MSN Lifetime Achievement Award 2015

Dato Dr. Loh Thiam Ghee was granted the first MSN Lifetime Achievement Award 2015

The MSN Lifetime Achievement Award is the most honor award of the Malaysian Society of Neurosciences (MSN), a society formed by professionals and allied health professionals in the field of neurology. This is the first time the award is given based on the contributions of a member to the neurology services in Malaysia, as well as to the society. Dato Dr. Loh Thiam Ghee was granted the first MSN Lifetime Achievement Award in Weil Hotel, Ipoh on the 7th June 2015.

Contributions of Dr. Loh Thiam Ghee

Dr. Loh Thiam Ghee, MBBS (Mal), FRCP (Glasgow), FRCP (Edinburg), FRCP (London), was born and had his early education in Taiping, Perak. He did his medical training in University of Malaya, Singapore. After completing the MRCP in internal medicine in UK, he underwent further training in Neurology and Neurophysiology in Oslo, Norway.

Contribution to the neurology services in Malaysia

Dr. Loh was one of the first few foundation lecturers in the Medicine Department, University of Malaya. Together with Assoc. Professor K Somasundrum, Dr. Vignandra, and later Dr. Yee Woon Chee, he also helped to lay the foundation of the Neurology Laboratory and Neurology services in University Hospital, now known as University Malaya Medical Centre. Other than as Professor of Medicine, he also served in various capacities as Deputy Dean, Faculty of Medicine and Head of Department of Medicine. For his contributions to the University, he was honored with Datukship by the Sultan of Perak. With his supervision, he has also trained a few neurologists, including Prof. Datuk Dr. Tan Chong Tin, Dr. Lee Moon Keen and the late Dr. Ho Chin Ching, who became the few leading neurologists serving the country subsequently. After leaving the service in UMMC in the early nineties, he continued to serve the community by practicing as Consultant Neurologist first in the Tung Shin Hospital, then in Sime Darby Medical Centre.

Dr. Loh is an excellent clinician and teacher. His model as dedicated clinician and teacher has helped to mold the professional culture of Neurology practice in this country.

Contribution to the MSN

Dr. Loh Thiam Ghee was the early leaders of MSN. The idea to form a Malaysian Society of Neurosciences came about during the 2nd ASEAN Neurosurgical Meeting held at the Hilton Hotel, Kuala Lumpur from 29th June to 2nd July 1986. A meeting was called to discuss the constitution on 25th October 1986 at the University Hospital. A Protem Council was formed and Dr. Loh Thiam Ghee was elected as the President, with Dr A Mohandas as Vice-President, Dr. Fadzli Cheah as Secretary and Dr Nik Aziz as Treasurer. Assoc. Professor CT Tan, Dr. T Selvapragasam and Dr. Mohd Rani Jusoh were the members of the Council. The Malaysian Society of Neurosciences was fully registered with the Registrar of Society on 3rd March 1989. Dr. Loh held the position of President till 1993 before passing the baton to Dr. Richard Veerapen. Dr. Loh has thus helped to lay the foundation of the MSN, which has become the main body to network and represent the Neuroscience fraternity in this country.

Speech by Dr. Loh in receiving the award

I thank the Malaysian Society of Neurosciences (MSN) for offering me this award. When I was first informed about it in April I was surprised and asked myself ‘Why Me’? Such an offer should have a good reason. Later when I met Prof KS Lim, I suggested could it be because I am one of the oldest practising neurologists in the country! A neurologist is like a soldier fighting against the enemy. It has been said old soldiers never die but only fade away to fight again. Neurology is mind challenging and it is an addiction too. I am like the old soldier who continually wishes to fight another day.

I thought of the older general clinicians who practised Neurology in the crowded wards of public hospitals without modern ubiquitous laboratory investigations and high powered imaging techniques. They relied on clinical skills and honoured their acumen by their long and frequent follow-ups and dedication to patients. They practiced in a spectrum of neurodiseases mainly of infections from bacteria like TB and syphilis, strokes and nutritional deficiency. A constant reminder in those days is syphilis, the great imitator.

Some doctors like Prof. Dr. TJ Danaraj, Prof ES Monteiro, Prof Gordon Ransome and Dr. Gwee Ah Leng were well known practitioners and teachers of Neurology to name a few. Their clinical skills and dedication to Neurology were handed down to their pupils. They in turn, with their more advanced training and better exposure to more cutting edge medical investigatory laboratory and imaging techniques, enabled some of the conditions like multiple sclerosis and myasthenia autoimmune disorders affecting the nervous system to be diagnosed. These were believed not to be seen or uncommon in the country but are now firmly confirmed to occur locally. Correct diagnosis improved their management.  It resulted in more research and publications. More neurologists were trained, leading to subspecialization. The need for other related neurological disciplines and personnel also expanded to fulfill the needs of an expanding specialty. We need to recognise the contribution of these old clinicians to the start of Neurology. I consider myself as a bridge to the past and the present.

As for the future, I foresee MSN having an important role in highlighting the looming problem of an ageing population in the country – from an increase in dementia disorders to the financial costs of their health and social care. Neurologists must place greater emphasis on prevention, such as lifestyle changes e.g. diet, exercise, weight loss, and to stop smoking and reduce alcohol intake.  Better detection of hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and their control will help to reduce the complications of strokes.

Once again, thank you very much to the MSN, its president and members of the awarding committee for this award. I also accept it on behalf of those who have gone before us. They contributed enormously to the start of Neurology in this country.

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Dato Dr. Loh Thiam Ghee (6th from the right) with his family and the current and ex-executive committee members of MSN, taken on 7 June 2015 at Weil Hotel, Ipoh

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