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Tammy Nguyen Received a Vascular and Endovascular Surgery Society Award to Investigate Diabetic Wound Healing Problems

Date Posted: Tuesday, January 26, 2021


Tammy T. Nguyen, MD, PhD, is analyzing bone marrow to learn why people with diabetes have a difficult time healing diabetic 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,” said Nguyen, assistant professor of surgery at UMass Chan Medical School and Medical Director of the Lower Extremity Wound Clinic at UMass Memorial Medical Center. “I know that healing stems from immune cells, so my question is, does a person living with diabetes have an immune system that makes them maladaptive to wound healing?”

Nguyen received a $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.  

“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. We don’t really know why.”

Nguyen is comparing 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 in both the Corvera Lab and the Messina Lab at the UMass Chan Diabetes Center of Excellence.

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

She has combined her interests in vascular surgery and homeless medicine by helping to organize health fairs for the homeless in Worcester.  On World Diabetes Day, Nguyen and colleagues provide foot screenings at homeless shelters in the city, 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. This has since become a bi-annual event each Fall and Spring.


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