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Dr Anselm Mak

Country: National University of Singapore, Singapore

Dr Mak graduated in Medicine & Surgery (MBBS) from the Faculty of Medicine, University of Hong Kong in 1998. He obtained his Membership of the Royal College of Physicians, United Kingdom (MRCP UK) in 2002, and completed his subspecialty training in rheumatology in 2006 in Hong Kong.  Dr Mak is the Fellow of several Colleges, including the Hong Kong College of Physicians, the Hong Kong Academy of Medicine, the Academy of Medicine Singapore, the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, the Royal College of Physicians of London, and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. He is currently a Senior Consultant and Rheumatologist of the Division of Rheumatology, National University Hospital, Singapore.

On the academic side, Dr Mak completed three postgraduate degrees; namely, the Master of Medical Sciences (MMedSc) in 2005 and the higher research doctorate – the Doctor of Medicine (MD) in 2012 from his alma mater. In July 2018, Dr Mak successfully defended his thesis and completed his second research doctorate that awarded him the PhD from the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine of the National University of Singapore (NUS).

Dr Mak is currently a tenured Associate Professor of Medicine of the Department of Medicine, NUS. In the realm of scholarly activities, Dr Mak has been active in research that focusses on neuropsychiatric systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), particularly in deciphering the basic mechanisms of neuropsychiatric SLE in the domain of neurocognitive dysfunction by adopting structural and functional magnetic resonance brain imaging (fMRI). Dr Mak and his team were the first to discover that the cortico-basal ganglia-thalamic-cortical (CBTC) circuit and amygdala-hippocampus coupling, which were involved in response inhibition and active forgetting-learning dynamics, respectively, were dysfunctional in patients with SLE. Moreover, an increase in contralateral cerebellar-frontal activity was found to compensate for the compromised CBTC circuit in lupus patients in order to maintain their neurocognitive performance as comparable to that of healthy subjects. In a prospective fMRI study, despite significant improvement of SLE disease activity, Brodmann area (BA) 32 of the brain was demonstrated to be activated, with an aim to compensate for the reduced activities in brain areas that subserve motor planning, response inhibition and attention, word recognition, error detection and conflict evaluation. These findings collectively demonstrated that SLE patients recruit additional neural pathways to execute goal-directed tasks to compensate for their strategic planning skills despite clinically adequate disease activity control. With the more recent adoption of multimodal magnetic resonance brain imaging that combines structural brain imaging, blood-brain barrier (BBB) permeability and perfusion measures, Dr Mak and his team recently demonstrated that alterations of these multimodal imaging measures that occurred in the limbic system accurately predicted neurocognitive performance in patients with SLE by the GLMnet machine-learning based model. As the limbic system pathway chiefly governs mood, memory and the activity of the autonomic nervous system, Dr Mak and his team will endeavour to further explore the interactions among neural pathway dysregulation that includes the limbic pathways, BBB disruption and SLE-induced inflammatory processes and their collective mechanistic impact on neurocognitive function, mood and neurotransmitter expressions in leucocytes in patients with SLE by a recently funded 4-year multimodal neuroimaging study programme by the National Medical Research Council (NMRC) of Singapore. Dr Mak has been included as one of the World’s top 2% scientists in the field of clinical medicine (arthritis & rheumatology) curated by the Stanford University (published in Elsevier) in 2022 and 2023.

Dr Mak has been elected and representing Singapore as the Full Member of the Systemic Lupus Erythematosus International Collaborating Clinics (SLICC) since May 2017. Within SLICC, Dr Mak is serving as one of the members of the steering group which is engaged in the revision of the current SDI, in collaboration with the American College of Rheumatology and the Lupus Foundation of America. He is also one of the members of the Biological Materials and Data Utilization Committee (BMDU) of SLICC (a subcommittee of SLICC).

In terms of editorial activities, Dr Mak is the Associate Editor for Seminars in Arthritis and Rheumatism (Elsevier), and Rheumatology (Oxford University Press). Dr Mak is also serving as the member of the institutional review board (IRB) and the member of the Faculty Promotion and Tenure Committee of NUS.

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