Rachel Wan is a Clinical Research Assistant at OVCARE and helps coordinate the clinical research components of the Gynecologic Cancer Tissue Bank— a key biorepository resource available to researchers in BC. The Tissue Bank provides access to biospecimen and data that are made available by the gynecologic cancer patients who have generously donated volunteered to be part of ongoing research in BC.
Working at one of the larger tissue banks in Canada, Rachel finds her work interesting because not only do they have specimens that researchers can use for their primary research, but also information that clinicians and other researchers would want to use for things like outcomes research. She finds this exciting because, she is able to see all of the new projects that are being proposed and researched and help clinicians in this process.
Rachel studied Immunology and Microbiology at the University of British Columbia. Post-graduation, she transitioned into clinical research and has found her way to her current position.
Q: Where does your interest in this field stem from?
A: When I was younger, even in elementary school, I remember really enjoying learning about human biology. I loved learning about the physiology and the function of different types of cells and organs. When I got to university, there are only so many streams to enter in terms of human physiology, so I chose to specialize in Microbiology and Immunology. I enjoyed the journal presentations in my upper-year microbiology courses and the guest lecturers in my immunology courses. One of which happened Dr. Brad Nelson, the Director of the Deeley Research Centre, a part of BC Cancer—Victoria. I was inspired by his work and how research is translated and directly applied to the clinic.
Q: What inspires your work?
A: In terms of the work that I do, I am inspired by all the clinicians and researchers that I get to work with because they all have interesting ideas about what we should be researching and how we can impact people in the future. I get to work with so many inspiring individuals who dedicate their lives to their research. Oftentimes, researchers apply for grant funding based on a culmination of several years of work. Over time, they continue to explore topics and various branches of an idea, and that takes time.
Q: What are your goals for your career?
A: I would like to continue in research, whether that is as a research assistant or research nurse. I want to work with people, especially patients, as I am quite invested in the healthcare and research sphere. In the future, I hope to conduct my own research or continue to help the research that we have as there are always new things happening at OVCARE. Another avenue that I am open to is a role in a public communications role where I can share information with the public in an understandable and impactful way. For example, focusing on patient care and providing accessible resources and information once they receive a diagnosis.
Q: What do you like to do outside of work?
A: Outside of work has been really interesting because of Covid-19. I really enjoy doing yoga and being outside. I also enjoy trying new foods as it helps me learn about different cultures. Since being home more, I have also tried new baking recipes and spent a lot of time earlier in the year perfecting my cinnamon buns. I miss travelling so trying new recipes and recreating foods I have had in different cities has helped. I am looking forward to when I can travel again soon and meet new people.
Q: What would be the advice you would give to someone starting out in the same field?
A: Maintain your sense of curiosity and wonder as there is always so much to learn. Everyone you meet knows something that you don’t know anything about, so being open to having conversations and asking questions can open opportunities and your perspective. One more thing is that it is okay to ask for help. That is one thing that I continue to practice myself.
Q: What is your favourite in Vancouver?
A: This is so difficult as there are a lot of great restaurants in Vancouver! Lupo in Yaletown has an amazing tomato burrata salad. Nightingale is another restaurant downtown where everything tastes amazing, plus they have amazing drinks. Masayoshi is an amazing restaurant on Fraser that is also very special to me.