The development and exchange of knowledge in healthcare is crucial to stem the increasing rate of mortality caused by non-communicable chronic diseases.
"Chronic diseases which include cardiovascular diseases account for 60 per cent of all deaths globally, said Raja Dr Nazrin Shah at the launch of the Malaysian Association of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery's (MATCVS) 14th Scientific Meeting.
He added that urbanisation in Malaysia was driving people to a sedentary lifestyle which now caused an increase in the number of people suffering from cardiovascular diseases.
"Stress, lack of exercise, unhealthy food and bad habits like smoking - all of which are part and parcel of urban living - also contribute to the increase of such cases," he said.
Raja Nazrin pointed out that the rise in cardiovascular diseases was now common in developed nations where antibiotics has reduced the number of deaths related to infectious diseases, so chronic diseases pose a bigger threat.
These trends indicate that there will be no shortage of demand for healthcare needs generally, and surgical needs specifically, he added.
"The problems faced by surgeons must be addressed. The association's current meeting can tackle the problems by bringing ideas and expertise together," he said.
Among the problems surgeons face today are the increasingly difficult decisions they have to make with the emergence of new technologies and scientific discoveries, said Raja Nazrin.
"With so many ways to treat a patient, surgeons experience doubt as to the best and correct action to take, in addition to a greater number of ethical dilemmas," he explained.
Economic factors are also increasingly influencing the patterns of clinical work these days, said Raja Nazrin.
"With consumer demand outweighing supply, healthcare has become commoditised. There is nothing wrong with it being a business as long as we are mindful of the pitfalls of greed," he said.
The two-day event was themed "Back to Basics and Beyond". It was a platform for experts in the field to discuss critical issues related to the field, said MATCVS president Datuk Dr Zainuddin Md Wazir.
"The association wants to monitor the quality of surgeons in the country to ensure they are well-trained and capable," he said.
The annual scientific meet is one of the many ways to improve the quality of surgeons in the country, he explained.
"The most important outcomes of the annual meets are the adoption of new technology, ideas and approaches toward surgery," said Dr Zainuddin.
He added that the association hoped to start its own six-year postgraduate course on cardiothoracic surgery by next year.
The course, he said, will provide an in-depth training that can be done two years after one has completed a medical degree.
"After two years of work, those interested can take up the course and focus on their specialisation in cardiothoracic surgery immediately," Dr Zainuddin added.
He also stressed the importance of prevention and early detection in reducing deaths associated with cardiovascular diseases.
"Prevention is definitely better than cure in the case of cardiovascular diseases.
"Avoid unhealthy food, exercise and drop those bad habits. Males above the age of 40 and females above 45 should come in for regular check-ups," he said.
He added that with preventative steps and early detection, there are lots of measures that can be taken to cure heart disease.
"Surgery is always a last resort, so if you come for a check up and get diagnosed with a heart condition, there are many other ways to tackle it.
"If you are still young and practise a healthy lifestyle, medication alone may be enough. The risks will also be much lower when you go under the knife," he said.
The meeting's organising chairman Dr Raja Amin Raja Mokhtar said that the advances in thoracic and cardiovascular surgery over the years is clear.
"During its early days, open heart surgery had a 50 to 60 per cent mortality rate, now it is just under 1 per cent," he said.
The annual meeting gathers professionals related to thoracic and cardiovascular surgery from both the private and public sectors.