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The art of learning to grow: Q&A with Dr. Catherine Biggs

May 1 is National Physicians’ Day and we are marking the day by checking in with Dr. Catherine Biggs about her career as a pediatric immunologist at BC Children’s Hospital.
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​Q: What is your role within the organization? 

A: I've been a staff attending at BC Children's since 2017, co-director of the Primary Immunodeficiency Transition Clinic since 2018 and medical lead of the Immunology Clinical Program since 2020. I’m also lead of the Rare Diseases Group at the BC Children's Hospital Research Institute. 

Q: What would you say to a potential candidate interested in joining BC Children's Hospital? 

A: It is a wonderful place to work, full of kind and inspiring people! 

Q: What does it take to be successful as a pediatric immunologist? 

A: Compassion, intellectual curiosity, humility, and seeing every challenge and setback as an opportunity to learn and grow. Pediatric immunologists care for people with conditions affecting how the immune system develops or works. Treating rare immune conditions can be challenging, particularly when the underlying cause is unknown or when there is very little information available about the specific disorder. It requires constantly learning about immunology, conducting translational research, and collaborating with colleagues from around the world to share clinical knowledge and research findings. Working as a team with other disciplines here at BC Children’s and across the province is critical. 

Q: What do you enjoy most about your job? 

A: I cherish the meaningful relationships that I have with patients and families living with immune deficiency. I love working with inspiring teams, in the research lab and in the hospital, to find solutions to clinical problems. I really enjoy teaching and writing about immunology, a topic that I'm so passionate about.

Q: What inspired you to become a doctor? 

A: My mother and aunt were both family physicians. They loved their patients and communities, were endlessly fascinated by their job, and saw everyday as an opportunity to learn more about medicine and the human condition. My mother’s oncologist Dr. Shailendra Verma was another inspiration. His advocacy had a direct impact on her outcome, and as a result, my life and childhood, and I want to pay that advocacy forward. I've been fortunate to have had many amazing mentors who've inspired me throughout my training to become a pediatric immunologist, including Dr. Phil Gold at McGill, Drs. Anne Junker, Kyla Hildebrand and Stuart Turvey at UBC, and Dr. Luigi Notarangelo at Boston Children's Hospital (now at National Institutes of Health). 

Q: What is your biggest accomplishment to date? 

A: Expanding immunology clinical care in B.C. Since starting at BC Children’s, I established – alongside my wonderful colleague Dr. Persia Pourshahnazari – a primary immunodeficiency transition clinic for adolescents and adults with immunodeficiency. I advocated for and helped to implement newborn screening for severe combined immunodeficiency in B.C. and, as the first medical lead for immunology, I worked to grow our clinical program at BC Children’s by several-fold. It has been fulfilling to see the positive impacts, where people who previously did not have a unifying medical diagnosis, receive a diagnosis and life-changing treatment. The biggest reward has been receiving updates from patients and families who I’ve had the privilege to care for.​

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