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Dr Ka Keat Lim: Building connections and engaging with the scientific and research community

Dr Ka Keat Lim is a Research Fellow in Health Economics at the Department of Population Health Science. While he dedicates most of his time in research and teaching, he also co-leads the Early Career Research & Teaching Network (ECRTN) in the School of Life Course & Population Sciences (SLCPS) and is involved with in health economics professional societies. We recently spoke to Ka Keat about his career, experience, and the importance of building connections and engaging with the scientific and research community.

Could you tell us about your background and career up until this point? 

I studied pharmacy in undergraduate. While working in a hospital, I developed an interest in the big picture of the health and care services. So, I moved to work at a research centre as a project manager for a survey on primary care prescriptions and services. The work opened my eyes on the role of economics in resource allocation for health and social care services. It motivated me to pursue an MSc in Health Policy and Health Economics, and later a PhD in Health Services and Systems Research. I officially graduated from my PhD on January 2020 and just before the first COVID national lockdown on March 2020, I joined King’s as a Research Fellow in Health Economics.

Since joining King’s as a Research Fellow what has your work focused on? 

In the past 4 years at King’s I have worked on applied research and methodological research. Besides research, I also teach in the Master of Public Health (MPH) and the online MSc Public Health programmes, as well as supervise student dissertations.

For applied research, I support the economic evaluation (cost-effectiveness analysis) in two National Institute for Health & Care Research (NIHR)-funded clinical trials.I am currently also serving as a co-investigator in another two NIHR-funded projects. For methodological research, I have performed validation studies of patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs) for various health conditions and have also compared and made recommendations on how to select checklists to rate methodological quality and transferability of economic evaluations.

You may view the full list of my research work here. I am looking to expand my research and teaching portfolio so if my skills could add value to your upcoming project(s) or your prospective PhD student(s), please get in touch.

In addition to my roles at King's I co-chair the Early Career Research and Teaching Network (ECRTN) in the School and I am involved with various health economics professional societies.

What groups and professional societies are you involved with? 

As mentioned, I co-chair the ECRTN for the School; it is a network of early career research and teaching staff within the School of Life Course & Population Sciences (SLCPS).

Outside King’s , I have been a member of three health economics professional societies – the Professional Society for Health Economics & Outcomes Research (ISPOR), Society for Medical Decision Making (SMDM) and the International Health Economics Association (IHEA). I am particularly active in ISPOR – I started as a leader in its Student Chapter at National University of Singapore where I did my PhD, before transitioning to become a member of its New Professionals Committee upon graduation. I am currently the Chair-Elect of its Precision Medicine & Advanced Therapies (PMAT) Special Interest Group (SIG).

I also connect with fellow Malaysians in the UK through the Malaysian Association of Postgraduates & Professionals (MAPP), where I serve as the Secretary.

How did you get involved with the ECRTN within the School and what does this role involve?

When I first joined KCL, my line manager introduced to me Dr James Gooch, the Chair of the ECRTN back then. I started as a committee member. Later when Dr Emma Rezel-Potts and Dr Ellen Thompson took over as co-chairs, I volunteered as its Communication Lead. When both stepped down in September 2023, Dr Bethany Jakubowski (from the Department of Women’s & Children’s Health) and I stepped up as the new co-chairs.

The ECRTN is a network of early career research and teaching staff within SLCPS who provide peer support to each other. Currently, the ECRTN Committee comprises of 7 research staff, 3 lecturers and 1 clinical academic fellow. The Committee organises ECRTN activities and facilitates communication between early career research and teaching staff with the SLCPS leadership.

The committee members meet monthly to discuss issues affecting early career research and teaching staff and to brainstorm activities that would benefit us and our colleagues. Among the activities we organised last year were a grant writing experience sharing session (May 2023), a writing day (August 2023) and early Christmas social (November 2023). This year, we plan to organise similar activities, starting with a goal-setting workshop in March 2024.

We also have regular meetings with the School Manager on issues related to ECRTs which we discuss ahead in our committee meetings.

Through the ECRTN, I meet colleagues from other departments – Women & Children's Health, Nutritional Sciences and Twins Research & Genetic Epidemiology. In our meetings, we share with each other the challenges we face at work, share resources, and discuss possible solutions. The ECRTN also provides a channel for me to develop and to share ideas with the SLCPS managers and leaders, who have been very willing to listen.– Dr Ka Keat Lim

What is involved with being a part of professional health economics societies?

Through the health economics professional societies, I get to meet and work with fellow health economists around the world. For example, with ISPOR, I recorded a podcast on mentorship with a health economist in the US and co-hosted a peer review training session with editors of Value in Health and Value in Health Regional Issues (both health economics journals) for early career researchers. I also co-hosted two online journal clubs attended by health economists worldwide.

In addition, I also got to contribute to key projects in ISPOR special interest groups (SIGs), which usually lead the publications of position or methodological papers for the discipline. Last year, I was appointed to the Programme Committee for ISPOR Europe conference where I worked with other committee members to screen through and to shortlist programme proposals. The ISPOR Europe conference is one of the largest health economics conferences. Last year it was held in Copenhagen and was attended by over 5000 participants from around the world.

Though it was my second ISPOR Europe conference (attended the first one as a PhD student), it felt special because I got to contribute to the conference as a programme committee member. During the conference, besides presenting research posters of mine and my MPH students’ projects, I also served as a panellist on soft skills for new professionals, a poster judge, and a moderator for a podium session.

What are the benefits to being involved with professional societies?

The benefits with being involved with professional societies are often intangible, yet invaluable.

For me the main benefit comes from meeting people from various disciplines and various sectors. This has broadened my horizon, as I learn to see things from multiple perspectives.

It also keeps me up to date with the developments in the discipline, which increases my confidence at work.

I participate in these activities because they help me connect with people and make sense of things around me. They make me feel I am part of a bigger picture, and that I can contribute to it. Through my participations in these activities, I make many new friends from various disciplines and various sectors. – Dr Ka Keat Lim

Are there challenges to being involved with groups and societies alongside your work?

For me, there are two main challenges - time and membership fee.

Being on fixed-term contracts means most of my time is spent on project deliverables. I try to work on activities for ECRTN and professional societies during my idle time in work hours, but sometimes these would inevitably spill beyond work hours. This means less leisure time after work, so I try to minimise this by being strict with myself on the boundaries. Colleagues in the ECRTN and the professional societies have been understanding and supportive too. For example, in the ECRTN, I enjoy co-chairing and working with our committee members, as we get to pick on each other’s brains in making decisions or muscles in organising activities.

In terms of membership fees, all health economics professional societies provide discounted fees for recent graduates (usually defined as within 4-5 years after the last degree) which I benefited from immensely. However, the fees increase significantly (double or more) once we are no longer considered “recent graduates”. So, I wish there would be some support (e.g., subsidy) for membership fees going forward, as any active roles we have in professional societies do contribute to boosting the School and King’s international profile.

What advice would you give to a recent graduate on being involved with a professional group?

At early stage of our career, I think it is important and useful to join a professional group to meet people who share the same interest, with whom we can build something together. At this stage, we usually have less to lose but much more to gain.

My involvement has opened my eyes to learn what other people are doing, and the various career journeys they took to become who they are, which has been motivating. As research becomes more multidisciplinary and the world is shrinking with the advent of technology, I am sure some of the people I met through the ECRTN and the professional societies will become a colleague or a collaborator in the future.

Interested in joining the SLCPS Early Career Research & Teaching Network (ECRTN)?

If you would like to join our chats, or explore our resources, check out our SharePoint page and SLCPS ECRT Teams channel​.

The ECRTN is also looking for more representation from Departments of Women & Children’s Health, Nutritional Sciences and Twins Research & Genetic Epidemiology, as well as clinical academic fellows.

If you would like to play a larger role in ECRTN, there are current vacancies for a Treasurer or Communications Lead. If you (or any ECRTs you know) would like to network, contribute ideas that would benefit yourself and other ECRTs please reach out to the co-chairs Dr Bethany Jakubowski or Dr Ka Keat Lim

In this story

Ka Keat Lim

Ka Keat Lim

Research Fellow in Health Economics

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