Dr Chan Yoke Fun. Photo: YouTube

KUALA LUMPUR: Head of the Department of Medical Microbiology at the University of Malaya’s Faculty of Medicine, Dr Chan Yoke Fun was announced as the winner of the Asean-US Science Prize for Women 2020.

In a statement posted on Asean’s official website on Monday, Chan also received a $20,000 cash award, whereas honourable mention goes to Assistant Professor at Alice Lee Centre for Nursing Studies at the National University of Singapore (NUS), Dr Shefaly Shorey, who received a $5,000 cash award.

Dr Chan focused her research on developing a vaccine to combat a virus that causes hand, foot and mouth disease, and brain infection diseases in children. Furthermore, she has worked with local experts to raise awareness about the dangers and prevention of the virus in her community and beyond.

“This award is timely in demonstrating the active role of women in preventive healthcare. It is a recognition for work well done, and signifies the opportunity for my team to do more. It has also empowered all Asean women scientists.

“Passion, perseverance and positive thinking help us to achieve greater heights,” said Dr Chan.

Meanwhile, Dr Shorey, who focused her research on preventing depression in pregnancy and motherhood, has sought to influence policy-makers through her research to mandate support for maternal and child health in the region.

From her research findings, she developed a free educational app called ‘Home but Not Alone’ to support new parents to manage stress and deter post-natal depression.

“I am thankful for the opportunity to represent my country and profession and share my research on promoting women’s health at this International Platform.

“Thank you very much to the Asean-US Prize Committee and the organisers for their wonderful support for making this year’s competition possible despite the ongoing pandemic,” said Dr Shorey.

Both Chan and Shorey presented their research to a panel of judges through a head-to-head pitch competition held in a virtual judging session on Aug 13.

The panel consisted of the Asean Committee on Science, Technology, and Innovation (Costi) members, representatives from the Asean Secretariat, the US Agency for International Development (Usaid) and Underwriters Laboratories.

The two finalists had been selected from a pool of ten national finalists, who each represented the brightest women scientists working in the field of Preventive Healthcare, this year’s prize theme.

The Asean-US Science Prize for Women is organised by Asean through Costi, Usaid and Underwriters Laboratories to recognise promising, early- to mid-career female scientists for their academic and professional achievements.

The competition will continue in 2021 with the theme “Clear Air and Clean Water”. – Bernama