Published: Wednesday, July 20, 2022, 10:00 a.m. U.S. Eastern Time
Media Contact: Kara Flynn, 202.257.8424, firstname.lastname@example.org
ROCKVILLE, MD – The American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) has named Meow-Keong Thong, MD as the 2022 recipient of the Advocacy Award. Dr. Thong’s specialties are in Pediatrics and Clinical Genetics at the University of Malaya Medical Center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
This award, which includes a plaque with a $10,000 prize, honors individuals or groups who have exhibited excellence and achievement in applications of human genetics for the common good, in areas such as facilitating public awareness of genetics issues, promoting funding for biomedical research, and integrating genetics into health systems.
“It is an honor to present Meow-Keong Thong with ASHG’s 2022 Advocacy Award,” ASHG President Charles Rotimi, PhD said. “He has been an exemplary advocate in Malaysia on behalf of people with genetic diseases and has improved access to information and representation for individuals and families in that region.”
Dr. Thong’s research has helped parents, children, underserved Asian populations, and Malaysian society as a whole. With his expertise in rare disease, he has introduced and indeed worked tirelessly behind the scenes to bring genomic diagnostic tools and treatments for children. Many parents of children with rare diseases have been guided through their children’s treatment due to his creation of over 10 booklets, including the first non-fiction book on experiences of patients with genetic disorders in Malaysia. Working with the indigenous populations of Sabah (Borneo Island), he and his group produced groundbreaking work that led to the first report on the discovery of the molecular basis of beta thalassemia in these populations.
Due to his contributions, the first patients with Gaucher and Pompe disease as well as spinal muscular atrophy in Southeast Asia were treated with enzyme replacement therapy and gene therapy, respectively in University of Malaya Medical Center. He also published 100 peer-reviewed publications focusing on genetic disorders that have not been well-documented in Asian subpopulations and is co-author of eight books, among many other accomplishments.
He has also been instrumental in establishing genetic counseling in Malaysia, having started training the first genetic counselors in the country nearly 20 years ago. From these humble beginnings, the Genetic Counseling Society of Malaysia was born. He is the first board-certified clinical geneticist in Malaysia and had spent his sabbatical on a Fulbright scholarship at the CDC National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD). As a leader in this field, he has held many leadership roles, including co-founder of the Malaysian Rare Disorders Society and Rare Diseases Alliance Foundation Malaysia where he guided and empowered parents to speak with one voice on the rights of individuals with rare diseases. He was the organizer of two major conferences with the Malaysian Ministry of Health and elected President of Asia-Pacific Society of Human Genetics – where he advocated for networking with international organizations and universities.
“I have always been impressed by Dr. Thong’s enthusiasm in promoting the importance of genetically based healthcare in the Malaysian society at large. Dr. Thong has been a pioneer in Medical Genetics in Malaysia,” said Fernando Scaglia, MD FACMG, Professor, Department of Molecular and Human Genetics at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital.
ASHG will recognize this year’s award winners in the weeks prior to the Society’s annual meeting with a series of videos honoring their accomplishments. These videos will also be presented during the meeting, which will be held in Los Angeles on October 25-29.
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About the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG)
Founded in 1948, the American Society of Human Genetics is the primary professional membership organization for human genetics specialists worldwide. Its nearly 8,000 members include researchers, academicians, clinicians, laboratory practice professionals, genetic counselors, nurses, and others with an interest in human genetics. The Society serves scientists, health professionals, and the public by providing forums to: (1) share research results through the ASHG Annual Meeting and in The American Journal of Human Genetics and Human Genetics and Genomics Advances; (2) advance genetic research by advocating for research support; (3) educate current and future genetics professionals, health care providers, advocates, policymakers, educators, students, and the public about all aspects of human genetics; and (4) promote genetic services and support responsible social and scientific policies. For more information, visit: http://www.ashg.org.
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