Associate Professor Phaik Yeong Cheah
Head, Bioethics & Engagement, Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit (MORU)
Nuffield Department of Medicine (NDM)
Tell us a bit About your role
I lead a team that leads and facilitates ethics and public/community engagement work across the MORU Tropical Health Network, which has research in Southeast Asia, South Asia and Africa.
I have worked in various aspects of clinical research for many years e.g. as study coordinator, trial monitor, head of clinical trials. In every piece of research, there are inevitably ethical considerations that need to be taken into account, particularly when research is conducted with vulnerable populations such as migrants, children and pregnant women.
The ethics and engagement work helps ensure that our work is ethical, relevant and responsive to the communities we serve.
The Nuffield Department of Medicine and MSD are committed to creating a culture where public and community engagement is an important and essential part of research. My team not only leads and promotes engagement and ethical conduct, but we also conduct research and publish academic papers on ethics and engagement, which informs our own work and of other researchers.
What is the most meaningful aspect of your work?
The best part of my work is when researchers realise (the aha moment) that engagement with communities and the public is rewarding for them personally and for their academic work.
Can you tell us about something you’ve done, contributed to that you’re most proud of?
Public engagement activities in Southeast Asia are few and far between. Due to culture and historical reasons, having open forums where the public can contribute to research or challenge researchers and officials are unheard of in places we work in. Such activities can sometimes be viewed with suspicion. Since the establishment of the Bioethics & Engagement team in 2015, we have made good progress and obtained approvals for activities such as starting science café series in Laos and Cambodia, and developing a science-arts collaborations in Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia.
In 2019, we won the University of Oxford Vice Chancellors Choice Award for Public Engagement for a project I led, “Village Drama Against Malaria” where we partnered with a local drama team to engage rural communities about malaria and malaria research.
What changes would you most like to see in the Medical Sciences in the next 100 years?
Fully integrated multidisciplinary approach to global health research