Graduation from the UBC MD/PhD program
I am tremendously privileged to graduate from the UBC MD/PhD program standing upon the shoulders of a community of mentors, colleagues, and friends. I could not have anticipated that this time would come during a global pandemic, but the current situation only emphasizes the need for clinician-scientists, prepared to overcome pressing clinical challenges through research. I am proud to see many of my fellow MD/PhD colleagues applying their biomedical research skills to the urgent clinical and biological questions underlying SARS-CoV-2 and its societal impacts.
As unconventional as today’s graduation has been, it has been stirring for me to look back at the past seven years. The MD/PhD program has been the pinnacle formative experience of my life thus far. It has challenged and supported me through seven rewarding years of non-stop personal and professional development. I wholeheartedly recommend the UBC MD/PhD program to anyone passionate about pursuing an impactful career as a clinician-scientist. Given the opportunity, I would choose to do it all again.
To future UBC MD/PhD students and applicants, do not hesitate to contact me. I would be delighted to learn your career aspirations and answer any questions or concerns. We are strongest as a cohesive and supportive community, and your success is my success.
Through my research, I am thoroughly convinced that open, deep, and comprehensive analysis of the cancer genome is at the core of precision oncology. The Personalized Oncogenomics (POG) Program at BC Cancer and Canada’s Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre has established itself as a world leader in research leveraging the whole genome and transcriptome for treatment selection. I am honoured to have been a part of POG from its early days to its recent publication of the first 570 cases in Nature Cancer. POG is extraordinarily supportive of its trainees, as manifested through its project design, publication policy, and allocation of funding. POG’s structure makes trainees feel welcomed, empowered, and valued, and serves as an unparalleled career launchpad for anyone interested in precision oncology research.
As I move forward towards medical residency, I want to take a look back and send gratitude to the peers and mentors who have made the past seven years so memorable and productive.
I an infinitely grateful to my supervisor Dr. Steven Jones for his research/career mentorship and for always challenging me to expand my vision and tap into the resources and opportunities available to me. I would also like to thank Dr. Marco Marra, who was my earliest research supervisor back in 2010 and has been a constant source of mentorship and inspiration since. A big thank you to my fellow graduate students and research colleagues (who are too many to list but are acknowledged in my PhD thesis). Lastly, thank you to all the uniquely visionary cancer physicians I have met through POG, especially Drs. Janessa Laskin, Daniel Renouf, Sophie Sun, Kasmintan Schrader, Howard Lim, Karen Gelmon, Xiaolan Feng, Stephen Chia, Diego Villa, David Schaeffer, Jonn Wu, Christian Steidl, and Stephen Yip.
Thank you to my fellow MD/PhD students, past and present, for your companionship along this journey. The past seven years would not be the same without eye-opening conversations on life and purpose with Philip, warm and galvanizing “thesis reality checks” with Andrea, commiserating on data science bottlenecks with Allen, or sharing in the med student community and the arts with Amanda. It has been a privilege to witness your early careers as you become rising stars your fields. I am also grateful for the friendships formed with individuals in the MD classes of 2016-2020, the staff of the Medical Student and Alumni Centre, as well as fellow representatives of the Medical Undergraduate Society, Canadian Federation of Medical Students, and the Clinician-Scientist Trainee Association of Canada.
MD/PhD Program and Faculty of Medicine
I could not have asked for better MD/PhD program directors and staff, who have supported me in more ways than I can count. The guidance of Dr. Lynn Raymond and Dr. Torsten Nielsen through the early years helped me navigate the unsteady waters of award applications, committee meetings, and the formation of my professional identity. Their every decision has been rooted in kindness and compassion, with the best interests of students at heart. I appreciate their willingness to “rattle spears” for our benefit. Whether it’s arranging a stellar line-up of clinician-scientist mentors to speak at the Building Bridges seminars or offering to rally Faculty support for an unconventional but valuable clinical elective, their willingness to go above and beyond to fight on our behalf has been unparalleled. Congratulations to Dr. Raymond on her illustrious term as MD/PhD program director, and for her directorship of the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health. I am excited to see Dr. Liam Brunham step in as Associate Director. Last but not least, I am deeply grateful to Jane Lee, the heartbeat of the MD/PhD program, who has been ever responsive, infinitely patient, and always knowledgeable.
My sincerest thanks also go out to the MD/PhD program committee, as well as the various institutional partners who make the program what it is. In particular, I’d like to acknowledge Dr. Cheryl Holmes and Dr. Roger Wong for their support of the program and for being personal mentors throughout my time in the Faculty of Medicine. Thank you to Lastly, a warm thank you to Student Affairs, especially Dr. Janette McMillan, for being there for myself and my peers during challenging times.
The Road Ahead
I look forward to using all that I have learned at UBC to tackle new challenges in an ever more collaborative national cancer research landscape.
After 11 years at UBC, it is with excitement and a full heart that I join the Department of Radiation Oncology at The University of Toronto for my residency training. I chose this program for its record of rigorous clinical training and support for research. I am delighted to continue pursuing my research endeavours in Toronto under the supervision of Dr. Scott Bratman and Dr. Trevor Pugh. I look forward to using all that I have learned at UBC to tackle new challenges in an ever more collaborative national cancer research landscape. I look forward to keeping in touch and working closely with my BC-based colleagues in the future.
This post is adapted from the UBC MD/PhD Program Summer 2020 newsletter.