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Top Surgeon Awarded For Stem Cell Research

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Top Surgeon Awarded For Stem Cell Research

A world class plastic surgeon and researcher at Wellington, Professor Swee Tan, was tonight awarded the New Zealand Medical Association's highest award, for his world class research into strawberry birthmarks, which has the potential to advance the treatment of cancer.

The Chair's Award from the association goes to an individual or organisation that has made a substantial contribution to the health of New Zealanders.

Prof Tan's research into the origin of strawberry birthmarks has not only led to better treatment of the birthmarks, but also had exciting implications for the treatment of cancer, said the association's chair, Dr Peter Foley.

Prof Tan's four-member team earlier this year won a major international science prize - the John Mulliken Prize for the best science paper at the conference of the International Society for their study of vascular anomalies.

The most significant finding of the research is that the origin of birthmarks -- stem cells -- are the same stem cells that cause cancer. Learning about birthmark stem cells could not only help in the fight against cancer but many other diseases and afflictions.

"Prof Tan is a brilliant surgeon who has positively transformed the lives of many children born with strawberry birthmarks," said Dr Foley. He had also proven to be an exceptional researcher who is dedicated, driven and devoted to the practice of medicine to advance the health of patients. His research had the potential to advance health on a global scale.

The director of surgery at the Hutt Valley DHB could easily command a job anywhere in the world but he remained committed to New Zealand and carrying out his world-class research here, Dr Foley said.

Prof Tan had also demonstrated strong leadership in establishing a research institute -- the Gillies McIndoe Institute for Reconstructive Plastic Surgery -- formally launched in 2009, which now held the patents for the research.

Dr Foley said the award was an opportunity to celebrate and acknowledge what could be achieved in medicine through innovation and determination.


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