Ask the Experts Interview Series

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Chui Fung Chong

Dr Chui Fung CHONG is Senior Medical Leader in Clinical Development /Medical Affairs in pharmaceutical and medtech industries across different continents, striving to advance novel therapies to positively impact patients’ lives, with track records of leading clinical development programs on large and small molecules, as well as cell therapy in the fields of gastroenterology, autoimmune diseases and vaccines. She has been actively involved in Medical Governance and Compliance, Advisory for new Regulatory guidelines, patient engagement, new product launches and establishing external partnerships.

Ask the Experts Interview Series

with Chui Fung Chong

Tell us more about your current role with Roche. 

I am the Senior Principal Medical Director at the Immunology Early Development of Hoffmann-La Roche, Switzerland, hunting for new medicines that will transform the life of patients suffering from gastroenterology and autoimmune diseases.

Why did you stop practicing medicine? Do you miss it? 

I wanted to be part of the research on new medicines for diseases with high unmet medical needs that could reach greater number of patients anywhere in the world. At times, I do miss clinical practice and I know that I am still connected with patients at a different level through clinical trials.

What are some differences working in Malaysia, Singapore, France and Switzerland? 

Having the opportunity to work internationally has been the best thing that could have happened in my career. To me, the most striking difference is the sense of working hours, which is kind of blurry in Malaysia and Singapore, where working in the evenings and weekends are often labelled as accountable or hard-working, whereas a stronger focus on work-life balance can be felt in Switzerland and France, as long as the job is done. 

Switzerland and Singapore are the melting pots of global talents and businesses which is IMHO important as cradles of innovations.

What has been some career highlights?

  • Several global awards throughout career, including Performance Awards, Patient First Awards. 
  • Featured as 100 Women Leaders in Healthcare Singapore 2020.
  • 3 posters of distinctions, 1 lecture presentation in different conferences. 
  • My parents and me had been vaccinated with a quadrivalent influenza vaccine which I had supported the marketing authorisation medically, that was a truly special moment that I saw how my own work is making a positive impact on public health.

What drives you? 

Making positive impact on patients’ life and passion for science.

Can you share some challenges you’ve faced in your career? 

There are times when I faced lack of sponsorship for new ideas, it drove me to do 360 degree reassessments of the ideas – what values do these ideas bring to patients? How can I ask better questions? What purposes and/or causes that my targeted sponsors care about? etc. 

What is your view on failure?

Much of the failing moments are the opportunities to see the ‘whys’ and the ‘hows’ things don’t work out under certain circumstances. We all learn and grow through cycles of failures and successes, why not make the best out of the cards that are handed to us?

Who or what has shaped who you are?

My family have instilled core values of being kind as well as being the best version of myself, both professionally and personally. My mentors who have supported me in search of better medicines for patients in need through data-driven and patient-centric approaches, these principles have been my north star whenever I face headwinds in my day-to-day work. Last but not least, patients whom I had met in my clinical practice years, they are the reason why I strive to advance novel medicines.

Any advice that you can share with other medical doctors looking to transition into pharma?

Be very curious and passionate about science!

Depending on which disease areas and job functions, most researchers of entry level need to be able to summarise data from literatures on disease background, current standard of care, treatment guidelines. They do need to learn on the job about how to design a study, discuss with key opinion leaders/investigators on key study endpoints, data interpretation, draft posters/manuscripts for publications, conduct advisory board with clinical experts, team work with cross functional leaders etc.  

If resources allowed, they could consider pursuing a Diploma in Pharmaceutical Medicine, I did mine in Brussels and there are a few others from UK and somewhere else. It helps building a solid foundation needed as a physician in clinical research and drug development.

Disclaimer: All views expressed are her own.

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