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Up Close & Personal with Dr. Annie Chai

Perseverance. Patience. Passion.

   Do you recall who you wanted to be in secondary school vs the person you are today? As teenagers, our ambitions were influenced by our teachers, family, friends and the media. Fast forward a decade later, most of us ended up doing the opposite of our original intention. Some people wanted to be a teacher when they were younger but grow up to be a pharmacist. Some may consider becoming a policeman but ended up being an accountant. For 32-year-old Dr. Annie Chai, she has had a vision since 14-years-old of becoming a scientist, all thanks to the love she had for science subject in school.

Annie with her classmates in secondary school.

“I have always been interested in all the science subjects like Biology, Chemistry and Physics. I was a very curious kid and I tend to ask a lot of questions to my teachers. I believe teachers appreciate this kind of student as it keeps the classes very engaging and lively.” said Annie.

   Even though Annie was sure of her career choice, there was a part of her that thought being a scientist is unrealistic.

   “It definitely seems possible for me to become a scientist but at the same time, it feels far-fetched as I always have the impression that scientists always come up with new inventions and I was not sure if I could come up with something new. After a while, I learn that the scientific fields are huge and I could study specialise subject that can make a good impact or contributions to the community.”

   Currently working as the Deputy Head of the Translational Cancer Biology Unit at Cancer Research Malaysia, Annie always has the sense of wanting to treat and find a cure for patients who have gotten ill. The challenge arises when the treatment acts differently for each patient despite them showing similar symptoms or disease. She finds this particularly intriguing and interesting.

 “Whatever discovery we made, it doesn’t necessarily benefit everyone. It’s not a one size fit all kind of concept. That’s okay because it only makes me want to work harder. As long as I have the curiosity and interest in finding an answer, I will continue with my journey to find a cure for cancer. Who knows, one day it might help my family, my friends, my loved ones.

   Research is not only tedious but also time-consuming. It requires a lot of sacrifices such as sleep and weekend but it’s necessary if you want to save lives. I continue to push myself because there are patients out there who are putting their hopes in us and in science to make a difference,” said the young scientist.

Dr. Annie on the far left.

    Her advice to the future generation who wants to get involved in research is purely simple, check on your objectives and driving force. It should always be about improving lives and making a difference in the community. Once you have this goal in your head and in your heart, translate it into your work with the utmost dedication. Remember, there are numerous medical advances and it’s all made possible because of research. Though it’s not easy to survive in the scientific world of research, always remind yourself of 3 things; perseverance, patience and passion.

Support Cancer Research Malaysia and help our scientists save more lives through impactful research in Asians. 

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