Dancer glides into research

DR BENJAMIN Tang loves dancing in his spare time and once hoped to make that his full-time career.

Instead, as a medical researcher at Nepean Hospital, he made a breakthrough discovery which could save thousands of lives.

"I wanted to know why some young, healthy patients died from influenza," Dr Tang said.

He discovered that in these otherwise healthy people a key part of their immune system, the Dendritic T-cell, was malfunctioning.

The Dendritic cell organises the antibodies' defences against infection, so if it is weak the whole system falters.

"The thing is, we don't yet know how that happens," Dr Tang said.

"It's a dark corner of the universe where we want to go, but no one knows how to get there."

In another part of the universe, long, long ago, he spent time dancing the salsa and organising dance parties.

"My dad was a doctor too — a surgeon," Dr Tang said. "He didn't think much of me taking up dancing. He thought I should get a good job, but I wanted to do something creative."

He hoped his mother, who is a professional dancer, would support him.

"But Mum, although she's a dancer, thought being a doctor was the best thing," he said.

Dr Tang was born in China and came to Australia with his parents at the age of 14.

He later went to the University of Sydney.

For about 15 years he found time to dance, falling in love with salsa and even making a living out of it.

"Through Club Salsa I organised dance parties and booked venues," Dr Tang said.

"We ran a good business, but it was too time-consuming."

But in taking up medicine he eventually found a new creative outlet.

"You follow strict guidelines when practising medicine, but in medical research you have to be creative and have a good imagination," Dr Tang said.

"It's a never-ending journey; I keep discovering things.

"I still get invited to dance parties, but I also derive a lot of joy from research."

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