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Tammy Nguyen Received a Vascular and Endovascular Surgery Society Award to Investigate Why People with Diabetes Have Problems with Wound Healing

Date Posted: Tuesday, January 26, 2021
By: UMass Medical School Communications

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Tammy T. Nguyen, MD, PhD, assistant professor of surgery at UMass Medical School, is analyzing bone marrow to learn why people with diabetes have a hard time healing foot wounds.

“When you have a skin breakdown, your immune cells come in and they help clear out the infection and build a tissue base that allows for new tissues to grow and heal your wound,” Nguyen said. “Because I know that healing stems from immune cells, my question is, does a person living with diabetes have an immune system that makes them maladaptive to wound healing?”

Nguyen, who is the medical director of the Vascular Surgery Lower Extremity Wound Clinic at UMass Memorial Medical Center, has received a one-year, $22,500 grant to explore this question. The Vascular and Endovascular Surgery Society’s 2021 Early Career Faculty Research Award is designed to help new vascular surgical investigators initiate projects that will lead to additional funding. She received the award at the society’s 2021 winter meeting and will present her findings at next year’s meeting.

“I want to understand why patients with diabetes have a hard time healing their foot wounds. I see these patients in vascular surgery because a lot of them have blood vessel disease that inhibit them from healing. However, even if you fix their blood vessel disease, sometimes they still have a hard time healing, suggestive of their underlying diabetes,” Nguyen said. “People with diabetes in general are known to be poor wound healers. It doesn’t matter if it’s the foot or you operate on the belly—anywhere—they just don’t heal very well. And we don’t really know why.”

Nguyen will compare immune cells from people with diabetes who have had amputations as well as nondiabetic patients who have had amputations for other reasons.

Silvia Corvera, MD, the Endowed Chair in Diabetes Research and professor of molecular medicine, and Louis M. Messina, MD, the Johnnie Ray Cox Term Chair in Biomedical Research and professor of surgery, are Nguyen’s research mentors. She works with both the Corvera Lab and the Messina Lab within the UMass Medical Diabetes Center of Excellence.

Nguyen joined UMass Medical School as a faculty member after completing her UMass residency this past summer. The Southern California native is an MD/PhD graduate of the University of Utah School of Medicine. Her PhD is in biochemistry.

This past Fall, she combined her interests in vascular surgery and homeless medicine by helping to organize a health fair for the homeless at Worcester’s St. Francis Xavier Center.  On World Diabetes Day, November 14, 2020, Nguyen and colleagues provided foot screenings, while UMass Memorial Diabetes Center of Excellence endocrinologist Dr. Asem Ali, along with nurse practitioners and diabetes educators, provided check-ups and diabetes information.

They identified people in need of necessary follow-up care and distributed diabetes supplies. Nguyen and her team gave out pairs of shoes from Puma and Sneakerama as well as 200 pairs of socks. She hopes the health fair will become a regular event.

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UMass Diabetes care team members volunteered at a health fair for Worcester’s homeless on World Diabetes Day November 14, 2020

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