Connecting compassion to cancer care

Coaching the next generation

emily lamIt wasn’t long before Dr. Edward Chow, a senior scientist and oncologist at one of the largest cancer programs in North America, left an impression on one of his protégés.

Emily Lam (BSc in progress), a Health Studies student, was on her first co-op work term at the Odette Cancer Centre (OCC) when she got an opportunity to observe Dr. Chow at a bone metastases clinic with palliative cancer patients.

“These patients come in not knowing what to expect in the future, and Dr. Chow is able to comfort them in a way that is truly meaningful to the patients and their families,” says Lam, who went on to work five terms for Dr. Chow as a clinical research assistant.

“Just witnessing that in my first term really inspired me to continue pursuing a career in medicine,” Lam says. “I know what kind of provider I would like to be in the future because of him.”

Dr. Chow's Tips

dr chow

Open door policy: Students should know they can reach out to you at any time.

Encourage exploration: Students need to explore different areas within the field.

Make connections: Students need connections within and beyond the organization.

Mentorship is a key pillar in medical school

Under Dr. Chow’s guidance, Waterloo co-op students are consistently empowered to lead clinical trials, write research reports and interact with patients at the OCC, which is part of the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto.

“Mentorship is a key pillar in medical education and exceptional mentorship in the early stages of my career as a physician has been pivotal to my growth as a clinician and researcher,” Chow says. “After having received excellent mentorship in my career, I am very passionate about teaching my own students in a similar way.”

OCC and Dr. Chow offer students an opportunity to gain both clinical and research skills in their daily work through hands-on experience with physicians, nurses and radiation therapists.

For the past 16 years, co-op students who worked at OCC have consistently been recognized as Co-op Students of the Year. Lam, who investigates the impact of radiation therapy in breast cancer patients, won both the 2020 Faculty of Health co-op student of the year and a Young Investigator Award.

“The OCC provides students with opportunities to build upon a work term. Many students return for their subsequent co-op terms, which allows for more responsibility and growth, both in a professional and academic capacity,” says Chow, adding that students tend to be recognized for the dedication and passion they demonstrate.

“In order to get good results from students, it is important to allow them to take the lead on all stages of a project, from the brainstorming all the way through to the final delivery,” Chow says. “This requires a great deal of training and trust at the early stages, but this is key in instilling confidence among young people.”

Collaborating with others

tara behroozian

Tara Behroozian (BSc in progress), a Health Studies student and winner of the 2021 Young Investigator Award, says she feels empowered to take the lead in groundbreaking cancer research because of the support of Dr. Chow. As a third-year student, she’s been a part of major research studying the symptoms of patients undergoing breast cancer radiation treatment. Behroozian was also awarded the Proudly She Marched – Jocelyn Cowan scholarship in Winter 2021.

“When I worked at the OCC, specifically with Dr. Edward Chow, I learned what it means to be a good mentor and good employer and a good teacher to students. I think that’s something that’s key when you’re hiring Waterloo co-op students who are looking to learn."

Fostering independence

yasmeenYasmeen Razvi, a former Health Studies student, began working as a co-op student in the Odette Cancer Centre in 2018. Razvi is currently studying medicine at the University of Toronto.

“Dr. Chow placed a strong emphasis on our need to be confident, responsible and independent in a clinical environment. His mentorship style involves a mix of guidance with the appropriate amount of independence and personal responsibility. Through his mentorship, the most helpful things that I’ve gained were my comfort and confidence in the clinical environment and my research skills.

“He has a passion for teaching and has always had this same passion with all his students. I really think that’s what led to my success throughout my co-op experiences, because he’s always willing to listen, always open to listening to students’ concerns.

"He was always thinking of ways that we could further research, and gain more experience and interact with other people and network with others.”


  • 16 Years
  • 1,000+ Co-op terms
  • 19 Co-op students of the year