DSc (Medicine, 2016, UNSW Sydney, Australia)
Thesis: Contributions to Osteoporosis Research.
PhD (Medicine, 1997, UNSW Sydney, Australia)
Thesis: Contribution of Genetic and Environmental Factors to the Determination of Osteoporotic Fractures.
I am an NHMRC Leadership Fellow (L3) and Conjoint Professor of the School of Population Health and St Vincent's Clinical School, UNSW Medicine. I also hold appointment as Professor of Predictive Medicine & Director of the Centre for Health Technologies, University of Technology Sydney (UTS), and Adjunct Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Medicine, University of Notre Dame Australia. I am an elected Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences and elected Fellow of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research. My research group consists of clinicians, postdoc fellows and PhD students in both Australia and Vietnam.
In plain language, I want to find out why people have osteoporosis, what causes bone fracture, and how to predict the risk of fracture for an individual. My research program is driven by the hypothesis that an individual's susceptibility to fracture is determined by reduced bone strength due to bone loss, and deteriorated bone structure, and that bone loss and bone structure are primarily determined by genetic factors. My research objectives are: (a) to identify etiological factors and genes that are associated with bone loss and bone structure; and (b) to develop predictive models based on etiological and genetic factors to predict an individual's risk of fracture and adverse outcomes, especially mortality following a fracture. I pursue both epidemiological and genetic research, often combining the two, to address issues that are transformational, shaping policy and practice leading to better treatment and control of osteoporosis.
In recent years, with the ongoing developments of high throughput sequencing technologies and advancement of modern bioinformatics, my research interests focus on the use of new technologies to discover genetic variants relevant to bone phenotypes and bone loss, and then translate the findings into personalised risk assessment. Key research areas include genome-wide sequencing studies of bone loss and bone fracture, and application of modern biostatistical methods to large clinical and genomic datasets. I am also interested in the dissection of the complex interrelationship between osteoporosis and diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis and cancer.
Publications and impact
I have authored or coauthored more than 320 publications, including ~260 original papers, 20 invited reviews, 27 commentaries, editorials and debates. The majority of publications have come from research that I have initiated and supervised, with the authorship shared among my PhD students and postdoctoral fellows, whom I have mentored over the years. Apart from osteoporosis which has been my primary research interest, I have also had collaborative publications in osteoarthritis, obesity and diabetes, cancer, hypertension, and infectious diseases. A significant number of papers have been published in highest impact journals in the field, notably the J Bone Miner Res (45 papers) and J Clin Endocrinol Metab (25 papers). A number of key papers are published in more general journals, including BMJ, Lancet, JAMA, Ann Int Med, New England Journal of Medicine, Nature, Nature Genetics, Nature Rev Endocrinol, eLife. Some papers are groundbreaking in the field, received applauded commentaries. Many of his papers have generated a great deal of interests from colleagues around the world. Overall, his publications have been cited more than 32,000 times by other authors (as at 12/1/2020). My career-wise h- index is 92 (Scopus). In terms of citation, I am among the top 0.1% medical scientists internationally.
My lab and I have uncovered and defined the effects of etiological factors, including genetic variants that contribute to fracture susceptibility, its adverse outcomes and mortality, and have translated this knowledge into predictive models for targeting treatment options. My work has helped shift the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of osteoporosis into a new and better paradigm. A highlight of my translational work is the development and implementation of the Garvan Fracture Risk Calculator (www.fractureriskcalculator.com) for predicting the risk of fracture for any individual. In recent years, my lab has created the world's first "osteogenomic profiling" from 62 genetic variants associated with bone density for predicting fracture risk. I am working toward the implementation of this profile in the personalised fracture risk assessment.
I have contributed to the profession through my services in journal editorial boards and peer review. He is currently an Associate Editor of Therapeutic Advances in Musculoskeletal Disease, Academic Editor for Scientific Reports, PLoS ONE and PeerJ, and former Associate Editor of the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. I am a regular reviewer for more than 20 medical and bone journals around the world. I am regularly called on to provide adjudicated opinions on manuscripts submitted to JAMA, Lancet, New England Journal of Medicine, and BMJ.
I also contributed to grant review for many funding agencies around the world, including NHMRC, Wellcome Trust, NIH, WHO, Elan (Germany), New Zealand, Iceland, Israel, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, Czech Health Research Council. I have been called on to offer opinions on applications for full professorship in the UCSD and UCLA. I regularly speak or give lectures in major osteoporosis conferences nationally and internationally. I have also been invited to serve on organising committees of various international conferences. In 2018, I was admitted to be a Fellow of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research for my distinguished accomplishments and contributions to the musculoskeletal field and many years of contributions to the Society. In 2019, I was elected as a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences.
I have supervised 15 PhD students (4 in Vietnam) who are now successful and independent researchers. Currently, I am supervising 3 PhD students. All of my students have published their work in high profile journals, and have won national and international prizes. Moreover, I have supervised many postdoc fellows from Asia, Europe and USA, who are now successful researchers in their own countries. Through my former postdoc and students, I have been able to establish an extensive network of collaborations which help to validate my work in Australia. I am currently available to supervise PhD, honours, and ILP students.
I have extensive research collaborations with colleagues from Europe (Norway, France, Sweden, the Netherlands), America (USA, Canada), and Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Thailand). I have also actively co-directed large scale studies in Thailand and Vietnam. I and my colleagues have conducted a major osteoporotic study in Vietnam called Vietnam Osteoporosis Study (VOS) that involved more than 4200 individuals. The aim of VOS is to search for genetic variants and environmental factors that are associated with bone phenotypes. Moreover, I am collaborating with the GeFOS Consortium (GEnetic Factors for OSteoporosis) to search for genes that are associated with bone loss.
I have been appointed as a Visiting Professor at the Khon Kaen University School of Medicine (Thailand), Hanoi Medical University (Vietnam), Ton Duc Thang University (Vietnam), and Tromso University (Norway). During the past 15 years, I have conducted more than 20 workshops in research methodology, scientific writing, epidemiology & biostatistics, and evidence based medicine in Thailand and Vietnam. My highly popular workshops have attracted and improved research capacity for thousands of doctors, health care professionals, and scientists in Vietnam. I have published 12 books in Vietnam, and has received a number of national awards and honors for my work in Vietnam. I have established the Bone and Muscle Research Laboratory at the Ton Duc Thang University, Vietnam. This lab is conducting large scale clinical and research projects that complement my work in Australia.