I have worked in in the area of hepatitis B virus infection (HBV) from basic research to clinical science and patient care as well as outreach/advocacy programs for more than 9 years. I have family members who are infected with hepatitis B virus (HBV). HBV infection is epidemic is my home country of Vietnam and highly prevalent in the Asian American community here. So this is personal for me.
But honestly, when I moved to the US from Vietnam when I was almost 18, I had no idea about the dimensions of this public health burden. When I decided to become a doctor, I took two years off from medical school to do research and became increasing aware of the complexity of liver disease as well as the unmet needs for treatment and support for HBV in America as well as in Southeast Asia.
As a physician scientist in training, I am extremely engaged by the complexity of the disease itself, and very grateful for the Fellowship support that I received from ALF to continue my research into HBV. We need better animal model for HBV disease, and I am part of a large group of scientists around the world who are tackling these barriers by attempting to develop a better murine model for HBV infection so that we can make faster progress in understanding the disease and developing treatment.
Part of the problem is that HBV infection or liver disease research at large is underfunded, given how many people suffer with it and how deadly it can be. Because the disease progresses more slowly than something like a heart attack, the threat of the disease doesn’t seem as imminent but the final outcome can be as deadly. That is a mistaken perception that must be reversed.
Scientific progress is essential but so is building awareness and community. At the local level in Texas, at the national level here, and in my home country of Vietnam I am trying to bring people together to raise awareness and provide more of a medical and community infrastructure for disease education and support. I believe the liver disease community needs to be increasingly vocal to advocate for policy changes and funding. ALF is a tremendous inspiration, and I am committed to raising my voice with ALF.
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