.

August, 1964, a costing had been carried out on X-ray equipment. In September, 1964, authority was granted to proceed with the procurement of X-ray equipment.

April, 1965 detailed tenders closed for the purchase of equipment by the Department of Supply.

5th July, 1965, Philips Stanford Pty. Ltd. signed a contract for the supply and installation of most of the equipment. Within a few weeks Mr. Brian Lawless of Philips Stanford, and Mr. D. Grant of the Commonwealth X-ray and Radium Laboratories were in Kuala Lumpur and discussing details of the problems to be faced in carrying out the installations.

July, 1966, Mr. Lawless, of Philips Stanford, moved up to Kuala Lumpur. The first shipment of equipment, valued at $53,000, had left Australia in February, 1966, and he was, in theory, able to proceed with the installation, aided by engineers from the local agents for Philips, William Jacks & Co. In fact the building was incomplete; there was no power, water, air-conditionining or even lighting in the rooms initially, and no security. On several occasions completed sections of installation wiring were cut out and stolen, presumably for the copper wiring.

March, 1967, despite these difficulties some sections of the department were in use

March, 1968, Mr. Lawless had almost completed the task of installing and testing the 16 rooms of, in some cases, very complex equipment, in addition to fully training the local engineers in its maintenance.

Kodak Malaysia installed the three processing machines, one M4 and two M.5’s.

Administration throughout was conducted through the Australian High Commissioner’s office in Kuala Lumpur.

Description of the Department of Radiology

This department is still situated on the top floor of the podium which forms the base of the main ward block of the hospital, alongside the casualty department (which is now in a separate Trauma and Emergency building) and operating theatres, and on the floor above the out-patients’ department. There is direct access to the main ward block by elevators, and to the paediatric and obstetric wards by corridor.

At the time of setting up in 1967, the Department of Radiology was divided into three subsections:

1. Five radiographic rooms for general radiology, including casualties, and for mass miniature radiology.

2. Seven rooms for minor appointment procedures, including three fluoroscopy rooms, and rooms for pyelography and tomography.

3. Four rooms for specialized investigations, as follows:

1. Retrograde pyelograde.
2. Neuroradiology.

3. Angiography.

4. Cardiac investigation laboratory.

There were, in addition,

1. three dark-rooms, one for each section;

2. reporting and conference rooms and

3. other facilities of a high standard

The design of the building, even then, took into consideration the local conditions and to be energy efficient, a series of light wells were strategically placed.

Factors Affecting the Choice of Equipment

Most of the basic principles in the layout of the department and detailed function of each room of the department had been stipulated by Professor Danaraj, aided by the Radiologist of the Kuala Lumpur General Hospital, Dr. Haji Omar bin Din, the Professor of Surgery, Professor Yong Nen Khiong, and the Cardiologist and Assistant to the Dean, Dr. Wong Hee Ong.

The Australian Federal Treasury has laid down conditions in relation to overseas technical aid of this nature, including the proportion of locally manufactured to imported equipment which could be supplied. As a result in the 16 radiographic rooms 13 ceiling-suspended tube stands, 10 X-ray generators, two fluoroscopy units, and many Bucky tables and other units were of entirely Australian design and manufacture. All of the other more spectacular equipment such as the image intensifier television units and the film changers and three-phase generators were imported. There were also three Kodak processing machines, manufactured in U.S.A.

From 1967 to 1969, the department was headed by foreign specialists from Canada and Australia.

1. October 1966, Dr. Douglas Alton, of Toronto, was the first staff radiologist. He arrived in Kuala Lumpur and continued until March, 1968. Dr. Alton was most successful in organizing the initial steps in commissioning the department. However, he did not have, at that time, a senior radiographer

2. February, 1967 again, through Colombo Plan, assistance was sought from Australia, and Mr. Brian Lord, of Adelaide Children’s Hospital, was appointed, commencing in, and staying until August, 1968. Other radiographers were appointed, including several who trained in Australia. When Mr. Lord returned to Australia he was replaced by Mr. Alwin Kan, who trained at St. Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne.

3. Acting heads of department were appointed on a rotation basis with the following terms of reference included the following clauses:

1. “To advise on the establishment of a Radiological department in the Teaching Hospital.”

2. “To establish specialized radiological procedures in ‘ team effort’ with other medical specialists.”

3. “To train hospital staff in the proper use and care of Australian X-ray equipment donated by Australia under the Colombo Plan.”

4. September, 167-January, 1968 : Dr. Hal Luke.

5. February-May, 1968 : Dr. Jack Colclough.

6. June – September, 1968 : Dr. Ron Hoy.

7. October-December, 1968 : Dr. Hal Luke.

At the time of setting up, there was a critical shortage of radiologists and radiographers in the region, so there was no chance of recruiting trained staff in sufficient numbers to run this large department successfully. Professor Danaraj had initiated an academic staff training scheme, and under this the first radiologist to complete training in London, Dr. Mark Soo, returned to Malaya in October, 1967, followed by others at approximately yearly intervals. The first local Head of Department, Dr. Mark Soo Yoi Sun, was appointed in 1969. The Chair of Radiology was created in 1979 and Dr. Joginder Singh was appointed the first Professor of Radiology.

The Master in Radiology programme was started in 1992 while the Master in Medical Physics was established in soon after. There is also a Diploma in Imaging programme which is run with the University of Malaya Medical Centre. Since then the programmes have been contributing to the manpower devolvement for biomedical imaging for the nation. New programmes being planned include Degree in Imaging, Advanced Master in Radiology and Master of Image Processing

The department has evolved from the initial 16-room department to one that provides all the present day modalities, e.g. MRI, 16-slice computed tomography, etc. It is continuously being upgraded with modern day technology and it is committed to be one of the centres for research and academic advancement in this region. It was one of the first to acquire real-time ultrasound, spiral CT, 1.5T MRI as well as digital mammography. An image guided minimally invasive complex is being built to house the latest in image guided therapy including robotics. The University of Malaya medical centre is also in the process of acquiring a Cyclotron, PET/Ct as well as preclinical imaging equipment.

A Centre for Continuing Biomedical Imaging Education was established in 2005 following establishment of a JUREI in 1997. CBIE runs a variety of programmes that cover general practice, radiography, medical physics, diagnostic and interventional radiology.

There is also a University of Malaya Research Imaging Centre which was formally established in 2006. The mission of the University of Malaya Research Imaging Centre (UMRIC) is to improve health by promoting fundamental discoveries, design, development, translation and assessment of medical and technological capabilities in biomedical imaging. This will be enabled by research in relevant areas of medicine, biochemistry, medical physics, and biomedical engineering, imaging sciences, informatics and mathematics.

The primary mission of UMRIC is to perform fundamental and clinical biomedical research utilising both noninvasive and invasive imaging modalities. The increasing use of noninvasive biological measurements for imaging of function and disease are in a phase of rapid evolution. Therefore, the development and application of new technologies will be an integral component of the mission of the UMRIC. In view of the increasing necessity for dissemination of research methods and its use as a necessary condition for its continuing development and progress in future, the UMRIC will train a pool of basic and clinical scientists in imaging research methods and disciplines for this purpose. The UMRIC will be the focal point for cooperation between government, universities and imaging and
pharmaceutical industry and other international research imaging centres.