Health, Science & Technology

Research title:

Lipidomics Profiling and Risk or Early-Onset Myocardial Infarction

Institutions: University of Cambridge

Dr Sophia Rasheeqa Ismail is the eldest of three siblings and also a proud mother of a beautiful 7-year old girl.

She is currently a PhD Candidate at the Department of Community Health, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. She is working on a PhD project titled ‘Evaluating cardiometabolic risks of first non-fatal acute myocardial infarction and predicting its prognosis for major adverse cardiac events. She looks specifically at the incidences of adverse events after the first heart attack and the development of a prediction model to predict the adverse outcomes.

She is employed by the Ministry of Healthy and holds a position as a medical officer and researcher at the Nutrition, Metabolic and Cardiovascular Research Centre, Institute for Medical Research.

In 2017, she received the Merdeka Award Grant for International Attachment for her research entitled, “Lipidomics Profiling and Risk or Early-Onset Myocardial Infarction” where she pursued the subject at University of Cambridge, UK.

“I believe that good healthcare is a privilege but access to healthcare is a basic human right. Thus, I am a regular volunteer at IMARET’s outreach clinic for Rohingya refugees for several years and I have also been involved with a health clinic in Cambodia with Hospital Beyond Boundaries. Besides Bahasa Melayu and English, I am also fluent in French, which I learnt during my secondary schooling years in France”, she said.

“I am blessed to still have both of my parents as my biggest and most important supporters of my life.

I joined the International Medical University, Malaysia as batch M205 for my medical degree following my A-Levels at HELP University College, Kuala Lumpur. Following medical school, I had spent my initial clinical years in Hospital Putrajaya and Klinik Kesihatan Johol, Negeri Sembilan. It was during my Klinik Kesihatan placement that I decided to pursue my MSc Public Health at London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, United Kingdom. After completing my Masters, I have been attached to the Institute for Medical Research.

Having had a few years of experience as a clinician, I wanted to grow more as a medical doctor. I wanted to do more for the patients, I wanted to do more for the people of Malaysia. So, in order to achieve that, I needed to gain more knowledge and experience. I then decided to venture into Public Health because of the impact that public health measures it has to the society. Its efforts and decisions affect individuals, communities and at times the entire nation’s health.

As Public Health is very broad, I then had chosen to focus on public health research. I believe that research is a way to contribute to knowledge and progress on diseases and disorders through exploring new possibilities and by asking new questions. The wise Albert Einstein has once said “To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks a real advance in science”. Scientific research has played and will always play an important role in the advancement of medicine. The medications, the tests and guidelines that we use today are a result of many decades of research. I enjoy the effort that one puts in conceptualizing the idea, designing the study and collecting the data to answer the research questions. It is the same concept as what a clinician would do when a patient presents himself with a clinical problem, but for public health research, it involves populations, a bigger group of people with shared characteristics to explore.

I had this incline towards research soon after graduating from IMU. I wasn’t deterred by the idea of housemanship being busy and difficult. So, I actually made time to come up with a topic in my first posting, collected data in my second posting and was able to present my findings at a NADI Conference in my third posting. The research was far from being perfect, but it really gave me a sense of accomplishment and it was a good learning experience.

The knowledge and experiences that I gained during my Masters, sparked my desire to do more in research in Malaysia. Of all the prevalent diseases in Malaysia, I have decided to focus my research on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD), especially cardiovascular diseases. NCD to me is just very intriguing. Despite various efforts, in health promotion, in treatment, cardiovascular diseases remain the number one cause of death in Malaysia for almost two decades. The multifactorial nature of the disease and the changes in the environment over the past decades are changing the presentation of cardiovascular diseases. Therefore, I would like to further explore the current pathophysiology of the disease, especially through pathways linking lipid such as through lipidomics.

I hope that by the end of my career, I would be able to contribute to the management of cardiovascular diseases that is specific to the Malaysian population. To have treatment guidelines based on how the disease occurs and interacts in the Malaysian context would be ideal.

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