Getting to Know Amanda Wilmer

Amanda Wilmer MD, FRCPC, ABMM
Clinical Instructor, UBC | Medical Microbiologist, Kelowna General Hospital
Raja Ampat Islands, Indonesia

I was born in Vancouver, but grew up in smaller places within BC, living in Squamish, Williams Lake, Kamloops and Grand Forks, before the age of 18. Subsequently, I moved to Vancouver and completed all of my formal education at UBC. I completed a BSc in Pharmacy, and worked as a pharmacist at Vancouver General Hospital while attending medical school. During medical school I met my future husband, with whom I developed a love for outdoor activities, scuba diving and exotic travel. We got engaged while snorkeling in Panama, and married between medical and residency.

I completed my medical microbiology residency in 2014. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to return to the Interior of British Columbia, as a medical microbiologist at the Larissa Yarr Medical Microbiology laboratory in Kelowna General Hospital (KGH), joining two lovely microbiologists working there already. This has been a very interesting and challenging position, as the clinical service covers the entire Interior Health region, including many smaller remote communities. We have 4 laboratories, 2 of which we run remotely by mostly phone consultation. Our medical microbiology team frequently travels to these smaller communities providing education to both physicians and our technologist staff. I find this work rewarding, since I grew up in a few of the small communities I now serve.

Since starting my position, I’ve been involved in developing laboratory procedures for Ebola virus disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, developing quality indicators and laboratory test stewardship initiatives, developing MALDI TOF MS procedures, as well as many regional bench procedures, supervising validation of commercial molecular tests, and now am working on opening a real time PCR laboratory at KGH. I will be supervising a UBC Okanagan microbiology Co-operative student this summer who will be working on PCR validations for our team. It has been exciting to see our laboratory services expand, benefiting the population we serve. I have been recently appointed the discipline director for medical microbiology in Interior Health, which will allow me to develop my leadership skills going forth. Luckily, I do have a more experienced microbiologist available as a mentor.

My husband and I are enjoying the Okanagan lifestyle, and are lucky to be living right on the lake. It has been nice to be closer to family, many of whom still live in the Interior. We especially enjoy the Okanagan summers mountain biking, hiking, boating, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding and swimming in the lake. We snowboard in the winter, and spend as much time as possible traveling (and scuba diving) to avoid the cold. We are fortunate to have traveled to Raja Ampat, Indonesia, Playa Del Carmen, Mexico and Kona, Hawaii this past winter.


How would you describe yourself?
Hard working, ethical, and extremely organized.
What is the most memorable milestone in your career so far?
Six months out of residency, having a person under investigation for Ebola virus disease admitted to KGH. Luckily the testing was negative!
What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
I’ve had to work on developing work-life balance. I was on 1 in 2 or 1 in 3 call for the first several years of working in Interior Health. Since the microbiology service provides consultation to family doctors in many rural areas, in addition to our laboratory and infection control based work, the call is very busy. When off call, I try to focus on recreational activities and relaxation.
What was the inspiration for your career route?
As an undergraduate student, I was fascinated by microbiology and infectious diseases. I read books like The Coming Plague and The Hot Zone. While working as a pharmacist, I often consulted with physicians on antibiotic choices. When I found out about medical microbiology as a career option, it was a perfect fit for me.
What’s the most visited website on your Internet browser? The most played song on your phone?
Like everyone in Kelowna, Castanet is probably my most visited website. Bruno Mars is the most listened to musician on my phone.
Your life would be meaningless without…
My family of course. And Travel. Visiting other places and cultures provides so much richness to life.
Fill in the blank: If you really knew me…
you'd know that I need to make everything into an excel spreadsheet.
What’s something you wish you didn’t spend so much money on? What’s something you wish you spent more on?
I wish I didn’t spend so much money on shoes... but it always seems like such a good idea at the time! I’d love to spend more money on travel.
In 5 years’ time you hope to be……
Working at KGH still, but hopefully will have more time to be involved in teaching and research activities.



Sadar Lab Team Photo

The Sadar Lab | Prostate Cancer

Marianne Sadar, PhD
Professor, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, UBC Distinguished Scientist, Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre, BCCA
Marianne Sadar, a UBC Professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, recently developed an experimental drug that shrinks advanced prostate cancer tumours in the lab. It is the first drug in the world that targets the “engine” of the tumour that causes the cancer to grow.

The most memorable day in my career was the day I was recruited to the BC Cancer Agency as a post-doctoral fellow to work on advanced prostate cancer. It was June 1995. My supervisor, Dr. Nicolas Bruchovsky, was a clinician scientist treating prostate cancer patients. Two years of intense training with him and his staff provided me exposure to patients, basic scientists, pathologists, urologists, and medical and radiation oncologists. This learning environment plus my background in biochemistry/molecular biology were the catalyst for an idea I had about why the current treatments for advanced prostate cancer failed. It was the start of a 20 year journey of research to pursue that idea. It never occurred to me at the time that this path would lead to me starting a biotechnology company and taking my discoveries into clinical trials.

In 1998, the world believed that advanced prostate cancer was independent of androgen and independent of the androgen receptor, a transcription factor that mediates the effects of androgen. I did not share that view. To me, the data did not support this conclusion.

In 1998, the BC Cancer Agency recruited me as a Senior Scientist and shortly afterwards I was appointed Honorary Assistant Professor at UBC. Fortunately I was included in a large Program Grant from NIH with the University of Washington led by Dr. Paul Lange. These regular meetings were exciting with much debate and exposure to translational research and clinical trials on prostate cancer. Being a part of this large program grant had an enormous impact on me.

In 1998, the world believed that advanced prostate cancer was independent of androgen and independent of the androgen receptor, a transcription factor that mediates the effects of androgen. I did not share that view. To me, the data did not support this conclusion. So while most academic institutions and drug companies were focused on developing chemotherapies and looking at survival genes based on the theory that the androgen receptor was irrelevant, I was proposing that the androgen receptor still played a role in driving this then-called “androgen-independent” prostate cancer.

A Closer Look at the

BC’s Agency for Pathology and Laboratory Medicine

Heidi Cheung, Brenda Heartwell, Debbie Griswold, Gail Crawford, Cheryl McCullough, Gloria Tang, John Andruschak, Wendy Johnson, Blake Gilks, Meghan McLennan, Jim Cupples

BC’s Agency for Pathology and Laboratory Medicine

Jim Cupples, MD FRCPC
VP Medical for BC’s Agency for Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
“As is your pathology, so is your medicine”. This is as true today as when penned by Sir William Osler, more than a century ago. Patients and clinicians in BC depend on the high quality laboratory service that has been developed and advanced over many decades by laboratory professionals.

On October 1st of 2015, the provincial government enacted Bill 7, the Laboratory Services Act (LSA). This is a very significant shift in the control of publicly funded laboratory services. The LSA replaces the Medicare Protection Act and the Hospital Insurance act as the authority for insuring laboratory services and consolidates the responsibilities for the governance, funding and service delivery oversight of all publicly funded laboratory services in BC. Through the LSA, the Minister of Health or his/her designate approves all labs and the professions who can order testing. He/she has the power to enter or exit agreements for lab testing. This includes the responsibility to develop testing guidelines with audit and sanction provisions.

BC’s Agency for Pathology and Laboratory Medicine (BCAPLM or Lab Agency) was formed, initially under the control of PHSA but then transferred to the new independent, BC Clinical Support Services Society (BCCSS) as of April 2016

To accomplish these obligations, BC’s Agency for Pathology and Laboratory Medicine (BCAPLM or Lab Agency) was formed, initially under the control of PHSA but then transferred to the new independent, BC Clinical Support Services Society (BCCSS) as of April 2016. The BCAPLM is the first member of the clinical division of the BCCSS and reports through the BCCSS Board to the Ministry of Health.

The Provincial Blood Coordinating Office (PBCO), a very successful, long standing organization is also part of the Lab Agency. The Lab Agency has been mandated by the Minister of Health to undertake and complete by November 2017, a strategic service delivery plan for lab services, including both inpatient and outpatient, throughout BC. This will address a quality framework, human resource planning, development of funding models and delineation of the informatics requirements.


Best Wishes, Val!

Val White Retirement

Valerie A. White MD, MHSc, FRCPC
Professor, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, UBC | Vancouver General Hospital
Val White will retire at the end of June 2017 after being in the Vancouver General Hospital system since 1980. Her career established the University of British Columbia and Vancouver General Hospital as a world renowned center for ophthalmic pathology. She leaves her service, research and teaching achievements at VGH to assume the new duties in her life which include (but are not limited to) boating, bicycling, creative writing, and the attentive care of her nine year old schipperke, Genesee. She recently finished the prestigious Writers’ Studio Program at Simon Fraser University and is about two thirds of the way through her first novel.

Valerie was born in Ottawa, but raised in St John’s, Newfoundland, the eldest child of four. She was a gifted student and her scholastic success led naturally to ambitions of medical school. In Newfoundland, one could enter medical school after two years of post-secondary education, and so Val graduated from Memorial University at a young age and then finished her rotating internship at the University of Toronto. She subsequently entered the internal medicine program at UBC but began to doubt that internal medicine was right for her.

One summer day, after a particularly weak moment following a full weekend on call for medicine, she followed a specimen down to the pathology department and met Bill Chase, the acting head of pathology at the time. After a brief discussion, he gave Val an application and launched her pathology trajectory. After completing her pathology fellowship training at UBC, Val did a year of ophthalmic pathology at the Institute of Ophthalmology at the University of London and a year of ophthalmic pathology at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary at Harvard University.


Faculty Promotions

Dr. Donal Brooks and Dr. Hélène Bruyère

2017 Gown and
Recognition Ceremony!

/ May 2017
We are pleased to congratulate the fourteen faculty members in the Dept of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, UBC who received approval for promotion effective July 1, 2017.
  • Brown, Lindsay – Clinical Associate Professor
  • Bruyère, Hélène – Clinical Professor
  • Champagne, Sylvie – Clinical Professor
  • Sinclair, Graham – Clinical Professor
  • Blondel-Hill, Edith – Clinical Professor
  • Holmes, Dan – Clinical Professor Promotion
  • Bosdet, Ian – Clinical Associate Professor
  • DeMarco, Mari – Clinical Associate Professor
  • Reyes, Romina – Clinical Associate Professor
  • Tucker, Tracy – Clinical Associate Professor
  • Grant, Jennifer – Clinical Associate Professor
  • DeSouza, Andy – Clinical Assistant Professor
  • Moteabbed, Majid – Clinical Assistant Professor
  • Rakic, Bojana – Clinical Assistant Professor




Residency Graduation. We had 7 residents graduating this year, and 2 fellows!

/ Jun 5, 2017
2017 USCAP Stowell-Orbison Award

Congratulations to UBC Pathology Resident, Dr. Tyler Hickey who received a 2017 Stowell-Orbison Award.

Teaching students at the Northern Medical Program

The Northern Medical Program, part of the University of British Columbia distributed medical program and first of its kind in North America....

Careers Night

Careers Night is an event organized by the UBC Medical Undergraduate Society to allow medical students to engage with residents and program directors.

Not Just Life in Medicine…

Yi Ariel Liu is a PGY-2 resident in Anatomical Pathology who enjoys painting in her spare time.




Haydn Pritchard

How long does it take to get a graduate degree?

As you all are aware, the completion of a Graduate Degree requires a great deal of dedication and diligence. One of the challenges is to meet all of the required timelines set by our departmental program and by UBC. Since many students and supervisors occasionally need to refer to the maximum timelines permitted, I thought it might be useful to reiterate them here.

Whilst it is difficult to predict how long its takes to get a MSc or PhD in our program, UBC has fixed rules on the maximum time and these are supported by expectations set by our Program. It is important that all students, supervisors and supervisory committee members are all informed on what’s expected and what rules apply.

Completion of MSc degrees

  • The maximum time permitted by UBC to complete a MSc is 5 years from registration in graduate studies
  • In PALM we believe that this is too long and all students are informed that they should complete their work and write up their thesis within 2-2.5 years.
  • A request for registration beyond 3 years will require the approval of the Departmental Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Fellows Committee (GPSC)

Transfer from a MSc to PhD program

  • A request to transfer to the PhD program without completing a MSc degree must be received within 2 years of registration.
  • A transfer requires approval by the supervisory committee and a strong letter of support from the supervisor indicating that the students has demonstrated all the qualities of an excellent researcher
  • Requests for transfer after 2 years will not normally be considered.

Taking the Comprehensive examination and Advancement to Candidacy

  • Taking and passing a challenging comprehensive examination is a “right of passage” for all PhD students. It is part of the requirements for Advancement to Candidacy together with completion of required coursework and approvals of your thesis research proposal by your supervisory committee.
  • All of these must have been completed prior to 36 months in graduate school (Calculated from your date of entry even if you transferred from the MSc to PhD program).
  • For the comprehensive examination, all PhD students must complete this requirement within 24-30 months of registration. This is a critical departmental requirement.

Completion of PhD Degrees

  • For a PhD program, the maximum time permitted is 6 years from the time or initial registration in graduate studies.
  • UBC policy on this states: ‘If the degree is not awarded within a period of six years from initial registration, the student's eligibility for the degree will be terminated and the student will be required to withdraw from the program. Under exceptional circumstances, extensions may be granted by the Dean of the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.’
  • Requests for extensions will be considered only in circumstances beyond the control of the student and will not normally be approved by our program.
  • If you feel an extension is required, our program must receive the request no less than 6 months before the normal program end date.

If you want more information on this please contact our program coordinator, Heather Cheadle:

Newly Admitted Graduate Students

Graduate Student, Jan 2017

I am Shao Huan Samuel Weng and have completed my M.Sc. in Analytical Chemistry under the supervision of Dr. Hua-Zhong Yu from Simon Fraser University (SFU) in 2016. Throughout my M.Sc program in SFU, my research has focused on the development of a Blu-ray technology-based molecular detection platform for on-site chemical analysis and point-of-care diagnosis. I am highly interested in health-oriented technologies relating to diagnosis and treatment for cancer. The research in Pathology and Laboratory Medicine program at UBC focuses not only on the pathogenesis of diseases but also develops real-world clinical applications. I believe after I receive formal training in this program, I will be able to utilize my knowledge with diagnostic and therapeutic technologies to contribute and improve human health.
Graduate Student, Jan 2017

I am excited to have joined MD program at Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. I completed my BSc at UBC, focusing on cellular and molecular biology, and also completing the Biology Co-op program. My first introduction to research was at a pharmaceutical company, Signalchem. Here I worked with a team focusing on kinase-targeting drug development for therapeutic use. I then moved on to work at Multi Scale Design Lab under the supervision of Dr. Hongshen Ma at UBC where I was part of a research team working on biomedical device design and testing. MDL lab focuses on the development of new mechanisms for cell separation and for studying cell biomechanics. My roles included studying the applications of these devices in medical diagnostics, treatment and monitoring. I am thrilled to be continuing my work at MDL as a MSc student, focusing on employing the microfluidic device our engineers developed in-house to study the malaria-causing parasite, Plasmodium falciparum. P. falciparum enters human body through a mosquito bite and infects red blood cells. The parasite has high mutation rates, and drug treatments constantly need to be refined and changed to target the newly arising strains. It has been shown that red blood cell deformability can serve as an important biomarker while studying malaria. We have shown that all clinical antimalarials specifically decrease the deformability of P. falciparum infected red blood cells. My research project aims to use the deformability based cell sorting to separate infected red blood cells containing the drug resistant and drug sensitive parasites.  Our further studies include studying the differences in deformability change between drug sensitive and drug resistant P. falciparum strains. Upon isolating the newly emerging resistant strains from the sensitive ones, we will use genome sequencing to identify the responsible mutation. It is fascinating to be able to employ both biological and engineering tools to study a disease, and I am excited to have this opportunity.  In my time outside the lab, I enjoy researching and reading Russian literature of 19th and 20th centuries. I am currently interested in how the Soviet regime shaped the style and expression of writers, artists and poets of those years. I also enjoy sketching, drawing, hiking and discovering beautiful corners of Vancouver.

Pathology Student Association (PaSA)

The Pathology Student association (PaSA) is a UBC Graduate Student Society affiliate organization that was formed in 2015 and has since organized the annual Pathology Arts Gala along with recurring social and career development events for the department’s graduate students.


Pathology Arts Gala held on November 4, 2016 was a wonderful success thanks to our talented peers and faculty members not only sharing their artistic passions but also participating as supportive audience members.

Thanks to our generous main sponsors of the night, STEMCELL Technologies, and contributions from the Pathology department and Graduate Student Society (GSS), performers and guests enjoyed refreshments at the Thea Koerner House Ballroom while watching their colleagues perform everything from classical ensemble arrangements, to spoken word poetry, dance, and vocal pieces. Visual art contributions were also submitted this year to great fanfare, demonstrating that attention to detail seamlessly translates from Science to Art, and that our department is comprised of individuals full of creativity and ingenuity.

STEMCELL Technologies Career Information Session

At the end of March last year, PaSA collaborated with STEMCELL Technologies to host a career night focusing on careers in the biotechnology industry. We had several engaging guests ranging from positions in sales to manufacturing to research and development! These speakers generously provided their time and advice for students on how they reached their current position in industry and what their jobs entail. PaSA is hoping to host more of these career nights in the coming year!



Dr. Blake Gilks

Scientific Achievement Award

Vancouver Medical Dental and Allied Staff Association

Dr. Mari Demarco

Scholar Award

Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research

Dr. Mari Demarco

Young Investigator Award

American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC)

Dr. Christian Steidl

Early Career Award in Cancer

Canadian Institutes of Health Research

Dr. Sam Aparicio

11th Goudie Lecture and Medal

Pathological Society of Great Britain & Ireland

Dr. Ramesh Saaedi

MSACL Lab Director Travel Award

The Association of Mass Spectrometry: Applications to the Clinical Lab

Dr. Christopher Lowe

Gold Apple in the Top Innovation - Affiliate category

BC Health Care Awards (Team: Dr. Victor Leung, Dr. Christopher Lowe, Dr. Sylvie Champagne and Dr. Marc Romney)

Dr. Christopher Lowe

IPAC Canada 2016 National Education Conference Best Poster Award

Infection Prevention and Control Canada

Dr. Kevin Bennewith

Early Career Investigator Award

Radiation Research Society

Dr. William Lockwood

New Investigator Award

Canadian Institutes of Health Research

Dr. Victor Leung

BC Patient Safety & Quality Council Quality Awards

BC Patient Safety & Quality Council (Team: Dr. Christopher Lowe, and Dr. Marc Romney)

Dr. Kevin Bennewith

Killam Award for Excellence in Mentoring (mid-career category)

Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, UBC

Dr. Philipp Lange

Great Canadian Innovation Award

Canadian Cancer Society

Dr. Victor Leung

AMMI Canada / CACMID Incubator Competition Winner

Association of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Disease Canada (Team: Dr. Christopher Lowe, and Dr. Marc Romney)

Dr. Lien Hoang

Best Platform Presentation by Trainee, Gynecologic Pathology

International Society of Gynecological Pathologists (ISGyP)