If you’re lucky enough to find a job that you’re passionate about, it’s easy to see “work” as anything but. Still, love your job or not, it’s important to know when to call time on your career and take a break. I love writing and always will, but at some point, I’ll be ready to let someone else do it for a living while I write horrible poetry on a beach somewhere.
But I also know that when I retire, lives of people living with primary immunodeficiency diseases (PID) won’t hang in the balance.
Pediatric immunologist Professor Lokman Mohd Nor can’t say the same. The 70-year-old is one of only a small handful of immunologists in Malaysia, and one of only two pediatric immunologists working in a public hospital. That’s two doctors serving what Professor Lokman estimates is a huge undiagnosed population of patients living with primary immunodeficiency diseases (PID).
PI is Professor Lokman’s specialty. Based on his research, he believes there are as many 25,000 PI cases in Malaysia, but only 1 or 2% of those cases have been diagnosed. Part of that may have to do with the relative scarcity of public hospitals equipped to diagnose and treat PI patients; the cost of treatment is another factor.
Knowing the needs are so great, Professor Lokman has been reluctant to retire. That attitude seems typical of a career that has focused on improving the quality and access to care for PI patients.
Since returning to Malaysia from the U.S. in 1985, Professor Lokman has pushed to increase public subsidies for immunoglobulin replacement therapy (IRT) for patients of all ages. He has pushed to have a clinical immunologist in every regional hospital in Malaysia and has consulted with doctors across the country to discuss their PI cases. He’s also advocated to have pediatric immunology and infectious disease recognized as a medical sub-specialty by the Malaysian Health Ministry, which will facilitate the training of more pediatric immunologists.
That’s a pretty tall order but it sounds like progress is being made. We hope that Professor Lokman is able to enjoy a richly-deserved retirement sometime soon; until then we wish him nothing but success in his ongoing quest to help Malaysia’s most vulnerable PI patients.