Yamicia Connor

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

There is a creativity to science, starting with basic principles and conjuring something out of nothing. And then there is an immediacy to surgery, working with your hands to quickly solve a problem.

Dr. Yamicia Connor is enthralled by both, initially sparked by a high school biology teacher who mentioned a career as a physician-scientist. That concept captivated her, propelling her to MIT’s M.D.-Ph.D. program, where she has fused cancer surgery with cancer research.

“Science is a very good long game,” she said. But “a clinician is able to help someone in a succinct time frame. I like that.”

Now a chief resident in obstetrics and gynecology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, she thrives on the immediate impact surgery can have on a cancer patient’s life while motivated by the need to know why and how cancer spreads and kills.

“Science is a very good long game,” she said. But “a clinician is able to help someone in a succinct time frame. I like that.”

Connor has studied metastatic breast cancer cells and modeled mathematically how their projections into cells that line blood vessels might affect cancer’s spread and treatments meant to thwart it. Now she’s interested in small cell ovarian cancer, a rare tumor that affects young women.

Hyacinth Empinado/STAT

It appears to be driven by only one mutated gene, yet patients respond to immunotherapy that typically works best for mutation-heavy cancers such as melanoma.

“I treated some patients with that early in my residency, so that inspired me to learn more about that type of cancer and its biology,” she said. “In general, with gynecologic cancers, there’s a huge wealth of things we don’t know, many unanswered questions. It’s a largely untapped field and it’s not like there are that many clinicians who do a lot of basic science in this space.”

Her next step? A fellowship in gynecology oncology to do just that.

Elizabeth Cooney

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