Wong Jian Yao, Year 3 Student of Doctor of Medicine: Ordinary City Boy with Extraordinary Dreams

A young student who is just about to turn 23 this year, Wong Jian Yao, or more fondly known as Nick has already accomplished something that many of his peers can only dream of and envy – getting selected to participate in UCSI’s Star Trek Programme, which is a one-year intercalated research programme conducted at Harvard University, USA.

“A doctor does what he should; a concerned doctor does what he can,” said the Year 3 student of Doctor of Medicine (MD) – a study programme under UCSI’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.

Curiosity does not kill the cat, after all, as Nick’s constant inquisitiveness and drive eventually brought him to conduct a research in the Hormonal Mechanisms of Cardiometabolic Injury Laboratory (HMCI) at Brigham & Women’s Hospital (BWH), a Harvard teaching hospital. By looking into the association of genetics and environmental factors, the focus was placed on the underlying mechanisms of the notorious hypertension (or more widely known as high blood pressure), which is a major risk factor for heart disease.

Throughout the Star Trek Programme, Nick performed all sorts of laboratory work which included pipetting, running assays, cell cultures, and more under the guidance and mentorship of world-renowned endocrinologist Professor Dr Gordon Harold Williams, as well as Assistant Professor Dr Jose Ricardo Romero and Dr Sanjay Ranjit. Their research was eventually published in the journal known as JCI Insights of which Nick has illustrated in a much more simplified manner in his personal blog,

“This is a translational research,” said the proud alumnus of SMK Bandar Utama Damansara 2. He further explained that based on the research finding on the underlying mechanisms of high blood-pressure being sex-specific, the research suggests that men homozygote for the relevant risk alleles may derive more clinical benefit than women in therapy based on the inhibition of Angiotensin II blockade or Angiotensin II receptor or the inhibition of Angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE).

The experience of working together with peers and mentors has been a valuable one for Nick, who claimed how he was able to learn many new things and develop various skills needed for lab work such as performing immunoassays, animal handling, and cell culture.

“Working with them has been a totally different experience simply because they are all doctors who hold MD or PhD, or both! For the first time in my life, I got to work in a setting where all my colleagues are professionals,” he said.

On top of that, working and living in Boston – a historical city that boasts over 60 art and science museums, and was crowned as one of the healthiest cities in the USA – has been an experience that is both fruitful and unforgettable for Nick. In addition to his research work, his schedules were quickly filled up with weekly conferences, making new friends, cultural excursions, and even his regular runs (Nick cited his love for jogging and hiking as his favourite pastimes).

What are his hopes for the future? We wonder.

“I hope to contribute more to my beloved country, where I can continue to apply what I have learned. I also wish to introduce some positive aspects of the various cultures I was exposed to throughout my time spent in Boston, to my peers. Becoming a concerned physician with love and empathy would be my ultimate goal.

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