Thinking “Outside of The Box”

March 16, 2012

I feel very fortunate to have had great mentors throughout my career to date, because they have helped me get to where I am.

In the field of Urology, which includes studying prostate cancer research, approximately 13 per cent of all urologists are female, and even fewer are in leadership roles within the field. We really are a minority in this area. I am passionate about female mentorship in research in general. It’s a demanding occupation, and balance of family-work life can be difficult.

Cancer research is an enormous field, and to continue discovering cures we need to have as many different people involved as possible. Men and women do think and work differently in research, and it’s important to keep the field of research as open to any possibility for discovery, keeping the patients in focus and always striving to better patient care and treatment.

In 1998, I became an independent scientist at the BC Cancer Agency, which means I was no longer working for someone, and was in a position to explore my own research ideas. I took this opportunity to look more closely at a specific area of prostate cancer research. I believed advanced prostate cancer was caused by the androgen receptor, which fuels the cancer. Back then this theory wasn’t popular. Part of being a scientist is dealing with feedback, whether constructive or critical. The feedback I received then was tough, but my instincts lead me to believe otherwise.

About five or six years later, ideas began to shift in prostate cancer research, and by 2009 suddenly everyone agreed and I was in the right place at the right time to pursue my theory. To me, this was an indication that things can shift in the field of research, and it is not necessarily good to always follow the crowd. I was fortunate there were people in the field that did agree with me so I was able to secure funding. Along the way, I found evidence that supported my theory and eventually I had a eureka discovery moment.