Com­pet­ing against the best

> Stu­dent sur­prises Malaysia’s lead­ing med­i­cal ex­perts

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SUNBIZ -

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.

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