Karama Asleh

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Karama Asleh, UBC graduate student, Interdisciplinary Oncology
Identification of clinically-important subgroups among basal-like breast cancer
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

Prior to coming to UBC, I worked as a clinician practicing in medical oncology. During that period, I became highly aware of the significant role that translational research is playing to advance cancer patients care. Accompanying women in their journey to battle breast cancer is a challenging task that not only requires empathy and support, but also requires the search for new strategies when successful therapies are scarce. This clinical experience influenced me deeply, and I decided to pursue a doctoral degree in interdisciplinary oncology to particularly investigate the most aggressive forms of breast cancer, where successful targeted therapies are still absent.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

I came to UBC with a goal to develop the expertise and the essential skills needed to explore and develop clinically-useful assays that can guide personalized treatment for cancer patients. Studying at UBC allows me to learn from the world-class translational scientists that it embraces. My supervisor, Dr. Torsten Nielsen, is an expert leader in the field of breast cancer and training under his supervision was the ideal fit for me. In addition, BC Cancer is well known for contributing one of the world’s largest database series that allowed the completion of different leading and practice-changing international studies in breast cancer. It is also internationally known for developing cutting-edge genomics and proteomics technologies and novel clinical assays in the field of personalized medicine.

What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?

I was interested in the interdisciplinary oncology program with a goal to become a clinician-scientist with the expertise in translating and advancing biological findings into patients’ care. My program supports courses and workshops given by leaders in the field of molecular oncology and pathology. Furthermore, it enables me to extend my network through collaborations with well-known researchers in the field, giving me an additional advantage in pursuing my vision of optimizing breast cancer care worldwide. Thus, training in such an outstanding scientific environment equips me with a skill set needed for my multifaceted professional development as a breast cancer researcher.

What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?

Coming to Vancouver allowed me to join the quest of honoring the beauty of nature and a healthy lifestyle. Exploring the variety of its breathtaking hiking trails has become my favorite hobby.

Studying at UBC allows me to learn from the world-class translational scientists that it embraces. My supervisor is an expert leader in the field of breast cancer and training under his supervision was the ideal fit for me.
What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?

As a clinician who had previously worked with cancer patients, I have realized that making a noticeable difference in patients’ lives comes through research of outstanding value. I believe that the research I am doing under my UBC graduate program will be translated to guide more effective personalized treatment decisions for breast cancer patients.

What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?

Lots of nature recreation areas and beaches are located around Vancouver, so they offer a nice spot for a relaxing afternoon while being immersed in science. Also, being grateful for the good things I do have in this life makes me feel better about myself and recharges my mental batteries.

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

Do not allow obstacles to dampen your motivation and be the one leading your actions. Create healthy and realistic strategies and revisit them to increase your chances of reaching your goals. Do what you can do to impress yourself and learn to ignore the things you have no control over.


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