When 23-year-old Uyen Truong noticed a call-out for summer research interns at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare this past spring, she felt compelled to apply. “Working with kids is my passion,” says Uyen. “And I have a special connection with Gillette.”  

Uyen has been a Gillette patient for as long as she can remember.  She has a genetic brittle bone disease called osteopetrosis, which means her bones contain too much calcium and easily fracture.  “I’ve had multiple breaks treated at Gillette,” she says. Uyen has continued to benefit from Gillette’s services into adulthood — most recently, for adaptive technology to help her succeed in medical school at the University of Minnesota, starting this fall.

Uyen Finds Her Calling
Uyen’s internship at Gillette merged her passion for helping children with her scientific background. She also wanted to experience firsthand how physicians integrate research into their practice. “Clinical research is people-oriented,” explains Uyen. “I wanted to pay it forward by helping others the same way I have been helped my whole life.”Uyen is pictured with her Gillette mentors, clinical scientist Susan Novotny, Ph.D. and Walter Truong, M.D.

As part of the program, Uyen and her fellow research interns collaborated with Gillette mentors — MDs and PhDs — on ongoing research projects. Specific topics varied, but all related to Gillette’s core mission: to provide outstanding care to children with often rare and complex medical conditions.

“Our interns are typically medical school students or students planning to enter another health care field,” says Meghan Munger, research coordinator at Gillette. “We want to cultivate their interest in research and encourage them to incorporate evidence-based medicine into their future careers.”

Making an Impact through Research
Uyen’s research is focused on casting in children following a femoral or pelvic osteotomy, both major orthopedic surgeries that help realign bones in the femur or hips.  She and her physician mentor, Walter Truong, M.D. (no relation to Uyen) hope to identify the ideal type of cast after complex hip surgeries.  The ideal cast would be easy to take care of yet still help patients experience less pain — and therefore, require less pain medication — after surgery.

The project holds personal significance for Uyen, as it stands to impact children who, like her, have experienced surgeries on their bones and joints. She hopes her work, which will continue for at least another year, will help guide future patient care.

“I understand what it’s like to be a patient and know that being in pain is difficult,” says Uyen. “I want to be someone who helps people feel better, helps them accomplish the things they hope to do.”  

Click here to learn more about Gillette’s summer research internship program.

Photo caption: Uyen is pictured with her Gillette mentors, clinical scientist Susan Novotny, Ph.D. and Walter Truong, M.D.

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