On March 8, we celebrate International Women’s Day. This is a day for us to to recognize the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. IWD is also a day to highlight gender parity in our society.
Here at MiraKind, we’re constantly inspired by the amazing women who surround us; whether it is scientists and doctors working on our research, or the strong and empowered women who are facing complex health challenges with dignity and grace.This week, we thought we would introduce you to an incredible woman here at MiraKind. Joanne Weidhaas, MD, PhD founded our non-profit organization in 2013 following the revolutionary discovery of the KRAS-variant mutation. For over a decade, she has been a passionate advocate for genetic research and its linkage to cancer risk and treatment. Through her research and advocacy, Joanne hopes to bridge the gap between doctors, scientists, and patients so that we can all move forward with a more personalized approach to patient treatment. We wanted to know a little bit more about Joanne so we asked her a few questions about her inspiration and vision for the future. Here’s what she had to say:
1.What inspired you to get into your field of work?
I was always always interested in science, as well as drawn to working with people. I remember when I was around five, I went to a clinic to be vaccinated, and was really fascinated by the doctors, and all the information on the walls about health. There was a poster about cancer, and I was asking my mom about it on the way home. She told us that a neighbor we used to play with, a girl a few years older than me, had died of cancer. I was so confused by how that could even happen, and couldn’t stop thinking about it. That may have been the start.
2. What do you love most about the work you do?
My patients! As incredibly hard it is when we lose the battle against cancer, which unfortunately is too often, I am forever inspired and motivated by the incredible bravery, courage, and beauty that I see in each and every one of my patients.
3. What motivates you to do the work you do?
My head and heart are just full of patients that I have cared for, those who continue to live full lives and those we have lost, and I am overwhelmed by the powerful need to do better than we are doing. We can not fail as often as we do. There is so much improvement that needs to happen in how we treat cancer.
4. What advice do you have for women who are getting into the fields of science and medicine?
It is a fabulous choice! You will have a career that you love–it is fulfilling, fun, and inspiring. It isn’t easy, but it is worth the fight!
5. What’s your greatest personal achievement?
My amazing three children, Lilly, Drew and Ella, none of whom would be here without my incredibly supportive husband, AJ.
6. Name one fact about you that might surprise people.
I have a twin brother. I often cry at children’s movies. I love chocolate.
7. What do you do when you’re not working at MiraDX and MiraKind?
I spend time with my wonderful family, exercise, and garden. Although I find working on genetic and scientific questions really fun!
8. What’s your vision for the future of genetic research?
We need to take a step back, and re-focus our efforts on understanding the genetics of the individual patient. In cancer especially, I believe we have gotten distracted by focusing almost exclusively on the genetics of the tumor to treat disease, rather than who they are genetically. This is critical, because it is becoming clear that success in beating cancer comes from designing treatments to help patients’ own immune systems defeat their disease.