Health Studies students recognized for outstanding cancer research

Friday, June 11, 2021

 Tara Berhoozian and Emily Lam

By: Namish Modi

Two University of Waterloo Health Studies students are being recognized for exceptional contributions to cancer research during their co-op terms at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

Emily Lam and Tara Behroozian are winners of the Outstanding Young Investigator Award for 2020 and 2021, respectively.

The award will be officially presented by the Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer (MASCC) at its virtual conference on June 24 to 26.

Each year, the MASCC presents Young Investigator Awards to authors who present outstanding research.

The titles of research presented by Lam and Behroozian are as follows:

Behroozian: “How do Patient-Reported Outcomes Compare with Clinician Assessments? A prospective study of Radiation Dermatitis in Breast Cancer”

Lam: “Prospective Study of Patient-Reported Pain in Breast Radiotherapy”

Tara Behroozian

Tara Behroozian headshotBehroozian spent two terms at Sunnybrook in 2020 and is currently on her third work term there.

“I’d say what made my co-op terms the most successful is really the amount of involvement I was able to get in all research projects that we were doing,” says Behroozian.

The first major research Behroozian led is an observational prospective study on patients’ symptoms across their radiation treatment for breast cancer. As part of the study, she conducted questionnaires to determine patterns for patients receiving the treatment. A second study she conducted was a randomized trial to help manage severe symptoms post-treatment.

“We work with patients, specifically breast cancer patients, undergoing radiation therapy for their treatment for cancer,” she says. “We focus a lot on symptom management and how to assess patients’ symptoms throughout treatment.”

Behroozian was the primary author on the study submitted to the MASSC. As part of the research, she studied the measurement of radiation dermatitis, a common side effect of cancer treatment, to further indicate the patients’ experiences with treatments.

“I don’t think I ever would have expected to receive an award like this and to be recognized at an international (level) for the research I’ve done at Sunnybrook, but it’s been really rewarding,” she adds.

Behroozian is planning for a future in medicine and is writing the MCAT this summer.

“I’m really confident that my co-op experiences have set me up for success,” she says.

“I think that research is something that’s really heavily valued when it comes to medical school application process or professional school applications. To have been able to get this experience presenting at a conference, having manuscripts published as a primary author, leading research projects; all of these are very valuable."

- TARA BEHROOZIAN, Health Studies co-op student

Emily Lam

Emily Lam headshotLam, who was recognized as the Faculty of Health Co-op Student of the Year for 2020, conducted research on radiation-induced skin reactions and quality of life in breast cancer patients receiving radiation therapy. She is currently completing her fifth and final work term at Sunnybrook.

As a clinical research assistant, Lam is responsible for managing clinical trials, which involves recruiting patients to participate in trials, seeing them everyday during their radiation treatment and conducting follow-ups.

Lam’s work, which was recognized by MASCC, focused specifically on pain in breast radiotherapy.

“It is a very validating experience to have been honoured with the Outstanding Young Investigator Award, especially knowing that the other recipients are highly educated and experienced health care professionals,” Lam says. “To have received this award as an undergraduate student would certainly not have been possible without the support of my employer and former Waterloo co-op students who have been in this position before me. They have served as incredible mentors during my time at Sunnybrook and have paved the way for myself and future co-op students to thrive in this environment.”

During Lam’s third term at Sunnybrook in 2020, she published a paper in the peer-reviewed journal Supportive Care in Cancer which investigated the impact of pain in over 400 patients receiving breast radiation therapy. The findings will help provide clinicians with a clearer timeline of pain progression to improve symptom management during treatment.

“I never expected to be able to write papers and do these things that many doctors and researchers are doing. As an undergraduate I think it's incredible, but also something I would have never imagined."

- EMILY LAM, Health Studies co-op student