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Dr. Frances Wong: My Journey to a Career in Cancer Medicine

October 4, 2013

One’s life journey is full of twists and turns. Very often, the path taken is influenced by decisions at critical points which become obvious only in hind sight.

I was born in Hong Kong to a middle class family. We initially lived in a rural area and I went to a Chinese language primary school. It was at my brother’s insistence that I applied to an English language secondary school. This helped to prepare me for the Canadian system after my family immigrated to British Columbia at the end of my high school.

I enrolled in the community college instead of entering UBC since it offered a year round semester system. I remember that the topic of my first essay in Biology 101 was “virus and cancer.” That was before I even knew the word oncology. Prior to my application to medical school, I did some soul searching – I needed to know if I was truly interested in medicine, or if it was just fulfilling the expectation of my parents. The small class size in the college made it easy for me to know the lecturers well and obtain guidance from them. There was no question that I was interested in health care as a career.

After my first year in medicine, I was lucky enough to get a summer job at the BC Cancer Institute (now BC Cancer Agency). I did a research project under the guidance of Dr. Stewart Jackson, my first introduction to oncology. This project was a review of the radiation treatment result of lip cancer – a cancer of the head and neck area. As a medical student, I was subjected to many disciplines and they all looked interesting. But the experience of doing research, working in a collaborative fashion with other specialists and the ability to help patients with a deadly diagnosis sparked my career choice.

Next week I will tell you about my work at the BC Cancer Agency,