KUALA LUMPUR: A Malaysian researcher has become the first scientist from a developing country to receive the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Award.
“I was speechless. I never expected to be selected because previous recipients were all very established scientists,” said Prof Dr Ng Kwan Hoong (pic) of the prestigious award that was named after Marie Curie, the only person to win a Nobel Prize in two different sciences (physics in 1903 and chemistry in 1911.)
The award honours scientists who have contributed to the education and training of medical physicists, students and health personnel, and the advancement of the profession.
It is given out by the UK-based International Organisation for Medical Physics (IOMP), which represents 25,000 medical physicists worldwide.
Prof Ng, who is from Universiti Malaya’s Faculty of Medicine, said in an interview: “It is such a humbling experience for me to be mentioned in the same breath as those I look up to.”
For this grandfather-of-two, his core research is in breast cancer screening.
He is determined to improve early detection and is working with fellow researchers in Singapore to use artificial intelligence in computer-aided diagnosis.
Prof Ng will be presented with the award during the World Congress on Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering in Prague in June.
Past recipients include Prof John Cameron, who invented the bone mineral densitometer for detection of osteoporosis, and Prof Charles Mistretta, who developed the digital subtraction angiography used in interventional radiology to clearly visualise blood vessels.
Prof Ng, who was named IOMP’s top 50 medical physicists in 2013, said the recognition was “extra special” because it showed that scientists from developing nations could also contribute to humanity.
“This international recognition means a lot to me because the field of medical physics is still very new here.”
The Academy of Sciences Malaysia Fellow was one of the first non-physicians to be admitted into the Academy of Medicine Malaysia.
Among his proudest achievements was setting up the UM medical physics master programme two decades ago.
It is the only post-graduate medical physics academic programme outside the United Kingdom and Ireland that’s accredited by the UK Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine.
In 2014, he set up the Asean College of Medical Physics.
“I’m in my 60s now.
“When I started teaching, I was among the pioneers of radiation medicine,” said Prof Ng, who was among the International Atomic Energy Agency consultants who worked on the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster report.
He is also the founding president and president emeritus of the South-East Asian Federation of Organisations of Medical Physicists, and co-founder and past-president of the Asia-Oceania Federation of Organisations of Medical Physicists.