The GCI would like to congratulate Dr. Farhia Kabeer on receiving the Michael Smith Health Research Award and CIHR Postdoctoral Fellowship Award this year! Farhia is currently a postdoctoral CIHR fellow at UBC and BC Cancer Research Centre, working on high-grade serous ovarian cancer preclinical models to test novel combination therapies.

Q: Tell us about yourself!

Professionally, I am trained as a gynae surgeon in Pakistan with M.B.B.S degree and a couple years of gynae residency. My career veered into research once I began my MSc at McGill University studying the metastatic potential of breast cancer cells. I was awarded the Provost’s Graduate Fellowship and Graduate Excellence Award from the Department of Medicine there. My PhD at the University of British Columbia encompassed the fields of cancer genomics, patient-derived xenograft (PDX), cancer evolution and translational breast cancer research. For my accomplishments and publications in high-impact journals, I was given a four-year Faculty of Medicine Graduate Award, PALM Trainee Award, and was given the 2021 President’s Academic Excellence PhD Award at UBC. 

I am a mother of three and have many hobbies outside of my work–in particular cooking and traveling. I enjoy attending conferences because it also gives me an excuse to explore new places around the world! Recently, for example, I attended the annual CCOCR in Ottawa to present my research and had a lovely experience both meeting new people and new ideas for research. I’m always looking to broaden my perspectives–and whether that be through cooking new dishes or traveling to new places, I’m grateful to be able to do so. 

Q: What got you interested in research? In your field of study? 

My interest in medicine goes back to childhood, where, as a curious twelve-year-old, I wondered what went on behind the red line of the operation theater. My father was being operated on the inside, and I became yet more interested in human diseases upon reading his hospital file. The diagnosis written inside was “Ca”. To me and my dictionaries at the time, that abbreviation could only mean Calcium. In medical school after his death, I came to know that Ca also stands for carcinoma. The curiosity and passion fostered in me at a young age helped drive the completion of my MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine & Bachelor of Surgery) degree. I pursued with the determination to further explore the field of medicine, enhancing my clinical knowledge by practicing for eight years in teaching hospitals. During that time, I also helped teach and train medical undergraduate students. The turning point in my life from clinical practice to scientific research began similarly to my first passion in my medicine—upon seeing the X-ray of my mother’s chest flooded with metastatic lesions. The lens through which I viewed cancer cells had changed—I wanted now to understand how they originated, spread, and became unresponsive to drugs. I wanted to uncover the biological processes in cancer using research as my tool. 

Q: What are your career goals?  

Some of my other professional development goals include 1) becoming involved in community outreach programs to enhance student education; 2) improving my teaching, writing, and communication skills (for which I recently attended a 3-day instructional skill workshop at UBC); 3) become involved in graduate student societies and develop my leadership abilities, and 4) network and develop lasting connections within the broader scientific community. 

My long-term career goal involves becoming an independent investigator and leading my own laboratory in an academic institution. 

Q: What do you like to do for self-care? 

The best type of self-care for me is eating delicious (and occasionally healthy) food and getting enough sleep. It also improves my mood when I spend time with my husband and play with my children. In general, I like to take a break from my workload by just doing simple things that I enjoy with the people I love. 

Q: Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

My favourite food is biryani—a popular dish in Pakistan! 

I remain young at heart because I still love playing with my son’s toys–especially his Hot Wheels cars… and according to my son, I am very good at it too!