May is National Osteoporosis Month. The American Society for Bone and Mineral Research (ASBMR) asked members to share their story — personal story — about the the disease and how it had affected my family. Here is my story …
Why do you study osteoporosis?
Because I found that osteoporosis tends to run in families, and my grandmother and aunty (who both had osteoporosis) are a case in point. Later on, I also realized that most fractures occur in people without a diagnosis of osteoporosis. So, I want to find out why and how non-osteoporosis people sustain a fracture, and whether knowing their genetic makeup can help identify high risk people earlier.
How has osteoporosis affected you and/or your family?
My maternal grandmother in Vietnam had a round hunchback spine that had badly affected her life for more than 5 years before she died at the age of 92. At the time, I noted that many elderly women in the village also had a similar dowager’s hump — a classic symptom of osteoporosis that I only found out 20 years later. About 10 years ago, my 72-year old aunty in Vietnam was diagnosed with 3 vertebral fractures, and she passed away two years after the diagnosis. That was a shock to us all, because she had always been considered a resilient member of our extended family. Neither my grandmother nor my aunty was treated.
How would you describe your research and/or contributions to the treatment of osteoporosis to someone unfamiliar with the disease?
My clinical and epidemiologic research has contributed scientific evidence for health care policy and clinical guidelines concerning the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. I consider that the best way to reduce the burden of bone fractures in the general community is to identify people at risk of fracture for early preventive intervention. To that end, I have spent more than two decades to figure out who is going to have a bone fracture. I have created a tool called “Garvan Fracture Risk Calculator” for predicting the risk of fracture based on an individual’s bone density, history of fractures, and the number of falls. I am now working on how to improve the accuracy of prediction by using genetic and genomic information. I am hoping that in the near future we will achieve the dream of individualized risk assessment.
Do you want to know your bone health? I guess the answer is ‘yes’. Then, I would like to invite you to visit our website ‘Know Your Bone‘ which features my Garvan Fracture Risk Calculator: