Featuring the Malaysian clinical research personalities that we have interviewed for CRM bulletins. Read about their experiences in conducting clinical trials and how they have benefited from it.

Research Personality: Dato’ Dr Mahiran Mustafa

I started my career as a House Officer (HO) at Hospital Universiti Sains Malaysia (HUSM) after I graduated from the University Hospital of Wales, United Kingdom in 1987. Later, I joined a master program in Internal Medicine at HUSM and was subsequently qualified as a physician in the year 1993.

In 1993, I was posted at Hospital Raja Perempuan Zainab II (HRPZ II), Kota Bahru as a physician. Later in 2001-2003, I joined as a trainee in the field of Infectious Disease and was attached at Hospital Kuala Lumpur and Newcastle upon Tyne Hospital in the United Kingdom. During this training period, I did a lot of clinical audits and clinical studies and had successfully submitted for a poster publication in United Kingdom and Europe. In 2011, I did a short attachment at the Hospital of Infectious Control at Glasgow Hospital in Scotland.

Currently, I am actively involved as a coordinator for Technical Working Group for National Antimicrobial Action Plan. I am also the Chairperson for Clinical Practice Guidelines: Management of Dengue Infection in Adults where we train health providers on dengue management. Apart from that, I work as a State Physician in Kelantan as well as a coordinator for my Hospital Infection and Antibiotic Control. I carry out many more tasks at the national level as a committee member and continue to serve as a consultant for Infectious Disease.


Can you tell us when and how did you first got involved in clinical research?

I started to be interested in clinical research during my master’s degree training at HUSM. After I qualified as a physician, I started to be involved in pharma-drug trials from 1997 and continue to actively involve as a supervisor for postgraduate Internal Medical candidates in their research projects.

When I was the Head of Medical Department in HRPZ II from 2011 till 2017, I realised that having a strong research team was our asset to participate in international clinical research and be recognised as a centre of clinical trials. I took this opportunity to start training my junior specialists and paramedics by sending them to GCP courses conducted by CRC. As the Head of Department (HOD), I kept encouraging specialists to participate as investigator and our goal at that time was that each specialist to conduct or participate in two clinical trials.

As for my team, we have completed at least 10 trials and currently another 4 trials have been approved and are due to start in December 2018 and January 2019.

Based on the number of trials and appraisal by sponsors, we are very proud that our department is recognised as one of the leaders in clinical trials at hospital or ministry level.


How has clinical trials change your practice and management of patient care?

Often, I use the experiences I have gained in clinical trials to improve my own way of practicing medicine during my clinical work. I have become even more particular in documenting clinical history and signs, more particular in providing options on treatments to patients and more respecting of their choices.

Clinical research helps me to understand the need to do more research in clinical areas in order to have a better treatment options for both acute management and chronic diseases. The best drug today for disease treatment may not be the best treatment in 10 years time as there would potentially be a drug that is safer and has more efficacy than the current best.

No new clinical science discovery means the end of new drug development. Most clinical questions can be answered only from good and high-quality research either for drugs or intervention. So, most of the time you will look at current research in the journal publications in order to find answers. I do that most of the time.


What are the main challenges you encounter when conducting a clinical trial and how do you overcome them?

To have a good and experienced team to do research is one of the main challenges. I would not be able to do everything on my own. Most of us feel that our official clinical duty is already too much of a burden. I try to overcome this by getting them interested in clinical research; I invest on creating highly skilled co-investigators and research assistants by providing them quality training and opportunities. Currently, I have at least 10 of them on my team that are willing to participate in conducting clinical trials. We work closely together and have specific roles delegated when there are ongoing clinical trials. Clinical Research Center (CRC) and Clinical Research Malaysia (CRM) have provide amazing access to the training which should not be wasted and ignored.

It can be stressful to manage the limited time and the high work load we have. Hence, we need to organize our work and create time and space for it. Pre-screening the subjects helps the trials to run smoothly and enables us to achieve our target much easier. I also feel that the involvement in research provide an opportunity for me to do something I like and enjoy. I believe this can be considered as part of my productivity to Ministry of Health of Malaysia to be part of the research landscape. As I believe,productivity is about “knowing what you want to do, intending to do it, doing what you wanted to do and see the results”.


Read more contents from CRM Bulletin Issue 16. Download here!

What is your motivation behind conducting clinical trials?

The answer is PASSION and INTEREST. Often, I use research as a platform to provide an option to treat patients who are no longer on treatment or has access to new treatment.


What one word best describes your career as a clinical researcher / investigator? Why?

Satisfaction. Once a research has been completed, I felt like I have proven to myself that I have reached my goal that was set at the beginning of the research involvement. I want to set an example to junior doctors that as clinicians, we can still become a clinical researcher and play an important role to actively participate in clinical research.

In the field of clinical research, where do you wish to see Malaysia in the next 10 years?

As one of the main players that provides high quality research centres and investigators globally. CRC and CRM are 2 important bodies that will enhance and bring more research to our country.


What changes would you like to see being made by the policy makers to create a more conducive ecosystem for the conduct of clinical trials in Malaysia?

For clinicians who are interested to do research – especially for investigator-initiated research – a specific/protected time should also be allocated to them to carry out the research and do the write up for journal publications. This should be for both investigator and industry-sponsored clinical trials. Investigators with successful publication at international congress or high impact journal should be given some incentives in form educational grant.

Research Personality: Dr. Toh Teck Hock

Before I joined Sibu Hospital, I have worked in the United Kingdom, Singapore and Australia for a number of years as a paediatric trainee. Besides general paediatrics, I also work in the areas of developmental-behavioural paediatrics and community child health. I am an Adjunct Professor for SEGi University Medical School as well as the Special Olympics Asia Pacific Regional Clinical Advisor in Health Promotion®, Vice President for the National Early Childhood Intervention Council, Council Member for Sarawak State Council for Early Childhood Education and Development, National Assessor for the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative and Secretary of the Association for Children with Special Needs Sibu. Besides scientific papers, I have also published parent-teacher handbooks on ADHD, language development and breastfeeding, as well as children reading / colouring books, and books on Chinese literary prose/short stories. I received The Outstanding Young Malaysian Award in 2010, and Special Education Network in Asia Advocacy Award in 2018.

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Research Personality: Dr Sri Wahyu Taher

Dr Sri Wahyu Taher is currently the Consultant Family Medicine Specialist and Head of Clinic, Klinik Kesihatan (KK) Simpang Kuala Alor Setar, Kedah. She is also the Head of CRC Unit KK Simpang Kuala which is one of the research unit in primary care clinic in the state of Kedah.

Dr Sri Wahyu Taher attained her BSc Medical Science from St. Andrews University Scotland in 1988. She proceeded with MBChB from Glasgow University Scotland in 1991. She returned to Malaysia in 1993 to work in Hospital Alor Setar and obtained her Masters in Family Medicine UKM in the year 2000. She had 2 years of experience working in Scotland. She then continued with subspecialty training in Non-Communicable Disease Management Primary Care from Monash University Victoria Australia in 2006. The fellowship training was an eye opener and upon returning to Malaysia in 2007 she started to get involved with ISR in 2008.

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Research Personality: Dr. Wong Hin Seng

Dr Wong Hin Seng is a Senior Consultant in Nephrology, Head of Department of Nephrology and Head of the Clinical Research Centre (CRC) in Hospital Selayang. He obtained his Doctor of Medicine (MD) and Master in Medicine (Internal Medicine) from the National University of Malaysia and completed his postgraduate nephrology fellowship in Sheffield Kidney Institute, Sheffield, England in 1997.

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Research Personality: Prof. Dr. Goh Bak Leong

Prof. Dr. Goh is the Head and Senior Consultant Nephrologist in Serdang Hospital. He became a member of the Royal College of Physicians in United Kingdom MRCP(UK) in 1996. He obtained his further training as Renal Fellow at Monash Medical School, Melbourne, Australia. He was awarded the Fellowship of Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons in 2002 and Fellowship of Academy of Medicine of Malaysia in 2012.

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Research Personality: Dato’ Dr. Ong Loke Meng

Dato’ Dr. Ong Loke Meng graduated in 1987 from University Malaya and obtained his membership from the Royal College of Physicians United Kingdom in 1993 and Fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians Edinburgh in 2006. I am nephrologist since 1996 and the head of Clinical Research Centre of Penang Hospital since 2003. I have published 35 papers in peer-reviewed journals.


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Research Personality: Dr. Ong Tiong Kiam

Dr. Ong Tiong Kiam is currently a Senior Consultant Cardiologist and Head of Department of Cardiology at the Sarawak General Hospital Heart Centre, Malaysia. He earned his medical degree from the University of New South Wales, Australia and went on further to obtain several other professional qualifications. Besides his current responsibility as a Course Director for Siemens Clinical Training Workshop on Cardiac CT, he is Adjunct Lecturer at the Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences, UNIMAS, Visiting Consultant Cardiologist at Kuching Specialist Hospital and a Member of the Credentialing Committee for the National Specialist Register Subcommittee for Cardiology.

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Research Personality: Dr. Voon Pei Jye


Dr. Voon Pei Jye is currently a Medical Oncologist at Hospital Umum Sarawak. He earned his medical degree from Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) in 2001. In 2007, he was accorded the membership of the Royal College of Physician United Kingdom and a Master in Medicine (Internal Medicine) from the National University of Singapore. He then went on to obtain Advanced Specialist Training in Medical Oncology in Singapore in May 2012.

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Research Personality: Prof Dato’ Dr. Fuad Ismail

Professor Dato’ Dr. Fuad Ismail graduated from University Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) with a MD in the year 1990. He obtained dual Fellowships from the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland and Royal College of Radiologists London in 1996. Prof Fuad currently serves at UKM as a Clinical Associate Professor of Oncology.

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Research Personality: Prof Dr. Abdul Rashid

Professor Dr. Abdul Rashid is one of the pioneering Clinician Scientist in Malaysia. He was trained in both Internal Medicine and Clinical Pharmacology in the United Kingdom. He pioneered the establishment of the Clinical Trial Unit at USM Kota Bharu, the Advance Medical and Dental Institute at USM Penang and the Clinical Trial Center in Cyberjaya University College of Medical Sciences.

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