Oct 25, 2023

Humans of LMP: Boris Virine

Agile education, Research: Cancer, Inclusive community
Boris Virine

Each month we speak to a member of the Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology community and find out more about them as part of an initiative from our Wellness, Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Committee (WIDE).

This month we feature PGY-4 Diagnostic and Molecular Pathology Resident, Boris Virine.

Visit the Humans of LMP page to read more stories and nominate yourself or others to be featured.

What are you studying at LMP and why are you interested in studying it?   

I’m currently in my fourth year of an Anatomical Pathology residency, with plans of doing a fellowship in breast pathology after graduating. I chose pathology as a career because I enjoy the problem-solving process of making a diagnosis and working behind the scenes in the health care system. I developed an interest in breast pathology thanks to some excellent teachers and its focus on often treatable cancers, especially common in young, otherwise healthy people. 

My current research project is focused on heritable tumors associated with mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. While significant advancements in the understanding of breast cancer biology have helped improve treatment options, emerging research has shown that the interaction between cancer and the immune system may be an underrecognized driver of tumor behavior. Using tissue specimens, we are investigating the types and distribution of white blood cells and microscopic immune structures that influence patient outcomes. Characterization of the immune profiles of these hereditary breast cancers may improve our ability to prognosticate outcomes and identify potential drug targets in the future.

What is the most interesting thing you’ve done, seen or got involved with while at LMP?  

I got involved in a natural language processing research project early on in residency, and have learned a lot about the role of informatics in pathology. In particular, I started to learn some very basic programming, which is a skill I’d love to develop in the future.

What was the best career advice you ever received?   

“Don’t just try to impress the most senior and ‘important’ people. Always be your best and treat everyone with respect.” I owe a lot of my success to a lab technician from my undergraduate days and have seen how much people in decision-making positions valued her support of me. Conversely, I’ve seen people’s careers get sidetracked because they ignored or disrespected individuals who they didn’t think they had to impress.

What has been an important learning experience in your life?   

Becoming a dad. This is the most substantial change in my life and has had a dramatic effect on my lifestyle and priorities. Managing my time has been a challenge since the birth of my daughter, and yet, balancing my responsibilities has been very worthwhile and rewarding for me personally.

Who is an influential person in your life and why?  

My dad. I think he is the reason I first considered medicine as a career and he also instilled his analytical thought process in me. On a personal level, I try to emulate his even-keeled, logical approach to problems and avoid losing my temper.

What would it surprise people to know about you?  

I wrote a murder mystery book… or at least the rough draft! I’m hoping to revise it and make some updates after my Royal College exam and perhaps self-publish it down the line.

What activities do you enjoy doing outside of work?  

I enjoy traveling and sports. In the last few years, I’ve really liked visiting places with unique nature and spotting wildlife. My favorite sports are badminton, hockey, downhill skiing, and biking. I used to live next to Lake Ontario, where I regularly rode my bike along the lakeshore trails.

What is your favourite album, film and novel?  

The Hell’s Half Acre Chase and The Hell’s Half Acre Trade are part of a book series I’ve really enjoyed. I’ve also had the privilege of being married to the author and so I got to see the process of how she took a small project she worked on for fun with a friend as a teenager and turned it into a full-length thriller novel.

I’m not sure if I have a favorite album, but I like Hybrid Theory by Linkin Park, Teatro d’ira by Maneskin, and Abba Gold.

My favorite movie is Spies Like Us, a comedy about a pair of incompetent American government workers sent to the Soviet Union to act as decoy spies.

Who would be your dream dinner guests?  

If I could host anyone from any point in time, I’d invite my grandpa. He moved to Canada from Russia in his 70s and I spent a lot of time with him after school growing up. He never had the chance to meet my wife, who is also Russian, or my daughter, and I think he would have loved them, so I can’t think of a better dinner guest to have than him!

Where/what is your favourite place?  

I’m originally from Calgary and I love the city and the nearby Rocky Mountains. In the last few years I’ve also and the chance to travel to some incredible locations like Costa Rica and Hawaii and was really impressed by the nature, wildlife and beaches those places have to offer.

If you were stuck on a deserted island but had all your basic needs taken care of (i.e. food and water), what two items would you bring with you and why? 

A satellite phone to call family and friends, and call for help if I need supplies or rescuing.

 A solar-powered battery to charge the aforementioned phone.