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Insightful and Eye-opening Mid-Year Seminar in honour of Prof Mak Joon Wah

24 Jul 2018

The Institute for Research, Development and Innovation (IRDI) of the International Medical University (IMU) in collaboration with the Malaysian Society of Parasitology and Tropical Medicine (MSPTM) had successfully organised a mid-year seminar with the theme “Relevance and Importance of Tropical Medicine” on 7 July 2018 at IMU’s Bukit Jalil campus. This seminar is an annual meeting of members of the MSPTM. For this particular year, the mid-year seminar was organised in honour of Prof Mak Joon Wah’s outstanding contributions and achievements in the field of Parasitology and Tropical Medicine as well as Public Health.

Prof Mak Joon Wah
Prof Mak Joon Wah was formerly the Director of the Institute for Medical Research (IMR) Kuala Lumpur and Director of the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Lymphatic Filariasis. Upon his retirement from the IMR, he joined Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) as a Professor of Pathology for three years prior to joining IMU as Professor of Medical Parasitology in 2001. His journey in IMU continued as Dean of the School of Postgraduate Studies from 2006 to 2013, and subsequently appointed as the Vice President (Research) in 2011 ensued by the Director of the Institute for Research, Development and Innovation (IRDI) in 2012. Prof Mak is also a Fellow of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia (ASM), a fellow of the Academy of Medicine Malaysia and the Past President of Malaysian Society of Parasitology and Tropical Medicine (MSPTM). Besides, he was also the recipient of Sandosham Gold Medal, and the prestigious Merdeka Award in 2011. Throughout his research career, Prof Mak’s main research interests are in tropical medicine, bioactive molecules, and infectious diseases. He is a globally recognised expert in filariasis and malaria, and has been appointed as a WHO consultant in 17 countries. Prof Mak has played influential role in the development of tropical medicine in the country through leadership position in various professional bodies. His significant progress in scientific research is evidenced by his over 345 scientific papers published in refereed journals. He was also the Foundation Editor of the journal Tropical Biomedicine which is the first biomedical ISI journal in Malaysia by the MSPTM. Prof Mak has contributed immensely to the progress of scientific research in Malaysia with one of the milestone achievements in influencing the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI) to include the private universities in the country for the allocation of research funds.

Tropical diseases are infectious diseases prevalent in tropical and subtropical regions due to the favourable weather conditions in the tropics. These include the hot climate present throughout the year and the larger volume of rain fall directly affecting the formation of breeding grounds, the larger number and variety of natural reservoirs and animal diseases that can be transmitted to humans (zoonosis), and the large number of possible disease carriers (vectors). Examples of some common tropical diseases include malaria, leishmaniasis, schistosomiasis, onchocerciasis, lymphatic filariasis, Chagas disease, African trypanosomiasis, and dengue. Insects such as mosquitoes and flies are the most common vectors in tropical diseases. Most often, the disease is transmitted by a “bite” from these insects carrying a parasite, bacterium, or virus which is infectious to humans or animals. To date, vaccines and cure are still not available for most of the tropical diseases.

This seminar was well-attended by 99 delegates comprising researchers and postgraduate students not only from IMU, but also from MSPTM as well as other universities. The seminar consisted of three plenary talks related to past, current, and future development in tropical medicine in Malaysia and in this region. Keynote speakers for this seminar were Prof Dr Pratap Singhasivanon, Dr Rabindra Abeyasinghe, and Prof Datuk Dr Lokman Hakim bin Sulaiman. The plenary talks were followed by a panel discussion moderated by Prof Victor Lim.

Speaker Background of Speaker Plenary Talk
Prof Dr Pratap Singhasivanon Prof Dr Pratap is the Dean of Faculty of Medicine in Mahidol University, Thailand. He is also the Secretary General and Coordinator of SEAMEO TROPMED Network and Work Package leader for the Southeast Asia component of the DENFREE project. He is experienced in cooperative international research and capacity building, including the TRANSEPI project that looked at the comparative epidemiology of P. falciparum and P. vivax transmission in Papua New Guinea, Thailand, and Brazil. Prof Dr Pratap gave an interesting talk on the impact of human resource development and tropical disease burden in the region, emphasising on the views on human resource needs for the future
Dr Rabindra Abeyasinghe Dr Rabindra is the coordinator of Malaria, other Vector-borne and Parasitic Diseases Unit, Regional Office of the WHO for the Western Pacific based in Manila, Philippines. Dr Rabindra highlighted the current state and future challenges of tropical medicine in the Western Pacific.
Prof Datuk Dr Lokman Hakim bin Sulaiman Prof Datuk Lokman is currently the Director of IRDI at IMU. He is also fellow of Academy of Medicine Malaysia, President of the College of Public Health Medicine of the Academy, Fellow of Academy of Medicine of Singapore, and Elected Fellow of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia. He deliberated on the past, current, and future status of tropical medicine in Malaysia.

In addition to these, there was also a poster presentation competition open for undergraduate and postgraduate students in this seminar. Altogether 22 abstracts were submitted to the committee of this seminar.

Prize Name of Winner Poster Title
First Prize Wong Yi Hao from IMU Effect of Mouse Passage on the Virulence of Axenically Cultivated Acanthamoeba castellanii: A Genome-wide Transcriptomic Analysis
Second Prize Amelia Yap Zheng Hua from Universiti Malaya (UM) The V1016G Point Mutation: The Key Mutation in the Voltage-Gated Sodium Channel (VSSC) Gene of Pyrethroid-Resistant Aedes aegypti in Indonesia
Third Prize Mohammad Ridhuan Mohd Ali from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) Novel Multiplex Real-Time PCR for Simultaneous Detection of Leptospira, Burkholderia pseudomallei, Salmonella and Plasmodium DNA

Indeed, the seminar was an insightful and eye-opening event. The audience was reminded on the global disease burden of the tropical diseases and integrated approaches and new initiatives are warranted nationwide to curb the diseases.

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