Dr. Mary Mahler is due to complete her Internal Medicine training at Western University in June 2019. Following this, she will become a 4th year Medical Oncology resident at the University of Toronto. She previously completed two years of an undergraduate degree in biology at Queen’s University before moving to Ireland where she completed her medical degree at University College Dublin. She has been conducting cancer research since medical school, initially focusing on cancer survivorship behaviours but more recently looking at genetic polymorphisms that predispose patients to cisplatin toxicity.
Dr.Mary Mahler, how did you first become interested in medical oncology?
While studying biology at Queen’s University, I was fascinated by genetics and cell pathology, however I was worried that the degree would lead to a job in a lab without enough interaction with people. I thus pursuited medicine in the hopes of entering a field that blended basic science with human interaction.
Once in medical school, I was trying to find summer work in pediatric genetics but my emails were going unanswered. That is when a friend tipped me onto the COMBIEL group at Princess Margaret and this was my real first exposure to oncology. Much to my delight, I found that the field offered a very unique translation of basic science to clinical care.
And why do you enjoy oncology?
Upon starting my clinical rotations, the unique patient-physician relationship that the field offered really cemented my interest. I appreciate that there is short and impactful relationships as well as lengthy and meaningful relationships with patients. This is a field where communication skills are imperative in explaining complex treatment plans, exploring patient’s wishes and supporting them during what can be a very difficult time.
Are you doing any research currently? If so, could you tell us a little more about it?
My current research is looking at how genetic polymorphisms can predict cisplatin toxicity in head and neck cancer patients. This is a project that I have worked on in part at London Regional Cancer Program and then expanded to Princess Margaret. We were initially focussing on hearing loss as a result of cisplatin treatment however the project is expanding to nephrotoxicity as well and hopefully different cancer sites aside from head and neck in the future.
Are there any future projects? What do you plan on doing/ achieving in the future?
I have been taking a break from committing to any new research projects for the moment as I have been focusing on my Internal Medicine licensing exam. However, I look forward to starting my Medical Oncology residency in Toronto this summer and taking advantage of the amazing opportunities that undoubtedly lie ahead.