Dr. Rocky S. Tuan, successful Life Science Researcher and Alumnus Visited Campus

At 9 a.m. on Thursday February 20, Room 106 of the Hall Science Building hosted Dr. Rocky Tuan’s presentation on integrating life sciences with engineering and medicine. Dr. Tuan began his presentation at by relating back to the time where he had to sit on the opposite side of the hall as a student and strive to stay awake, and hoped he would not bore the audience to sleep this time around. The audience included President Lyle Roelofs, faculty members of the science programs and several students.

Dr. Rocky Tuan is a graduate of Berea College who is originally from Hong Kong. While in high school, he attended a presentation by Francis Hutchins, the then president of Berea College, and was inspired by him to further explore Berea and eventually enroll. He graduated with a Chemistry Degree but says that he was always interested in the chemistry of life which paved the way to his career in bio-engineering and tissue regeneration. While in Berea, Dr. Tuan participated in an undergraduate research program in a bio-chemistry lab at the university of Louisville medical school for two summers, which inspired him to become an academic researcher himself.

After he graduated from Berea in 1972, he went to Rockefeller University to earn his PhD in Life Sciences. He continued his research at Rockefeller until he won a research fellow from the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and the Department of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Tuan has also taught at the University of Pennsylvania and Thomas Jefferson University. In Thomas Jefferson University, he was also the Director of the Orthopaedic Research Laboratory, the Academic Director of the MD-PhD Program, and the Vice Chairman of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. After 2001, Dr. Tuan worked in the National Institute of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, and earned several recognitions for his research. Currently, Dr. Tuan is a Professor and Vice Chair in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, and a Professor of Bioengineering and Mechanical Engineering and Material Science as well as a member of the Cellular and Molecular Pathology Graduate Training program at the University of Pittsburgh.

The presentation was titled “Don’t Replace, Repair,” and was concerned with Osteoarthritis, a multifunctional musculoskeletal disease which affects about 20 million people annually only in the United States. According to Dr. Tuan, the disease has different treatment options which range from temporary injections and autologous cartilage implantation to regenerative surgery. Regenerative surgery, Dr. Tuan’s field of research, is a marriage between medicine and engineering which enables a damaged tissue to repair itself by re-developing its damaged parts from its stem cells. During the hour long presentation, Dr. Tuan explained the different types and characteristics of stem cells, and different mechanisms of conducting the regeneration process.

In addition to the presentation, Dr. Tuan also gave a talk at a dinner program organized by the Center for International Education on the same day. During the talk, he also answered questions posed by attending students. In general, Dr. Tuan’s visit to his alma mater Berea College has been an inspiration not only to science students but also the college community in general.

(Photo from The NIH Record.)