Oceania University of Medicine is proud to announce that Satupaitea (Satu) Viali, BHB, MBChB (Auck), MPH (UNSW), FRACP, FCSANZ, FESC, FACC, OUM Professor of Medicine, Consultant Physician, and Cardiologist has been appointed Vice Chancellor. 

doctor speaking at podium with microphones

As the University embarked on its search for a new Dean for Samoa and the Asia Pacific in 2023, Professor Viali returned to the University as Interim Dean to lead the search, having played a pivotal role during OUM’s formative years, pre-accreditation, and prior to the new TTM Hospital opening in 2012. He was OUM’s first Dean and Professor of Medicine in 2002, leading the school when its first graduates earned their medical degrees in 2007.

Among his first accomplishments as Vice Chancellor, Professor Viali was honored to appoint fellow Samoan and OUM Class of 2011 graduate Dr. George Usufono Leao Tuitama as the University’s Dean for Samoa, American Samoa, and the Asia Pacific. He is a noted senior doctor in psychiatry and mental health researcher throughout the Asia Pacific.

An early leader and supporter

Professor Viali was at OUM during its founding in 2002. He was instrumental in developing the medical school’s initial basic science and clinical medicine curricula, in addition to supervising the first OSCE offerings (objective structured clinical examination), a student’s final medical school assessment before graduation.

During his interim post with OUM, he remained as Professor of Medicine at the National University of Samoa (NUS) School of Medicine. Professor Viali also has been/is a supervisor and mentor for Yale University MPH students, Fiji National University Master of Medicine (MMed) students, and he supervises Ph.D. students from Otago University in New Zealand and postdoctoral (Ph.D.) students from Yale University in the US.

In addition to his academic roles, Professor Viali is a busy clinician. He runs a Private Cardiology Clinic in Tuloto Togafuafua, Apia. He also runs the Cardiology Clinics to look after general heart diseases and the Rheumatic Heart Disease/Echo Clinic for Samoa’s National Hospital under the Ministry of Health.

Research expertise led to Yale/Brown/Pittsburgh university collaborations

An international authority on the research and patient care surrounding metabolic syndrome and non-communicable diseases, primarily diabetes and hypertension, as well as rheumatic fever, rheumatic heart disease, and other additional topics, Professor Viali is widely published in numerous peer-reviewed journals. 

He has always been very involved in non-communicable disease research in Samoa, known to be a population with some of the highest rates of obesity and diabetes in the world. His current research involvement centers on rheumatic heart disease and screening, diabetes, other non-communicable diseases, and salt reduction/hypertension. He also researches the clinical management of rheumatic fever/rheumatic heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and ischemic heart disease. His Master of Public Health thesis from the University of South Wales was on non-communicable diseases and the prevalence of their associated risk factors in Samoa. 

Professor Viali’s strong research ties to non-communicable diseases led to the establishment of The Yale University/Samoa Ministry of Health Collaborative Research Center which provides training opportunities in perinatal epidemiology and non-communicable diseases. The training opportunities are directed by Professor Viali and long-time colleague Nicola Hawley, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Epidemiology at Yale’s School of Public Health, together with other experts from Samoa’s Ministry of Health and the National University of Samoa faculty. 

The original collaboration involved a study of the genetic origins of adult non-communicable diseases which has since extended across the lifespan, studying non-communicable and infectious diseases in adulthood, adolescence, and childhood, while also exploring how obesity, diabetes, and hypertension impact maternal pregnancy health and offspring health outcomes. The site is currently supported by three major grants from the National Institutes of Health (US) that focus on the genetics of energy balance, cognitive resilience among older Samoans, and the ethical engagement of Pacific Islanders in genetic research.

Strong international credentials

Dr. Viali earned both his Bachelor of Human Biology (BHB) and his Medical Degree (MBChB) at the Auckland Medical School, University of Auckland, New Zealand. In addition to earning his MPH (Master of Public Health) from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, he will complete his Ph.D. in Cardiology from Maastricht University in The Netherlands during the next year. He is a Member of the World Heart Federation (WHF) Expert Group in Rheumatic Heart Diseases who has written international published guidelines on Rheumatic Heart Disease diagnosis, definition, and screening on Echocardiograms. 

He is a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (FRACP), a Fellow of the Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand (FCSANZ), a Fellow of the European Society of Cardiology (FESC), a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology (FACC), and was the first President of the Internal Medicine Society of the Pacific Islands (IMSOP). He is also a Member of the American Heart Association, a Member of the Internal Medicine Society of Australia and New Zealand (IMSANZ), and a Member of the New Zealand Society of Gastroenterology (NZSG). 

In 2022, Professor Viali became a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology, considered the gold standard for cardiovascular professionals in the United States. “In New Zealand and Australia, without a Fellow qualification, you cannot be called a specialist, and this is the level that we are aiming for in Samoa, so that we compete with New Zealand and Australia on an equal footing,” he said in Talanei.com in 2022.

The first Samoan physician to attain this qualification, Professor Viali is proud to bring these high standards of cardiovascular care to the people of Samoa.

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