Dr. Weeks’ Comment: This is inspirational – an innovative surgeon solving previously unsolvable problems!
“…Cancer is a big focus and we are investigating cancer based on the radical concept that cancer is caused by cancer stem cell ”” that cancer stem cell is the origin of cancer which gives rise to cancer cell.
“And if we prove to be correct, the way we deal with cancer stem cell should be different from the way we treat cancer today…”
Bringing the smiles back to people in distress
by Lian Cheng, email@example.com. Posted on October 26, 2014, Sunday
DR Swee Tan brought the smile back to face of a young boy from New Zealand.
The six-year-old Kiwi named David was born paralysed on the left side of his face. And because of the birth defect, he could not smile.
As a plastic surgeon, Dr Tan did what had to be done to “fix” the problem. He took a nerve from behind one of David’s legs and join it to the good nerve on the right side of David’s face.
Then he took a motor unit of triangular-shaped muscle (with artery and nerves) from David’s armpit and transferred it to the left side of his face before connecting the motor unit to the muscle in the neck area.
It took six months for the message to cross over from the right to the left side of David’s face. Though a long process, it brought the sunshine of smiles back to the youngster’s life. And thanks to Dr Tan, David was ”” at long last ”” able to close a smile-less chapter and smile as the world smiles with him.
A year later, David’s family migrated to Sydney and Dr Tan lost contact with them. However, two years ago, Dr Tan received a surprise email from David.
“When I learned David had become a medical student, tears rolled down my cheeks. It would have been hard for him to go to medical school if he wasn’t able to express his emotions. I’m sure David would make a wonderful doctor because he had gone through a hard part of life,” he said.
It was an emotional moment for Dr Tan, who has always believed the aim of plastic surgery is to help people fulfill their potential. And he has many stories like David’s to tell.
Born in Senggarang, Batu Pahat, Johor, Dr Tan first attended Melbourne University, Australia, and later studied to become a plastic surgeon in New Zealand.
He now heads both Hutt Hospital surgery unit and Gillies McIndoe Research Institute (GMRI) as executive director.
He has been called many things. A patient described him as “part-Chinese, part Kiwi and part Jedi.”
Vicki Lee, CEO of Cure Kids, New Zealand said he is “a cross between a genius and a saint.”
As a plastic surgeon, Dr Tan deals with three main categories of afflictions – congenital abnormalities or defects, deformities due to trauma and cancer.
Cancer has always been part of what he does ”” in fact, most of time as surgeon. He deals with the disease in the head and neck areas.
“Plastic surgery is about improving the quality of life ”” restoring what’s lost or deformed to at least something that looks more normal ”” or getting the function back to restore confidence in the patient.
“That confidence or self-belief is something you need to fulfill your potential,” Dr Tan told thesundaypost during the Eighth National Conference for Clinical Research (NCCR 2014) in Kuching.
He was invited to be the main speaker for many reasons.
Besides being an outstanding and internationally established plastic surgeon, he has won the world renowned John Mulliken Prize for making the breakthrough strawberry-birthmark treatment for cancer. He attributes the success to the dedication of his team.
Dr Tan explained: “Cancer is a big focus and we are investigating cancer based on the radical concept that cancer is caused by cancer stem cell ”” that cancer stem cell is the origin of cancer which gives rise to cancer cell.
“And if we prove to be correct, the way we deal with cancer stem cell should be different from the way we treat cancer today.
“It was the same when we first started investigating the strawberry birthmarks ”” the previous treatment was aiming at the tumour cell but the new treatment is dealing with the stem cell of the tumour.”
The traditional treatment for disfiguring strawberry birthmark is to prescribe high dosages of steroids – which, to Dr Tan, is too harsh on the children and what’s worse is the treatment might not necessarily work. When situation becomes desperate, doctors may resort to chemotherapy.
Dr Tan and his team’s discovery that stem cells are the origin of strawberry birthmarks has brought about a very simple treatment. It has not only helped relieve the pain of children who have strawberry birthmarks but also espoused an undeniably promising implication for new cancer treatment.
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