Geneviève is completing her graduate studies in the Women+ and Children’s Health Sciences (WACH) under the supervision of Dr. Brotto. Her research at UBC and in the Sexual Health Research Laboratory focuses on treatments for sexual dysfunction in cancer survivors. Specifically, she works on eSense-Cancer, a branch of the eSense study, which seeks to adapt the original digital therapy modules to gynecologic cancer survivors’ lived experiences with sexual difficulties.

Geneviève was recently awarded with the Barbara Berthon Ovarian Cancer Presentation Award at the 2023 GCI Trainee Research Day for her outstanding presentation on “eSense-Cancer: Patient engagement as a strategy for adapting an online sexual health tool for gynecologic cancer survivors.”

1. What led you to do gynecologic cancer research here in BC?

I completed my undergraduate degree at McGill with a double major in Psychology and Gender, Sexuality, Feminist, and Social Justice Studies. When it came time for graduate school, I came across the Women+ and Children’s Health Sciences (WACH) program at UBC.

Upon looking for potential supervisors, I found Dr. Lori Brotto, who is a psychologist doing sex research. For me, this was the best of both worlds because I was able to bring together psychology and studies of sexuality and gender together. After an extensive interview process with her, here I am! I am really grateful to be in a position under Dr. Brotto’s supervision that merges my two interests together so well.

2. What kind of research are you working on right now?

My thesis is called eSense-Cancer. Essentially, we are taking eSense, an online therapy treating Sexual Interest and Arousal Disorder (SIAD) in women, and adapting it for gynecologic cancer survivors who experience sexual difficulties as a result of their treatments. That includes surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, which can leave them with many negative impacts on their sexual wellbeing. 

The first phase of the study, which is the adaptation of eSense-Cancer, is almost complete. We are making the actual changes to the platform now. In the fall, we will move onto a feasibility study to see how eSense-Cancer is accepted by gynecologic cancer survivors and if it works.

3. What is the most exciting thing about your work?

The most exciting or rewarding part of my work has been engaging with patient partners and hearing their stories. Patient partners have worked extensively with us for the adaptation of eSense-Cancer. They reviewed every module and given us feedback, participated in focus groups and discussions, and continued to be part of the team in the next steps of our project. 

eSense-Cancer could not have been better adapted without their help. They have truly done a wonderful job at highlighting the changes in content and format of eSense needed to make the platform more relatable and accessible.

For instance, the font colours in eSense were difficult to read at times because the contrast wasn’t high enough. From working directly with patient partners, I learned that there are several long-term impacts of chemotherapy, including vision difficulties. Because of their lived experiences, the patient partners were able to pick up on this and share it with us so that we could make eSense-Cancer as best as possible for other survivors in the future.

4. How does your team support you in your career journey?

Before I came here, I wasn’t really sure about what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go. I knew that I wanted to have a role with patients in the future, but I was drawn to research. In my role with the Sexual Health Research Lab, I have been able to meet with people who have accomplished amazing things and mentors who I could only dream of coming close to in the future. It has really broadened my horizon in terms of the roles I could hold in the future. 

Some of the considerations I have right now are if I want to go into medicine and have more of a medical role with patients, or whether I want to focus more on psychology and have a role in counseling. I am not sure where I want to end up, but I have a distinct feeling that I will juggle a role with patients and research because I have a genuine passion for the work we are currently doing. To be able to create something that has a direct impact on someone’ quality of life is really exciting, and I am fortunate to be surrounded by a team of people, including my supervisor, people in our lab, and the GCI that have shown me the range of possibilities for my future.

5. What is one piece of advice or motto that has shaped your life?

My motto for much of my life has been, “If you’re enjoying yourself, just continue on that path.” When it came time to choosing my majors at McGill, I settled on the things that interested me. I wasn’t sure where I would end up, but I knew that if I followed my passions, I would end up somewhere that made me happy. 

6. Name at least one person to send appreciation message? and why? (Not including your supervisors :))

I have so many people I’m grateful for, but here are three that represent three different prongs of my life:

The first one that I would like to thank is my partner. He is there for me on a day-to-day basis. He is the most supportive person ever, supporting me in my goals and endeavors and cheering me on. He is really the #1 person by my side.

I would also like to thank Dr. Lesa Dawson from the GCI. I admire her work and we have been able to chat and collaborate on the adaptation of eSense-Cancer. I have been learning so much about her work at the survivorship clinic. If I can’t say thank you to my supervisor, I’d like to thank Dr. Dawson because she is absolutely amazing as a researcher and clinician.

The third thank you goes to all the other grad students in my lab. They have been so helpful in navigating my program and academia in general. Learning from them and the hurdles they’ve gone through has really helped me get through some challenges myself. They have been incredible in validating my feelings and helping me with questions. All in all, I am super grateful for everyone in my lab.