Dr. Poul Sorensen: My Background
June 15, 2012
I’m originally from Denmark, but have lived in Canada since I was about nine years old. My family first moved to Victoria, then to Richmond, B.C. I’ve always had an interest in how things work and this eventually led me to the University of British Columbia (UBC), where I studied biophysics and biochemistry. During this time, I discovered my passion for medical research and decided to go to medical school.
I studied medicine at UBC and McGill University. While at UBC, Dr. David Hardwick, former head of Pathology at the BC Cancer Agency, became a big influence on my studies. As a pathologist, he taught me the importance of not only being a good diagnostician, but also of taking the opportunity to actually study and learn the molecular basis of disease, and when possible, to drill into the actual mechanisms of the underlying disease process. Only then can we begin to really understand the disease and start to think about potential new therapies.
After medical school, most students usually begin an internship. I took a slightly different route. I actually became the first medical graduate to combine a PhD in Experimental Pathology and with a residency in Anatomic Pathology. The PhD was mentored by our very own Dr. Gerry Krystal in the BC Cancer Agency Terry Fox Laboratory. I was fortunate to have post-doctoral opportunities. I received a Centennial Fellowship from the Government of Canada (now known as the Clinician Scientist Program), which allows clinically trained people to further their research skills. I completed one fellowship at the University of Minnesota in molecular hematology with Dr. John Kersey, and the other at the University of Southern California in the genetics of childhood solid tumours with Dr. Tim Triche.
When I returned to Vancouver, I worked as a pathologist at B.C. Children’s Hospital in the Molecular Pathology Laboratory, focusing on the genetics of pediatric tumour cases. During this time, I spent 50% of my time doing research. I was then awarded the Johal Chair in Childhood Cancer Research, a UBC research chair that allowed me to have protected time for research (up to about 80-90% research time). This really allowed me to pursue many different research areas, and later eventually led me to join the BC Cancer Agency.