Happy International Women’s Day! Although we appreciate all the women in the Gynecologic Cancer Initiative (GCI) community every day, we want to highlight a few of our members. We are deeply grateful for the passion, leadership, and intelligence they bring to the group – a true embodiment of our mission and vision.

“Women’s health research is underfunded compared to other areas of science, leaving many domains of women’s health misunderstood. The key to balancing this inequity is to have more students and trainees engaged in women’s health research, more funding agencies prioritizing women’s health in their funding competitions, and advocacy. I do believe that this is within reach, and International Women’s Day is an opportunity for the broader women’s health community to converge on this single mission in order to move the dial meaningfully in women’s health research.

Dr. Lori Brotto is a Professor in the UBC Faculty of Medicine in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the Executive Director of the Women’s Health Research Institute. She completed her PhD in Clinical Psychology from the University of British Columbia (UBC), where her research focused primarily on psychophysiological aspects of sexual arousal in women diagnosed with sexual dysfunctions. She continues to do related research in her Sexual Health Laboratory at UBC. She has had many accomplishments over her career but key milestones for her have been being a Canada Research Chair in Women’s Sexual Health and successfully developing mindfulness-based therapy as an effective treatment for sexual concerns in women.

As a Postdoctoral Fellow with the GCI, Dr. Elisabeth McClymont’s career highlight has been providing the first data to show early efficacy of the HPV vaccine in a population of WLWH (Women Living With Human Immunodeficiency Virus). This data was published in the Clinical Infectious Diseases network. Following this accomplishment, Dr. McClymont is hoping to investigate further by looking at reduced dosing of the newer nonavalent HPV vaccine in WLWH to be able to provide data to support or refute the use of only 2 doses in this population. Such findings could increase the feasibility of having HPV vaccination programs in many HIV-endemic countries and contribute greatly to the global elimination of cervical cancer.

“I would highly encourage people interested in women’s health and gynecologic cancers to get involved with research. The women’s health research community is filled with warm, passionate, and dedicated researchers that are highly supportive of trainees and people who are new to research. There are also so many under-researched and incredibly urgent questions to answer, which makes women’s health and gyne cancer a fascinating and fulfilling area of science to work in.

Alex Lukey is a new Ph.D. student at UBC’s School of Population and Public Health. Prior to her PhD, she was awarded the Women’s Health Clinical Mentorship Grant where she was mentored by Dr. Gillian Hanley and Dr. Gavin Stuart working to conduct observational research on the impact of hormone replacement therapy on survival outcomes of ovarian cancer patients. With this research, winning the best Masters’ presentation at the Canadian Conference on Ovarian Cancer Research (CCOR) has been a highlight of her career. Additionally, she is excited to have started her Ph.D. at the UBC’s School of Population and Public Health where she is focusing on using machine learning and population-based data to predict and prevent ovarian cancer.

Dr. Michelle Woo plays a crucial role in the OVCARE team as the operational lead. Throughout her work, she remains inspired by the stories and the resilience of women and their families as they face a diagnosis of gynecological cancer. During her time at OVCARE, she is proud and fortunate to have had the opportunity to support an amazing team of scientists, clinicians, staff, trainees, patients, and community partners, towards a collective goal to reduce the death and suffering from gynecological cancer by 50%. To future female gynecologic cancer researchers, she says that “the road may at times be bumpy but continue being curious and follow your passion.”

Thank you Dr. Lori Brotto, Dr. Elisabeth McClymont, Dr. Michelle Woo, Alex Lukey, and all the incredible women part of the GCI. We celebrate you today and everyday for your hard work and dedication. With women at the forefront, we can advance our vision to reduce the incidence, death and suffering from gynecologic cancers by 50% by 2034. 

Help us save the lives of British Columbians by empowering them with knowledge about gynecologic cancers. Resources can be found on our websitepodcast, and through BC Cancer Foundation and Canadian Cancer Society. Additionally, donations can be made to support our research initiatives through our website.