Local NGO leader awarded international Best Cancer CEO Award 2022

Dr Murallitharan was awarded for his leadership of NCSM through the crisis of the Covid-19 pandemic in Malaysia. — Filepic

National Cancer Society Malaysia (NCSM) managing director Dr Murallitharan Munisamy was one of three "Global Best Cancer CEO" award winners announced by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) at its General Assembly held virtually on Oct 11 (2022).

Held biennially, the UICC Global Best Cancer CEO is chosen from amongst heads of cancer control organisations worldwide – UICC is the largest global non-governmental cancer organisation with over 1,180 member organisations.

The theme for 2022 was leadership through crisis, focusing on achievements throughout 2020 to 2021.

Each leader had to demonstrate resilience and drive in managing the organisation through Covid-19; innovative thinking and creativity; collaborative spirit; and achieving concrete, positive impact.

In an unusual move, the judges decided to present the award to all three finalists.

The other two finalists and winners were Children’s Cancer Center of Lebanon general manager Hana Chaar Choueib and Te Aho o Te Kahu, Cancer Control Agency, New Zealand, chief executive officer Diana Sarfati.

According to the announcement on UICC's website, the judges had a challenging time picking a winner as they felt that each finalist provided a very different, but equally remarkable, example of a leader’s response to crisis situations.

"Diana Sarfati is the leader of a public agency who managed to unite all communities behind a common vision, even when Covid-19 appeared to derail her efforts.

"Murallitharan Munisamy is a civil society leader who safeguarded the frontline services of his organisation, while also playing a crucial role in his country’s Covid-19 response.

"Hana Chaar Choueib steered her organisation in Lebanon through several crises – not only Covid-19, but also political upheaval and ongoing economic challenges – to ensure the continuity of care and psychosocial support for children with cancer in her country."

Therefore, in order to highlight the diversity of leadership approaches that had seen the cancer community through the last two very challenging years, the judges decided to present all three finalists the 2022 CEO Award.

"An exceptional decision, in recognition of an exceptional period in time," according to the announcement.

Says Dr Murallitharan: “This is an incredible honour not only for me, but also to the society and our country.

“The recognition is a testament of the resilience and capabilities of Malaysia and Malaysians in overcoming global crises.

“We are proud to show the power of civil societies in mitigating a public health crisis and that we were able to serve our nation.”

NCSM president Datuk Dr Saunthari Somasundaram says: “We are extremely proud of Dr Murallitharan’s win.

"This prestigious award is a global recognition of his tireless work, not just for the organisation, but also for Malaysians.

“His dedication is demonstrated in every action and day – he has stood in flooded water in rural areas during vaccinations; answered questions from patients day and night; and united the organisation through our response against Covid-19.

“The impact is evident – we served 1,430,000 people in Malaysia through health education, advocacy, care, and support across 2020 and 2021.”

Among the successes Dr Murallitharan was recognised for are:

  • The NCSM Covid-19 Vaccination Support Programme, in which he pioneered the house-to-house vaccination programme for the bedridden, severely ill, and those unable to travel.

    To date, NCSM has provided over 150,000 doses of vaccines across nine states.

  • The NCSM telehealth solution across Malaysia, in which he adapted the organisation’s psychosocial support services for cancer patients and caregivers to a virtual format, and consolidated the services into a centralised telehealth system with the support of Yayasan Hasanah.
  • The NCSM-Etiqa Malaysian Breast Cancer Screening and Detection Ecosystem, in which Malaysian women under age 40 and in B40 communities receive free and comprehensive breast cancer screening services.
  • Closing the cancer care gap via a direct purchase scheme for targeted therapy for patients with prostate cancer, as well as increasing free access to diagnostic services for underprivileged patients.
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