Sunday, June 07, 2015

NCCR 2015

"We are arriving in 5 minutes," read the text sent to me via Whatsapp.

I made bigger and faster strides to the ever cheerful crowd of committee members and whispered,"Get the CRC family ready at the lobby for photo taking. The Minister and Big Boss going to be here very soon".

Yang Berhormat Minister of Health Malaysia, Datuk Seri S. Subramaniam arrived at the Bayview Beach Hotel Penang with huge smile. Accompanied by National Director of Clinical Research Centre Dr Goh Pik Pin and CEO of Clinical Research Malaysia Dr Akhmal Yusof from airport, he was warmly welcomed by the Deputy Director General of Health Dr Shahnaz Murad, State Health Director Dato' Dr Hajah Zailan and by about seventy of us in purple Batiks at the lobby.

Warm greetings were exchanged among the VIPs, and a family photo of the members of the Clinical Research Centre (CRC) with the minister was quickly taken.

The Entire Family of Clinical Research Centre and YB Minister
The minister then made his way quickly to the event hall and was greeted with cheers by 520 curious delegates of the 9th National Conference of Clinical Research (NCCR). It was indeed such an honour to have the busy minister flew all the way from Kuala Lumpur on the earliest flight of the day, to open this conference.

In his speech, he reminded the members of the healthcare that despite overwhelming demand of service in our settings, clinical research should never fell out of our radar. He sent a strong word of encouragement to the local researchers to buck up and speed up. "There is still a huge gap in our understanding of diseases, particularly Dengue, which is very common in our country and hardly seen in the West. We are on our own to close this gap and we must not give up, even if we stumbled and we must try over and over again. It is our disease, affecting our own people and we can't run away kept hoping for discoveries from the Western countries".

Being a medical doctor himself, the Minister sat through the 45-minute-long CRC named lecture by a world renowned epidemiologist, Dr Elizabeth Barret Connor. She shared her inspiration journey in research in Gender and Aging for the past 30 years, particularly the story of how she courageously took on the challenge in her very first research project in epidemiology - an area she was unfamiliar with then; "Have courage and never say No, too early!"

Distinguished speaker Prof Elizabeth Connor
The two-and-a-half-day conference was attended by a total of 520 participants from all over the country. Speakers from both abroad and local institutions were carefully selected and invited. With the main theme of "Research that Matters to Society" and focusing on "Aging", a huge spectrum of talks from these 17 distinguished speakers were spelled out for the participants.

There were a few speakers were particularly impressive. Prof Dr Maria Rosario (Happy) G. Araneta, an epidemiologist in University of California USA shared her research quest to understand the link between Metabolic syndrome and ethnicity. On the lighter side, she also presented her new studies of the effects of Yoga and Zumba dancing in Metabolic Syndrome and that was clearly well received by a large section of our young audience.

Another notable invitational speaker is Prof Lo Eng Haw from Harvard Medical School. He was a local Penang boy who has made a name in stroke research. His impressive work on Stroke at the basic science and cellular level were published in many top notched scientific journal such as Nature and Science. His talk, "When Stroke Strikes the Aging Brain - Cell-cell Signaling surprisingly did not lose the audience which were mostly of clinical background. The feedback from the ground was that it was one of the best basic science talk that we ever had.

The conference was not all only about how advanced the world out there. We had a list of our country's top researchers sharing their works in the conference. Our Deputy Director General of Health, Dr Shahnaz Murad was well known for her work in Immunogenicity of Rheumatoid Arthritis. Her research on specific rheumatoid arthritis biomarkers among Asians paved ways for further works to understand the immunogenicity of our own patients' population.

In the field of academic research, we were very proud to have Prof Dato’ Dr Ruszymah Bt Hj Idrus and Prof Yuen Kah Hay to share their works. Prof Dr Ruszymah captured the audience with her impressive presentation on her research in skin tissue engineering. The product of her discovery "Myskin" was patented and successfully used in human patients. Prof Yuen on the other hand, was a key scientist in the research of tocotrienol, an isoform of Vitamin E found in palm oil. He found them to be effective in slowing down aging process of brain cells and received worldwide recognition for his work.
Prof Yuen from USM answering queries from the floor regarding his work in neuroprotection of Tocotrienol.
We accepted a total of 160 posters nationwide with on a variety of clinical research areas. Eminent clinical researchers were selected to make up the panel of judges. We had Prof John Chan Kok Meng, Prof Yeow Toh Peng and Prof Asrul Akmal in the panel and they came to a consensus that it was too difficult to shortlist just three submissions for oral presentations for Dr Wu Lien Teh's Young Investigator Award. Instead, they requested to add another category of award with 3 posters for Best Posters Award during the conference after went through all the posters.

A section of the 160 posters on displayed

It was an absolute pleasure to have worked with many interesting characters throughout the months of preparation for this conference. We were very glad to receive so many constructive feedbacks from both the participants and speakers. On behalf of the organising committee, I would like to thank everyone who have involved directly or indirectly, in making the 9th NCCR a successful meeting of clinical researchers. See you in 2016.

Committee Members of the 9th NCCR Penang, 2015
Ang Choon Seong
CRC Hospital Seberang Jaya 2015

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