From bench to bedside – Research that improves patient oral care

Izaak Walton Killam Memorial Scholarship - Kim Cuong Nguyen

Cheryl Deslaurier - 31 May 2021

Medical Sciences-Radiology and Diagnostic Imaging and Biomedical Engineering PhD candidate, Kim Cuong Nguyen was awarded the Izaak Walton Killam Memorial Scholarship for her work in intraoral ultrasound technologies. 

Fascinated by ultrasound technologies from her previous studies, Nguyen was recruited by Drs. Lawrence Le, Paul Major, and Neel Kaipatur to spearhead the dental ultrasound project and later received further guidance from Dr. Edmond Lou. She didn’t realize at the time that this would be the project that would earn her the Izaak Walton Killam Memorial Scholarship award.

Born in Vietnam, Nguyen was influenced by her father, who is a Physics lecturer at the university. She started her research in Dr. Le’s lab in 2011 as a MSc student to work on an osteoporosis project using ultrasound. This work furthered her general understanding of various fields in engineering, medical equipment and signal processing and opened the door to dentistry.

It is her found passion for improving patient oral care that inspires her.

“Straight teeth and healthy smiles are important to a child’s well-being,” Nguyen says. “And some children who have malocclusion need orthodontic treatment, which involves getting X-rays and Cone beam computed tomography (CBCT) to assist the orthodontist in making decisions about treatment. Exposure to ionizing radiation poses potential health risk and the risk is higher for children who have growing organs and longer lifespan. Ultrasound imaging is low-cost, portable, and safe without radiation. The use of ultrasound in dentistry is still very limited. Therefore, I would like to develop ultrasound technologies for Dentistry to improve patient oral care.”

Her research focus is on studying the dental tissues (e.g. tooth, gum and underneath bone) using the ionizing radiation-free ultrasound. Her goal is to develop innovative intraoral ultrasound technologies to get better images of the dental tissues. She says that a smart computer program will be developed to assist the oral clinicians to identify the major dental structures and landmarks in the ultrasound images.

Nguyen’s goal is to get through her PhD defense and after that she would like to apply for a postdoc position to continue her research in biomedical engineering, medical imaging and artificial intelligence applications. 

She is grateful for the mentorship, guidance, and support of her supervisors Drs. Lawrence Le, Paul Major, and Edmond Lou, for the many faculty and staff members who have helped her with her academic achievements and for the graduate studentships from Alberta Innovates-Technology Futures, and the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation through the Women’s and Children’s Health Research Institute.

“I am truly honoured to be bestowed this prestigious scholarship and I look forward to having patients benefit from my research efforts,” says Nguyen. “So many people have supported me along the path of this scientific investigation and I look forward to more discoveries along my higher education journey.”