Top of her class

Dr Victoria Tan Phooi Kei received the 2017 Bachelor of Medical Science (Honours) prize from Professor Wayne Hodgson, Deputy Dean (Education) and Professor Michelle Leech, Deputy Dean (MBBS), Monash University Australia. Dr Tan was recognised for her outstanding achievement of being the top student in the BMedSc (Hons), across all cohorts, both in Monash University Malaysia and Monash University Australia.

Dr Tan’s project, ‘Investigation of Molecular Mechanisms of Parkinson’s Disease’, was supervised by Prof Ishwar Parhar, Head of Neuroscience (BRIMS) and Dr Shogo Moriya.

Why Parkinson’s disease?

I am most interested in the field of neurology, and parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative condition which currently has no available cure. Through the research, I figured that by looking at the biological mechanisms of it, we could actually determine different targets which then can be used to develop different drugs. What we focused on deals with the condition from a more causative view rather than what is currently being done - stopping the progression of the disease itself. I felt that because of this, my research will contribute toward a more definitive cure rather than a symptomatic one.

What do you expect to happen with this study?

First and foremost, this research is an ongoing thing so my project won’t lead to a big breakthrough immediately but, I hope it will contribute towards a better understanding of how it works. In order to tackle and cure diseases, or even to create new drugs, you have to know what you are dealing with. My study focused on a particular aspect of Parkinson’s, which is inflammation in the brain.

Were there any challenges you faced?

I come from an MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) background, so I have been exposed to more clinical work and seeing patients. This is actually my first foray into laboratory medicine. This was also one of the reasons why I chose it. I have always wanted to do lab research so this was a very interesting opportunity for me where I could meld both lab work yet still have a clinical aspect to it. One of the main challenges I faced was the learning curve. It was very steep. Coming from a clinical background and going into lab work meant a lot of adjustments. I had to learn lab skills from scratch and perfect it within seven months in order to get any kind of data. So, there were a lot of weekends that I had to come in!

What’s next?

I’m currently waiting for my housemanship, which will take two years to complete. I hope to eventually specialise in neurosurgery. Hopefully, later in my career I get to go back into research because I really enjoyed it.

Congratulations Dr Tan!