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Dr. Cheryl Ho: My Route to a Career in Oncology

November 6, 2013

My route to oncology was through coincidence and fortunate choices. As an undergraduate I was always interested in the sciences (the fact that my father is a retired research scientist and while growing up we spent weekends at the lab probably had something to do with that!)

I attended the University of Toronto and completed a Bachelors and Masters degree in Biochemistry. In the latter capacity I was working on membrane proteins, evaluating how they were expressed and utilized by cells. It was fortuitous that my Masters’ supervisor, Dr. David Clarke, trained with Dr. Victor Ling who has been an incredibly influential force in basic science research in oncology in B.C. Our lab looked at several membrane proteins not the least of which was p-glycoprotein, a known mechanism of chemotherapy resistance in cancer cells.

I left p-glycoprotein behind when I moved to the University of Western Ontario where I completed my medical degree. In my second year of medical school a list of summer research opportunities were posted one of which was the Ivan H. Smith oncology studentship and I thought, why not?

Through that summer I had a chance to work with many dedicated oncologists and was impressed with their compassion in often difficult and heartbreaking situations. The co-ordination of clinical care and the commitment of the multidisciplinary medical team inspired me. And I began to see the essential link between the research and what was done in the clinic.

My decision to pursue oncology was cemented during my internal medicine residency when I worked with Dr. Mark Vincent who emphasized the role of research and discovery: the key is not to look at the limitations we are faced with now, but to think bigger, with a vision of all the possibilities the future holds.

I finally arrived at the BC Cancer Agency to complete my medical oncology training in 2003. Thereafter, I went to the University of California, Davis Campus medical centre to complete a thoracic oncology fellowship. I have been a part of the BC Cancer Agency staff since 2006.

Next week, I will share with you the role of research in my work.