Heriot-Watt University Malaysia Appoints Professor Tan Sri Dr Jemilah Mahmood as Pro-Chancellor



Distinguished health professional, humanitarian and development leader, Professor Tan Sri Dr Jemilah Mahmood has been appointed as Pro-Chancellor of Heriot-Watt University Malaysia (HWUM), marking a further and significant step forward for the University’s connections with its communities and stakeholders both in Malaysia and across its global campuses in Scotland and Dubai.

Tan Sri Dr Jemilah has dedicated her career to healing others, working in the health sector for over 30 years as an Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, and as a humanitarian activist for over 20 years. She was the driving force behind the establishment of MERCY Malaysia in 1999, the most successful humanitarian organisation that works both at home and abroad. Currently, she is a Professor and Executive Director of the newly established Sunway Centre for Planetary Health, a field she is passionate about, and a Senior Fellow at the Adrienne-Arsht - Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center.

Her previous appointments include as the Special Advisor to the former Prime Minister of Malaysia on Public Health and from 2016-2020, she served as the Under Secretary General for Partnerships in the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Geneva. She has also worked at the United Nations in New York as Chief of the Secretariat of the World Humanitarian Summit, heading the humanitarian branch at the United National Population Fund. Other distinguished roles that she has undertaken include as a Senior Research Fellow at the King’s College London Humanitarian Futures Programme.

Heriot-Watt University’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Richard A. Williams, today welcomed Dr Jemilah to the University, saying: “We welcome Professor Tan Sri Dr Jemilah to Heriot-Watt University and our global One-Watt community at a very exciting time in our history. As we celebrate the 200th anniversary of our founding roots in Scotland, our mission to provide inclusive access to the knowledge and skills necessary in a growing economy has never been more important as we live with the effects of the global pandemic. 

The growth and purposeful impact of the University in Malaysia and across East Asia is a critical element as we look ahead to deliver inspiring learning opportunities that will provide the resilience and skills our students need to take their place in society and fulfil their potential. 

“I am very much looking forward to working with our Chancellor, Prof Sir Geoff Palmer, and our Pro Chancellors in both Malaysia and Dubai to promote and articulate the mission and values of our University, and our ambitions for the future.”

Heriot-Watt University Malaysia’s Chair, Board of Directors, Datuk Yasmin Mahmood, commented: “We are honoured to welcome Professor Tan Sri Dr Jemilah as our Pro-Chancellor.  Her passion, dedication, and proven leadership track record in humanitarian work, public health, sustainability, and youth empowerment- locally and internationally, will greatly advance the University’s mission of delivering world class, purpose-led education and research, while ensuring the communities we live and work with are our equal partners in transforming today's challenges into opportunities. I look forward to working with Professor Tan Sri Dr Jemilah towards continuing the University’s legacy of shaping tomorrow together.”

Heriot-Watt University Malaysia’s Provost and Chief Executive Officer, Professor Mushtak Al-Atabi, commented: “This is a wonderful appointment and one I know is welcomed across Heriot-Watt University. The Pro-Chancellor will take a key role in driving our ambition to develop our students into purpose-driven, future-ready graduates who will mobilise their purpose into positive impact on the world.

“Her deep understanding of the complexities of cross-cultural issues has made her a strong voice of social inclusion and peacebuilding. Being a prolific advocate on a wide range of issues, as well as one of the most respected global leaders in the health, humanitarian and development sectors, she will be a force for excellence in Malaysia, the region and globally.”

Tan Sri Dr Jemilah Mahmood commented: "This is a great honour, especially coming from a university with such a rich and significant heritage of widening participation and empowering women. Heriot-Watt University’s values are very aligned with my own, with its focus on education for all and delivering outstanding outcomes for its students, wider society, and the global economy."

Tan Sri Dr Jemilah took up her position on 1 September 2021, running until end of December 2023.