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The Benefits of Collaborative Research

Dr. Edward Kuan & Dr. Austin Moy

Edward Kuan, MD, MBA and Austin Moy, PhD, ASLMS Student Board Representatives 2015-2017, share their experiences with physician-basic scientist collaborations.

Ed: As impactful to patient care as novel clinical technologies are, the end product is the culmination of longstanding, persistent collaborative efforts between scientists and clinicians. As a medical student working with Dr. Brian Wong at the Beckman Laser Institute at UC Irvine, I was fortunate to collaborate with Dr. J. Stuart Nelson and Dr. Wangcun Jia on one such project. The project involved evaluating the safety and efficacy of a carbon dioxide based coolant spray concomitantly administered with laser-mediated auricular cartilage reshaping in a rabbit model. At the outset, I worked extensively with Victor Sun, one of the graduate researchers, on optimizing protocol and experimental design. Victor had a solid background in engineering and contributed significantly to the initial basic science experiments, which laid the foundation for the in vivo studies to come. The laser and cooling parameters determined from the in vitro experiments were critical for translation to in vivo experiments on live rabbits. With the support and expertise of multiple basic scientists and engineers, it became easy to develop a clinical context upon which these well-designed, minimally invasive, and cost-effective optical technologies may be used, and I have since always sought to collaborate with nonclinical colleagues on projects. My current project, which revolves around laser-generated shockwave disruption of biofilms, is another such project that allowed me to realize the synergistic impact of multidisciplinary collaboration, and I firmly believe that this model of academic discovery will become more prominent in the future.

Austin: I have had multiple positive experiences doing research involving physician-basic scientist collaborations. In graduate school, I was part of a research team working with Dr. Kristen Kelly at the Beckman Laser Institute to investigate novel combined photothermal and photodynamic therapy regimens for treatment of port wine stain birthmarks. As a postdoctoral fellow, I am a principal member of a research team with Dr. Jason Reichenberg and Dr. Matthew Fox, both of whom are faculty members at the Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin, to develop a multimodal optical spectroscopy method to improve skin cancer screening and surgical treatment. In each of these instances, I have had the opportunity to see the challenges in doing research from the perspective of a basic scientist/engineer, but also how rewarding these collaborations can be. One of the most important aspects of doing collaborative research I have learned is that, while scientists/engineers and physicians each have expertise and detailed knowledge of their respective fields, it is paramount to (at least try to) understand, at a basic level, the collaborators’ perspective in the context of the research project. While this is much easier said than done, keeping this mindset allows for more effective communication between physicians and scientists/engineers and results in research that has the potential to lead to major breakthroughs in patient care. Additionally, it is clear to me that scientists/engineers and physicians absolutely need each other, which is why it is imperative that scientists/engineers and residents at the early stages of their careers seek out and embrace collaborative research projects.

The American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery is the world’s largest scientific organization dedicated to promoting research, education and high standards of clinical care in the field of medical laser applications. It provides a forum for the exchange of scientific information and participation in communicating the latest developments in laser medicine and surgery to clinicians, research investigators, government and regulatory agencies, and the public.

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