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Talks with Docs: Sheri Holmen, Cancer Researcher

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Video Transcript

We see the patients in the hallway, we see them up at The Point, we see them all the time. It just reminds us why we’re doing what we’re doing.

Sheri Holmen—I am a co-leader of the Cell Response and Regulation Program. I am co-leader of the Melanoma Disease-Oriented Research Team. I also run a research lab.

In our own research in my lab, we’ve actually made some discoveries that we think can soon be translated to the clinic, meaning that we hope to be able to provide these therapies to patients. So that’s extremely exciting for us. It’s what I’ve always wanted to achieve. It just takes a really long time.

How did you get involved in science?

I actually started off with an interest in music. I actually went to school as a music major. And my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. So I started reading everything I could about the disease. And I thought maybe I should get some credit for this. And the music was, you know, it was something I enjoyed doing, but then I got to thinking that maybe it wasn’t best for a career. And so I switched to biology and biomedical science and helped my mom navigate through cancer.

What are you up to when you’re not in the lab?

I think family—I mean, it’s really my children. I’m spending time with my children and being involved in their activities. Both of my kids were competitive swimmers, so I got very heavily involved in swimming. Not just from a spectator, being a parent, I actually I got really bored being a spectator because they swim for 30 seconds and then you wait for an hour, so I actually got super involved in volunteering. Became certified to become an official and then moved my way up from, you know, starting official all the way up to a referee. And have officiated a lot of meets locally in Utah, started when lived in Nevada, and then I’ve been able to officiate at the national level, as well as at some higher-level meets. Luckily my kids were actually really good swimmers so they went to some of these, and so it’s been pretty exciting. And then recently I became NCAA certified to officiate at the university meets as well.

What fictional character do you most relate to?

I would resonate with Hermione—born to two Muggles, in fact. And has this amazing talent and power that she then has to navigate and learn on her own. Neither of my parents were scientists actually, and in fact stopped being able to help me with my homework about tenth grade. So I had to kind of navigate it on my own. And you know, was quite studious and just you know, it never came easy to me. It was actually quite challenging. And in fact, I think it was that challenge that kind of motivated me because I felt so good when I finally grasped a concept and mastered it. I wish I had the magic power to it, but she always uses it for good.

What is the most meaningful part of your job?

What we’re doing in the lab has the possibility to influence just hundreds of, potentially thousands of people. You know I thought about being a physician, and thought about running a lab, and I actually felt like I could potentially touch more people by what we do in the lab by the fact that we could come up with a new therapy that then could be used broadly. And so as much as, you know, I’d love to have that patient contact and interaction and work with people and help them fight their disease, I feel like we’re really fighting in the lab and having the opportunity to impact just so many more people.

Cancer touches all of us.