Hi, my name is Saima Ahmed (she/her), and I’m the new Lead in Research and Innovation at Hope & Cope.
I’m in my final year at McGill, working towards my doctorate in experimental medicine.
My research focuses on how to best support patients on oral anti-cancer therapies. I’m also passionate about digital health as well as qualitative research, and have worked on various projects in those areas. Ultimately, I’m interested in how we can provide patients and their families with the best possible cancer care experience, tailored to meet their needs.
What are oral anti-cancer therapies?
Many of the new treatments developed in the past five to ten years are administered orally. You might have heard of oral chemotherapy or targeted therapies. These are in pill form, as opposed to traditional intravenous treatments.
One of the biggest benefits of oral therapies is convenience. Instead of having to travel to the hospital, find parking, and then sit in a chair for hours to receive treatment, one can take a pill. This means it can be taken from the comfort of home or even at work as some may still work.
However, there are some challenges. Because it’s “just a pill,” some people might not take the treatment as seriously as they should. That can be risky. It’s still a potent form of treatment.
In addition, patients usually take these pills at home, alone. If symptoms or side effects come up, they’re on their own to manage them. In a hospital, a nurse checks in on you regularly, but at home, you’re left to your own devices. Many studies indicate that this can make some folks feel isolated and unsure. They lack the information and support they need to manage their treatment effectively.
What is digital health?
Digital health has always been a big interest of mine! In fact, I got involved with the Belong App at the beginning of graduate school. We first piloted Belong with the gynecologic oncology team here at the Segal Cancer Centre. We gathered feedback from patients and healthcare providers through focus groups and questionnaires. This project deepened my interest in digital health. Now we have an entire community in Belong for all our patients and their families across the CIUSSS.
These days, everyone, not just the younger generation but also older adults, is connected and tech savvy. Yet, sometimes it feels like there’s a gap between the healthcare system’s technology and what people are actually using in their daily lives. Some parts of the healthcare system still rely on faxes, which feels outdated.
The Belong app empowers patients. They can chat with others who are going through similar experiences, either globally or within our own cancer centre. We also provide information from reliable sources like the hospital, cancer agencies, and non-profits. This is crucial because let’s face it—many folks turn to Google the moment they have a health concern. And while healthcare providers know this, it can be difficult to address the mix of good and bad information out there.
Why I chose Hope & Cope
Hope & Cope has a special place in my heart. Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of getting to know many people who are part of this wonderful community. Now I can proudly say I’m an official member of the Hope & Cope family. Suzanne (the Board Chair) even joked that I’ve always been a part, and now it’s just official.
The work that Hope & Cope does is essential. They’re an integral part of the hospital and the community, where they offer services that make a real difference. It’s truly an honor to be part of such a remarkable organization.
As Lead in Research and Innovation, I’m really excited about this new phase we’re entering. Suzanne has dubbed it “Hope & Cope 2.0.” The idea is to continue doing the incredible work we’ve been doing, but also to elevate it with a strong research component.
We want everything we offer to be evidence-based and rooted in research and innovation. So, in addition to the specific projects I’m currently involved in, my hope is to integrate research and innovation into every aspect of what Hope & Cope does.