Dr. Karen Kopciuk, a Calgary-based research scientist and statistician, has been a long-time data user and has been a key member on Alberta`s Tomorrow Project (ATP) Scientific Steering Committee (SSC) since 2014. Dr. Kopciuk initially pursued Dental Hygiene at the University of Manitoba. She had always had a strong interest in prevention, and whether that was preventing a dental disease or cancer, it was a driving force in her journey as a scientist.
Dr. Kopciuk followed her passion and completed both statistics and psychology degrees with the University of Calgary, which led to her pursuing her calling as a research scientist and she would dedicate her career to disease prevention from that point forward. Dr. Kopciuk completed her Masters and PhD at the University of Waterloo. Then to prepare for her career as a researcher, she completed a two-year post-doctoral fellowship at The Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute in Toronto, Ontario. After about 13 years in her academic career, she returned to her home town of Calgary to assume a position as a Research Scientist with what was formerly known as the Alberta Cancer Board (now Alberta Health Services). This position provided opportunities to conduct research in cancer prevention, cancer screening and early detection as well as methods to better analyze complex data.
Shortly after her return to Calgary in 2003, Dr. Kopciuk began her work with ATP. Joined by other epidemiology and cancer scientists, she began serving ATP`s governance committee, helping to shape the project and collect the data housed in ATP today.
“As a statistician, I know that longitudinal data is very powerful to understand how diseases can develop over time because you can monitor trends over time versus just having a snapshot,” shared Dr. Kopciuk. “Collecting data from a healthy population, before anything happens, allows us to explore potential causes of diseases. This can lead to prevention, early diagnosis and better management of cancer and other diseases.”
Dr. Kopciuk is involved with a cancer research project using ATP data exploring factors associated with stage at a cancer diagnosis, with a focus on catching cancer early. She shares that ATP`s data is pivotal in this work, given that information and data is collected over the course of a lifetime, before a diagnosis.
“You can`t always prevent cancer, but if you can detect it early, then it means a potential cure or better management of the illness,” states Dr. Kopciuk. “The work we are doing using ATP data could alter health outcomes and improve quality of life for cancer survivors for generations to come.”
Dr. Kopciuk looks to the future of ATP, and emphasizes that the data will only become richer as time goes on, and it is of utmost importance that we continue to support this valuable investment that has been growing over the years. Dr. Kopciuk`s cancer research and contributions to ATP will continue to propel the project forward, and help ATP support innovative cancer and chronic disease research that will prevent and improve health outcomes far into the future.