Recipient of the Dr. & Mrs. Savio L-Y. Woo Research Scholarship

Dr. and Mrs. Woo with Dr. Tan Nguyen

Hereby, I would like to introduce myself and thank you for your generous support for my scholarship from ASIAM. My name is Tan Nguyen, Vietnamese by origin but born and raised in the Netherlands. I have studied medicine at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands. During my medical school, I had an opportunity to go abroad for a five months research elective as part of my school’s curriculum. My interests were (and still are) in orthopaedics and in tissue regeneration. By luck (or was it faith?), I found a text book by Dr. Savio L-Y. Woo, et al., in the medical library. After reading it, I became so intrigued and interested in the scientific work done at the Musculoskeletal Research Center that I had the wish to visit this world-renown research center. Promptly, I wrote to Dr. Woo with a humble request for a research elective at his research center. A week later, I got a positive answer! Excited and very happy, I arrived in Pittsburgh. My short research experience was fantastic and I felt enriched, not only scientifically, but also culturally. Meanwhile, I made some good and durable friendships. In addition, I was introduced and met a lot of well-known people. Most importantly, my passion for experimental orthopaedic research had emerged, during this period and to my pleasant and fortunate surprise, Dr. Woo granted me the opportunity to do a two-year fellowship at the MSRC after my graduation from medical school. Eager to learn more and to continue my happy days at the MSRC, I immediately started my fellowship in January 2005. For the past 2 1/2 years, I have learned a tremendous amount: I continued to learn on the academic, cultural as well as personal and interpersonal development.

My first research project was to optimize a collagen-based bioscaffold and to study the extracellular matrix remodeling. It was difficult in the beginning, but with the help of my colleagues, especially Dr. Rui Liang, from China and the advice by Dr. Woo, we successfully managed to improve the bioscaffold and tested our mechanistic hypothesis. This work entitled “A Quantitative Analysis of the Effects of Cyclic Loading on Extracellular Matrix Remodeling” was presented at the 53rd Orthopaedic Research Society Meeting, my first presentation ever! As such, not only I, but also Dr. Woo was quite nervous. Following many revisions and rehearsals, my presentation, happily, went extremely well. At present, I have prepared a full length manuscript for journal publication.

My second project was actually a spin-off from another project I had participated, i.e. “Improving the Patellar Tendon Defect after Graft Harvest with Small Intestine Submucosa Bioscaffold (SIS)”. The additional hypothesis was that SIS would also limit post-surgical adhesions in the anterior knee compartment and fat pad fibrosis. The results of the reduction of adhesions are amazing. I also have participated in several other research projects, particularly at fibrillogenesisrelated gene expressions in SIS-treated rabbit medial collateral ligament (MCL) as well as on the expression of how bone marrow derived cells would express a ligamentous phenotype when seeded on elongated SIS. I am coauthor on scientific paper from these studies.

Through research, my colleagues and Dr. Woo have taught me to think critically, to set-up an experiment properly, how to conduct research carefully and how to write abstracts and papers successfully. I am very grateful for their teachings and nurturing, especially to my teacher, Dr. Savio L-Y. Woo and his wife, Mrs. Pattie Woo. Thus, I am very honored for being the recipient of the Dr. and Mrs. Savio L-Y. Woo Scholarship. This scholarship enabled me to stay for another six months to learn more and to complete my research projects. During that time, I was also able to apply for the PhD training grant, Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research an 180,000 Euro grant. With the help and the support of Dr. Woo and my Dutch supervisors, I passed the first round. For the second round, I worked on my research proposal and presented it to the selection committee. It was not easy, but thanks to my post-doctoral training at the MSRC, I was confident and gave an excellent presentation. My final score was two times “excellent”, which qualified me to be one of the 22 happy PhD trainees with a grant. As I am back in the Netherlands and begin my studies at the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of Amsterdam, I can think of my wonderful experience in Pittsburgh. My long term plan is to stay in academia and hope to become one of the numerous successful scholars who were trained by Dr. Woo.