Competing against the best
> Student surprises Malaysia’s leading medical experts
PRESENTING your research to a group of subject matter experts in a competition is the kind of recognition most professionals aspire to do. This may seem like a daunting task for a student but not Gerald Tan, Newcastle University Medicine Malaysia's (NUMed) fourth year medical student, who did just that during his summer holiday.
Judges were surprised at the National Clinical Research Poster Competition finals. Out of hundreds of entries from fully qualified doctors and specialists, they had narrowed down to just five finalists. It was not until the five came to present their entries did the judges realise that among the experts, they had shortlisted a medical student.
Malaysia’s Director General of Health, Datuk Noor Hisham Abdullah, officiated the National Cancer Institute Research Meeting. It was in this meeting that Tan found himself presenting his work, Do routine serum blood tests predict clinical outcomes in osteosarcoma patients?, to the judges and crowd; a competition the judges described as of high quality and extremely close.
Tan had already exceeded expectations by being the only student to reach the finals. However, that was not the limit of his success. A monumental feat was during the official prize giving ceremony when he was called out as the first runner-up.
“It was a surreal experience to be presenting my work to a crowd of experts. I have to admit I was slightly nervous when I realised I was competing against people who had spent years in medical research! My training at NUMed enabled me to present my research well, but being named first runner-up was beyond my wildest dreams!” Tan said.
The inspiration for Tan’s poster first occurred while he was undertaking a research project in UK in 2015. He had been selected from a number of students at NUMed to spend the summer at Newcastle University, the parent university in UK. He settled in quickly as he discovered the only thing separating the two campuses was geographical distance.
Since its establishment in 2009, NUMed has offered its students the opportunity to undertake a summer research project in UK. The similarities of Newcastle UK and NUMed, from the design of the campus to the style of teaching, help the students adapt quickly to life in UK, allowing them to maximise their experience.
Utilising the research facilities at Newcastle UK, Tan embarked on his eight-week research project. Sharing his time between the Institute of Cellular Medicine at Newcastle UK and the North of England Bone & Soft Tissue Tumour Service at Freeman Hospital, he was under the supervision of orthopaedic cancer surgeon, Craig Gerrand.
Freeman Hospital is one of the only five centres commissioned in England for the treatment of bone cancer, affording Tan the opportunity to collect significant and unique data.
“I dedicate this achievement to my supervisor, Gerrand whom without his guidance, this would not have been possible. I’d also like to thank NUMed for giving me the chance, in the UK and Malaysia, to develop my research experience and skills. I am truly grateful to the university,” Tan said.
Dean of Research at NUMed, Dr Michaela Goodson said, “We are immensely proud of Tan’s work. For a NUMed student’s research to be successfully competing against the work of people who have spent their life in the medical field is a special moment for the university. It is successes like these that have a knock-on effect and make more students want to be involved in research. As a result we are planning to increase the research opportunities we offer here and overseas.”
Ranked among the top in the world for medical research, Newcastle is developing its capabilities at NUMed further.
A dedicated research laboratory is being opened on the campus which will allow students and faculty to undertake laboratory-based research projects, paving the way for more success stories like Tan.
Newcastle’s international branch campus in Johor provides its undergraduate degrees in Medicine (MBBS) and Biomedical Sciences (BSc). Both programmes offer opportunities for periods of study in the UK.