Reconstructive surgeon Swee Tan is pictured at Hutt Hospital in 2010, where he was a plastic and cranio-maxillofacial consultant. In 2009 he founded the Gillies McIndoe Research Institute there to investigate birth defect cancers and tissue engineering. He changed medical thinking about strawberry birthmarks by showing that they originate in the placenta and are regulated by the renin-angiotensin system. As well as making it possible to eliminate the disfiguring birthmarks by prompting the cells in them to 'commit suicide', this discovery opens the way to understanding and more successfully treating cancer.
Tan was born into a large family in the Malaysian village of Senggarang in 1960, and overcame considerable hardship and difficulties to study medicine in Melbourne. In the late 1980s he and his wife chose to come to New Zealand, where he worked at Waikato Hospital in Hamilton and Burwood Hospital in Christchurch, before arriving at Hutt Hospital. In 2001 he was awarded a PhD from the University of Otago, and he has won major medical awards. Widely known as 'the Miracle Man', Tan has made an invaluable contribution to his adopted country.
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