Professor Phaik Yeong Cheah

Head of the Department of Bioethics and Engagement, MORU

Associate Professor Phaik Yeong Cheah is based in Bangkok at the Wellcome Trust Major Overseas Programme or MORU.  She was inspired to carry out research whilst studying for her undergraduate degree in pharmacy by a lecturer who enabled her to get a taste for research by carrying out projects and discovering how fun research can be.

“I grew up in Malaysia, at that time pharmacy was quite an unknown field. And there were a shortage of pharmacists in the country so it was truly to fulfil a gap in the country but then I found out that I was more interested in the research including research in pharmaceuticals.”

After her undergraduate degree, Phaik Yeong carried out a PhD in chronic prostatitis in Penang, Malaysia.  Afterwards, she went to work in a pharmaceutical company in the research department, running a trial on an obesity drug. Before moving to Bangkok, she worked in the Clinical Trials & Research Governance office in Oxford where her responsibilities included advising, reviewing and approving research protocols, providing research ethics and Good Clinical Practice training for researchers, and monitoring and auditing clinical trials on behalf of the University. She then became head of the Clinical Trials Support Group in Bangkok, helping researchers run clinical trials.

I think that the skills that I learnt during my PhD, as well as during my undergraduate and time in the pharmaceutical company are transferable and I thought that I would be most useful in a low income setting conducting, managing and facilitating trials in tropical medicine. In our unit now there are a lot of trials in malaria, melioidosis and other tropical diseases. I started a few years ago in managing and facilitating these types of studies. I was playing a supporting role to help in make research happen, which can be very challenging in resource poor settings.

“I have worked in teams that are really supportive. Looking at my career trajectory if I didn’t have supportive bosses and colleagues I wouldn’t have been able to do what I am doing now, which is a combination of for public engagement and conducting ethics research.”

“One of the best parts about this job is that it is flexible enough to enable me and my colleagues to work in different places in the world and see different things. Working abroad is never boring, especially in the area of bioethics where culture and context is key. Culture is interesting, you see new people, meet new people, new communities you can reach – it is really endless. “