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Awardee Focus: Professor Eng Ooi

June 5, 2024 News

Congratulations to Eng Ooi on his appointment as Professor at Flinders University. Whilst this Professorship itself is not funded by Passe & Williams Foundation, it is a perfect reason for highlighting the work Eng has committed to ENT over the years.

Eng is a specialist Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) Surgeon based in Adelaide, with private and public appointments. He sees general paediatric and adult patients, and deals with ENT disorders such as tonsillitis, sinusitis, snoring, voice, airway, head and neck cancers.

“I am feeling very grateful and fortunate to be where I am today, doing what I love. It was a pleasant surprise when I received the letter from Flinders University recognizing my academic and leadership achievements,” Eng says.

These achievements include:

  1. Leading the Flinders ENT research program group which collaborates with multiple specialties, and scientists.
  2. 106 journal publications, 2 book chapters, and over $2 million in grants as chief or associate investigator.
  3. Acting as an editorial board member for 4 scientific journals and invited peer reviewer for 9 journals.
  4. Head of the Department and Director of the Flinders Fellowship program.

Eng trained under Professor PJ Wormald (University of Adelaide), who was instrumental in Eng deciding to pursue a research PhD whilst undertaking training in ENT.

“PJ has a world renowned reputation as a surgeon and researcher. He was a big influence in motivating me,” says Eng, “It is important to have great mentors and support if you want to pursue a career in surgery. Fortunately, I have had many.”

Eng’s PhD was funded by the Passe & Williams Foundation through a Scholarship in OHNS (now known as the ASSRS). With this, he completed a rhinology-based project The effects of aspergillus fumigatus protein extracts on the expression of matrix metalloproteinase and IL-5 and -12 in nasal epithelium and its role in nasal polyposis.

Eng extended his gratitude to the support provided by his family, colleagues and the Passe & Williams foundation, emphasising the importance of mentorship when pursuing a surgical career.

“The Foundation’s funding was the key step in providing the support needed to do my PhD”, he remarks.

After training, Eng completed a fellowship in Toronto with Ian Witterick, former Chair of the Toronto ENT department, after which he returned to South Australia. He began work at Flinders Medical Centre and Flinders University, starting initially as a senior lecturer, progressing to Associate Professor, and now Professor at Flinders University. Eng looks forward to being able to “give something back” to the patients in the ENT community and undertake his own mentorships with other early career researchers.

“The importance of mentoring and motivating the next generation of ENT clinician-researchers is so important”, he proclaims.

Eng describes the South Australia ENT community as very supportive, and the research and clinical climate to “[punch] significantly ’above our weight’ with research and clinical excellence when you consider the size of our population”.

He outlines the key challenges for ENT clinical-researchers, particularly research funding, for early career researchers and finding resident medical officers and registrars who wish to be involved in research.

Eng states, “The criteria for selection into (surgical) training is less focused on research now, which could lead to less ENT clinician-researchers in the future.”

He also outlines the issues surrounding research in the public health system, explaining that the “overwhelming demand for beds, ramping, and long elective surgery waiting lists reduces opportunities for clinical research”.

Eng advises that, for any researchers or clinicians starting out, “Things will happen if you put in the hard work. Don’t take shortcuts and always aim to do the best you can do in life”.

Despite the challenges he raised in ENT, Eng is looking forward to his new role as Professor and extends his thanks to the Passe & Williams Foundation for their support in this achievement.

“The Passe and Williams Memorial Foundation funding for the Academic surgeon scientist research scholarship is one of the best initiatives for developing excellence in ENT surgery in this country,” says Eng.

We are proud to report Eng’s incredible achievement and wish him well in his upcoming career journey.

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