Dr Sharuna Verghis

Senior Lecturer

Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine & Health Sciences

Email: sharuna.verghis@monash.edu
Tel: +603 - 5514 4916
Office: Room 4-4-19




Profile Summary

Dr Sharuna Verghis joined the Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Monash University Malaysia, as a Senior Lecturer in 2017. She is a public health researcher, educator, and humanitarian. Her doctoral thesis on the access of urban refugee women to maternal health care was an inter-disciplinary study combining international human rights law with public health.

Her interest in public health was sparked while doing her MPhil thesis on the drugs and pharmaceutical industry. After an early career stint in teaching, she went on to work on the issue of migration and health at national and international levels.  She was the first Regional Coordinator of CARAM-Asia and set up the network’s regional secretariat in Kuala Lumpur in 2001. She has extensive work experience in relation to HIV and mobility in South and South East Asia, and the Middle East, and has provided technical support for the establishment of community-based organizations working on mobility and HIV in Vietnam and Cambodia.

She has served on national, regional, and international research and intervention projects and has a keen interest in engaging on these projects from a multidisciplinary perspective.


  • International migration, human trafficking, and forced labor and their health dimensions;
  • Access to health care, health systems & gender responsive health systems;
  • Community health - community-based health prevention, community mental health care, trauma informed care, community health workers and task shifting;
  • Translating evidence into practice: Design, implementation, and measurement of community-based interventions on sexual and reproductive health and mental health;
  • Monitoring the right to health; social determinants of health, and health equity;
  • Mixed methods research; research methods in public health with hard to reach and disadvantaged populations, participatory research approaches.


Doctor of Philosophy – PhD Public Health, Monash University Malaysia, 2013

M.Phil in Economics - University of Hyderabad, 1989

M.A in Economics - University of Hyderabad, 1986


Research & Education

Dr Verghis’ research interests include migration and health (including labour migration, forced migration, human trafficking and statelessness), health systems and health policy, access to healthcare, health education, sexual and reproductive health, community-based mental health, task shifting and community health workers, monitoring the right to health, mixed methods research, and participatory research methods.


Pereira X, Verghis S, Hoe C, Ahmed AB, Nagiah S, Fernandez L. Mental health of Rohingya refugees and asylum seekers: case studies from Malaysia. Intervention. 2019;17(2):181-6.

Verghis S and Balasundaram. Urban refugees: The hidden population. In Allotey P, Reidpath D, editors. The health of refugees. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2019. p.128-66

Ventevogel P, Pereira X, Verghis S, Silove D. Mental health of refugees. In: Allotey P, Reidpath D, editors. The health of refugees. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2019. p.106-27

Allotey P, Verghis S. Forced migration and health. In: Quah SR, Cockerham WC, editors. The International Encyclopedia of Public Health, 2nd edition. 3: Oxford: Academic Press; 2017. p. 174–82.

Ormond M, Chan CK, Verghis S. Healthcare entitlements for citizens and trans-border mobile peoples in Southeast Asia. In: McGregor A, Law L, Miller F, editors. Routledge Handbook of Southeast Asian Development, Abingdon: Routledge; 2017, p. 186 - 197.

Allotey P, Verghis S, Alvarez-Castillo F, Reidpath D. Vulnerability, equity and universal coverage - a concept note. BMC Public Health. 2012;12(Suppl 1):S2.

Verghis S. MDG 5: Missing out on migrant workers. ARROWs for Change. 2010;6(1):6-7.

Wolffers I, Verghis S, Marin M. Migration, human rights, and health. The Lancet. 2003;362(9400):2019-20.

Wolffers I, Fernandez I, Verghis S, Vink M. Sexual behaviour and vulnerability of migrant workers for HIV infection. Culture, Health & Sexuality. 2002;4(4):459-73.

Background paper on “Gender, social protection and universal health coverage”, for the global report, “Progress of the world’s women 2015-2016: Transforming economies, realizing rights”, published by UN Women, New York.

Recent Research Grants and Consultancies

  • Understanding the role of ‘adat’ or traditional customary practices of Orang Asal on past and present pandemic preparedness. Funded by the Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Monash University Malaysia (2020)
  • Three-year Monash University Strategic Initiative grant for the Migration and Mobilities Cluster (2020-2023)
  • CONVERGE Grant for: COVID-19 Working Groups for Public Health and Social Sciences Research: “COVID-19, Vulnerable Populations, and Wellbeing in Malaysia” (2020)
  • An audit of services addressing Gender-based Violence in Malaysia, including the One-Stop Crisis Centre services, Commissioned by UNFPA in collaboration with UNU-IIGH (2020).
  • A participatory action research on socio-emotional learning and development of resilience and academic achievement among refugee children in a community learning centre (2019-2021)
  • Private health insurance coverage for People Living with HIV (PLHIV) in Malaysia – A Review. Study commissioned by the Malaysian AIDS Foundation and funded by the International Labour Organization, Geneva (2019).
  • Four studies to prepare reports for the government of Malaysia (Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development (KPWKM)) for submission to the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and the Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC), 2016:
    • Regional Review of the Management and Treatment of Trafficked Women and Children – Striving for Consistent, Comprehensive and Complementary Treatment: Conducting a Review – MALAYSIA
    • Breast cancer prevention in Malaysia: Review of policy and program
    • Gender and educational attainment of women in Malaysia: Review of policy and program
    • Gender and employment of women in Malaysia

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Dr Verghis is the co-founder of Health Equity Initiatives (HEI), a not-for-profit, community-based organization of health professionals that run an integrated mental health program for refugees and asylum seekers. She set up the Health and Human Rights Internship for Medical Students in HEI, a program in which several medical students from Malaysia and overseas have participated.

REPRESENTATION – Present and Past

  • Convening member of the People’s Health Forum
  • Member of the World Health Organization’s Expert Group on Women, Migration and Health to inform the Director General’s report on the health consequences and contributions of women’s mobility, 2017.
  • Member of the Migrants, Refugees and Immigration Affairs Committee of the Bar Council of Malaysia, 2013-2020.
  • Advisor to the Regional Research Project on Rohingya and Statelessness convened by Mahidol University, Thailand, and the Equal Rights Trust, United Kingdom, (2014).
  • Advisor to the Steering Committee of the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN) 2014
  • Member of the Country Coordination Mechanism, Malaysia, of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Round 9. 2009-2010.
  • Member of the Advisory Committee of the IPPF/JTF funded Federation of Reproductive Health Associations Malaysia (FRHAM) project on increasing access to sexual and reproductive health services and rights for the refugee communities in the Klang Valley, 2009-2011
  • Organizing Committee member of the Regional Training on Monitoring the Right to Health organized by IFHHRO (International Federation of Health and Human Rights organizations), Malaysian Medical Association, Health Equity Initiatives, and CARAM Asia, 8 to 12 December 2007, Kuala Lumpur
  • South East Asia UN Regional Task Force on Mobility and HIV Reduction, 2000 to 2006
  • International Advisory Committee of the 7th International Conference on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (ICCAP), Kobe 1-5 July 2005
  • Informal Working Group on Mobility (comprising of IOM, UNHCR, UNDP, A&M, CARAM Asia, UNAIDS among other international organizations, academic institutions and NGOs) of the XVth International AIDS Congress, Bangkok, 11 to 16 July 2004
  • 6th International Conference on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (ICCAP), Melbourne, 5-10 October 2001, International Scientific Advisory Committee and Reviewer of Abstracts

Recent Events Organized/Co-organized:

  • Health Awareness Training for Officers in Immigration Detention Centres in Malaysia, 11-12 Sept 2019; JCSMHS in collaboration with UNHCR, TB Unit, Jabatan Kesihatan WP Kuala Lumpur, and Health Equity Initiatives
  • Training on Trauma and Recovery in 2018 and 2019 for front liners working with populations that have experienced psychological trauma. The trainings were organized in joint collaboration with UNHCR, the Victoria Foundation for Survivors of Torture, Australia, the Inter-Agency MHPSS Working Group Malaysia.
  • Roundtable on Migrant Health Care, 31 October 2019, organized by the Peoples Health Forum