AAHMS election: a note of thank-you

On October 10th, I was elected a fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences (AAHMS) (1). This honour is, to me, a recognition of the work that we have been doing at the Garvan Institute to benefit people affected by osteoporosis worldwide. I sincerely thank all of my national and international colleagues who have nominated and elected me to this prestigious Academy.

I have personally travelled a long way: from a refugee from Vietnam, a kitchen hand, to a world class research lab, and now the Academy. I consider myself honoured and privileged to stand along giants in medical research whom I have admired over the years.

On this occasion, I had a photo-op with Professor Ian Frazer AC FAHMS, the outgoing president of AAHMS. A legendary figure in medical science, Ian together with Jian Zhou invented a technology behind the HPV vaccine against cervical cancer.

This year, 40 fellows were elected to the Academy; among whom 19 were women. The gender balance has been significantly improved. Among those elected to the Academy, 8 fellows were from UNSW Sydney (2), including Professor Ian Jacob, Vice-Chancellor and President of UNSW Sydney. On this AAHMS Annual Scientific Conference, some new fellows were invited to share their amazing work with the audience. I listened to the Ian’s lecture on his development of predictive model for ovarian cancer, an area of research that is close to my heart. His work was fascinating, but the interpretation of findings was statistically a challenge. Ian is a wonderfully charming speaker who enthusiastically addressed all questions from the audience.

As a new fellow, I suppose to briefly voice something that is close to my heart. I wanted say a few words about the medical research ecosystem. Time won’t allow me to go into detail, but I just want to say this: the biggest problem we as a community are facing now is the lack of reproducibility in published research. This problem has been slowly recognized as a crisis in modern science, and this crisis costs more than $30 billion worldwide. It is now our responsibility to create a research ecosystem that expedites the improvement of reproducibility which is considered a cornerstone of science. By improving reproducibility we will regain the credibility from the public who actually underwrites most of our work. To that end, I would like to echo the words of the new Nobel laureate Dr. William Kaelin: “Publish houses of brick, not mansions of straw” (3).

On occasion like this, we tend to celebrate individuals who have made substantial contributions to medicine and science. However, we tend to — but we should not — forget that each of us is a product of the research ecosystem, meaning that our achievement is collective rather than individualistic. And by that, I thank my lab members, my students, my postdocs and my colleagues who have over the yesrs helped me do useful work that I hope to benefit the general community. Without their help, I could not reach this important milestone today. My heartfelt thankyou.”


(1) https://aahms.org/news/new-fellows-2019/

(2) https://newsroom.unsw.edu.au/news/health/unsw-researchers-elected-academy-health-and-medical-sciences

(3) https://www.nature.com/news/publish-houses-of-brick-not-mansions-of-straw-1.22029

I also had a chance to meet Professor Barry Marshall, a 2005 Nobel laureate. He gave a lecture on his journey from a registrar to the discovery of H. pylori as a cause of peptic ulcer. A wonderful and witty scientist.

From left to right: me; Professor Bruce Robinson FAHMS, a former Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Sydney University; Professor Bruce Robinson FAHMS who is an expert in respiratory medicine @ Univ of Western Australia. They both have the same name and the same professorial title!

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