This year, in honour of International Women’s Day on March 8, we recognize two incredible leaders who have made an impact during their 30 and 35 year careers with BC Cancer.
Dr. Frances Wong began her career 35 years ago with BC Cancer – then called The Cancer Control Agency of British Columbia – as a radiation oncologist. Today she is still a practicing radiation oncologist in addition to her role as the senior executive director for medical affairs, quality and clinical information systems at BC Cancer. Lisa Kan began her tenure at BC Cancer as a biostatistician in the Epidemiology and Biostatics department and has recently moved into the role of executive director of BC Cancer’s Screening and Prevention program. Both women are trailblazers; leading large teams of talented staff dedicated to providing patient-centred care.
In recent years more and more women have been entering the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. “The biggest area of change I’ve seen since starting my career is the increasing number of women as physicians in oncology and in medicine overall,” says Frances. "Oncology has changed so much over the years and I would like to see more women physicians trained to take on senior leadership positions."
“Over the years, I have seen more and more women in health care leadership positions,” says Lisa. “Traditionally, women leaders came from nursing. Today I am seeing more women leaders coming from all different fields: medical research, public health, psychosocial sciences, epidemiology, and computer sciences to name a few. Having leaders from different backgrounds and life experiences enrich our organization.”
For women looking to build their network in health care, Lisa and Frances both suggest that looking to colleagues in the industry is a great place to start. Social media can be another tool to growing a strong support network of women in health care. For those in medicine, the Federation of Medical Women of Canada
is another great way women can advance personally and professionally.
Reflecting back on their careers with BC Cancer, both admit to leaning into the work that has brought them the most joy. “My career journey is really a reflection of what makes me happy at work and my own growth. I like problem-solving and I like the rush that comes when working with people who are goal-oriented and results-driven. This has been a tremendously rewarding career,” says Lisa.
Frances shares how rewarding it has been to continue patient care while building her career as a leader.
“While I enjoy my administrative role, I cannot emphasize enough the pleasure and privileges of the clinical work. Patient care remains the central focus of all the work done at BC Cancer. I have been very lucky to work with all the amazing and dedicated staff, and be part of BC’s cancer care all these years.”
For women looking to get into health care, “Go for it!” says Frances. “Health care work is not just a job; it is dedication that requires passion and compassion.” Lisa adds, “Health care is consistently evolving. Start with something you enjoy doing, invest in yourself by seeking out opportunities to do something new, learn along the way – this will open up new possibilities and paths that you could not imagine."