The physician-scientist recently joined the University of South Alabama College of Medicine as an associate professor of pathology. She also serves as medical director of molecular pathology and dermatopathology at USA Health.
“I want to apply our knowledge and understanding of disease pathogenesis and laboratory diagnostics to patient care, and pathology fulfills that critical niche in medicine,” Phung said. “In today’s healthcare, molecular and genomic testing has increasingly important role in providing clinicians key information for the diagnosis and treatment of patients with infectious diseases and cancer, to name a few.”
Phung’s research area is the tumor microenvironment, which is the milieu in which cancer cells grow. This milieu consists of blood vessels, lymphatics, immune cells and the extracellular matrix, she said.
“Tumor cells and the surrounding microenvironment interact with each other, and this interaction plays a crucial role in tumor progression and metastasis,” she explained. “My particular research focuses on the molecular mechanisms that drive tumor cells to induce new blood vessel formation to feed their growth and distant spread.”
Her research also focuses on abnormal vascular growth and development in children, which give rise to a class of disorders called vascular anomalies. She said, “We have recently uncovered potential novel mechanisms of how these lesions develop by concurrently examining the entire cellular genome and protein repertoire in the cell.”
Phung said she is excited to be part of the USA College of Medicine and the Mobile community. “I chose to come to USA because I saw a great opportunity for professional growth and development at the university in general and in the department of pathology in particular,” she said. “I look forward to developing meaningful relationships with the USA community, and to a time when I can freely explore the charm of Mobile and its surrounding coastal areas.”
Prior to joining USA, Phung was an associate professor in the department of pathology and immunology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. She also served as a molecular pathologist, a dermatopathologist, and as the associate director of global pathology at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston.
While a junior faculty member at Baylor, Phung teamed up with a group of physicians at Harvard Medical School and the University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Vietnam to establish a highly successful medical clinic to care for children with disfiguring vascular birthmarks in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
“This work has given me much confidence that an individual, with the right purpose and motivation as well as strong support from one's institutional leadership and colleagues, can make a huge impact for the good of others,” she said.
Phung earned her medical degree and Ph.D. in cell biology from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in Rochester, New York. She completed her residency training in anatomic pathology at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, Washington University, in St. Louis.
Phung completed a clinical fellowship in dermatopathology, followed by a postdoctoral research fellowship in vascular biology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School in Boston. She later completed a clinical fellowship in molecular genetic pathology at Houston Methodist Hospital in Houston.
She is a board-certified diplomate of the American Board of Pathology, the American Board of Medical Genetics and Genomics, and the American Board of Dermatology.