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January 13, 2017
Dr. Victoria Siu, who celebrates her 25th anniversary with LHSC this year, is the Medical Director of the Medical Genetics program and this year’s recipient of the President’s Award for Physician Leadership.
Dr. Siu was nominated by her colleagues for her contribution toward growing and elevating the status of the Medical Genetics Program at the local, provincial and national levels. Dr. Siu leads the participation of LHSC geneticists and other clinicians in national collaborative research initiatives including FORGE (Finding of Rare Disease Genes in Canada) and the Care for Rare program. Together with the research lab of Dr. Robert Hegele, her group has identified the genes associated with several new genetic disorders.
Widely recognized for her work with the Amish and Mennonite communities, Dr. Siu was instrumental in developing a program for screening babies born into these communities for serious, treatable genetic diseases. More recently, this program was expanded to include screening for parents at genetic risk of having affected babies, allowing for earlier diagnosis and management. She and her colleague, Dr. Tony Rupar, director of the Biochemical Genetics Laboratory, have worked closely with the Perth District Public Health Unit and midwives in southwestern Ontario, to provide education and genetic counseling to families. As a result of early identification, the quality of life for children affected by these disorders has been significantly improved and many lengthy acute care hospitalizations prevented.
“I feel privileged to have been welcomed into the Amish and Mennonite communities to do this work with them,” said Dr. Siu. “In the past, when these families were coming into hospital, it was because their child was already very ill and facing major health challenges. Now, through early screening and detection, we’re able to better manage these challenges before they reach that level and sometimes even prevent complications altogether.”
Dr. Siu is described by colleagues as “an incomparable human being – extraordinarily kind, sensitive and compassionate”. She is dedicated to ensuring that genetics is easily understood by the medical community, establishing herself as an award winning educator and mentor to undergraduate and post-graduate students, genetic counselors, geneticists and allied health professionals.
As to what motivates Dr. Siu to dedicate so much time and energy to this ever-evolving field, she responds, “I feel extraordinarily fortunate to be able to help children and their families. These are exciting times as we are constantly learning more about genetics – which is really the miracle of life itself.”