Schulich Medicine & Dentistry’s Medical Biophysics graduate program helped Miranda Kirby, PhD’13, realize her potential, and the state-of-the-art facilities and hands-on training provided her with the tools she needed to advance her career.
Kirby has always been interested in mathematics and understanding how the body works. After completing an honours double major in applied mathematics and biology at Western University, she was looking for a graduate program that could combine these two divergent areas of interest.
“I went to one of the Medical Biophysics recruitment fairs, and I thought that the program would be a perfect match for my background,” Kirby said.
The Medical Biophysics graduate program provided Kirby with an opportunity to develop quantitative image analysis skills that helped generate lung measurements she used for a better understanding of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) — a lung disease caused by cigarette smoking.
She has continued her research on COPD as a postdoctoral fellow at the Centre for Heart Lung Innovation at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, British Columbia. She is using the same skills she learned throughout the Medical Biophysics program, but is applying it to different diseases and imaging methods.
There are currently no treatments that can prevent COPD progression or patient hospitalization, or reduce mortality. One of the main reasons researchers believe there is a gap in treatment is because COPD patients are diagnosed very late in the course of the disease after permanent damage to the lungs has already occurred.
Using computed tomography imaging — an imaging technology used as a tool to evaluate patients with COPD — Kirby hopes to identify the disease earlier. Her team will also be developing innovative ways to identify the earliest changes in the lung structure that accompany or predict COPD.
Kirby’s academic success and impact since beginning her PhD training in the Medical Biophysics program can be measured in the 30 manuscripts she published in the last five years in high-impact journals including Radiology (impact factor of 6.214) and Thorax (impact factor of 8.562), all stemming from her PhD thesis research. She also ranked first among 467 national candidates for the prestigious Canadian Institutes of Health Research Bisby Fellowship Prize, and first among 29 respiratory researchers for the Canadian Thoracic Society Fellowship Prize.
“I feel very lucky to have been part of the Medical Biophysics program because it is such a strong program, especially the imaging aspect of it,” she said. “Students who are currently enrolled in the program should know they are in a really great place.”