Feb 4, 2022

Humans of LMP: Cornelia Thoeni

Inclusive community, Programs: Postgraduate
Cornelia Thoeni

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 Anatomical Pathology Resident, Dr. Cornelia Thoeni.

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 does it interest you?

I am interested in becoming a pathologist with a special interest in perinatal and pediatric pathology. I want to learn more about developmental processes within liver development and which pathways are important in different developmental steps. I am also curious about investigating a fetal liver model to study different autoimmune liver diseases, as for example primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC).

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

The most exciting thing I have done so far while at LMP, besides having a great time in doing my pathology residency, is that I am doing research with one of my friends, Dr. Sonya MacParland, here at UHN. Sonya is a scientist and immunologist at the UHN Research Institute. I am fascinated by her work on investigating immune biology in autoimmune liver diseases via advanced genomics including single cell transcriptomics. Together with our liver expert at UHN, Dr. Sandra Fischer, we have a very fruitful collaboration. I am involved in multiple projects with Sonya, for example, analyzing the histopathology of PSC liver samples to find a correlation between the transcriptomic profile and morphological changes of different cell types within PSC to better understand the pathophysiology of PSC and to find novel therapeutic targets to cure this devastating disease. 

What was the best career advice you ever received? 

The best career advice I got from the Nobel Laureate Oliver Smithies who, together with Sir Martin J. Evans and Mario R. Capecchi, won the Nobel prize in Physiology/Medicine in 2007 for the discovery of specific gene modifications in mice using embryonic stem cells.

I was lucky to be a successful applicant to attend the 60th Meeting of the Nobel Laureates in Lindau in 2010, where Oliver Smithies gave a lecture to young and enthusiastic students, as I was at that time, about a successful career in science.

He said the key to success is to enjoy and have fun every day in what we are doing, otherwise it is not the right thing for us - he was right with that advice!

What has been an important learning experience in your life?  

Understanding that negative results or experiences can actually have a positive influence in my life. Things always happen for a reason!

Who is an influential person in your life and why? 

My previous mentor Dr. Ernest Cutz who is a world leading pathologist within the field of pediatric gastrointestinal (GI) and liver diseases. He started my passion for pediatric GI and liver pathology when I first met him at a Conference at the University in Innsbruck, then he offered me to continue my studies on congenital enteropathies at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto in 2010.

What would it surprise people to know about you? 

I have a passion for Argentine Tango. I live and enjoy my life like dancing an Argentine Tango!

What activities do you enjoy doing outside of work? 

Outside of work, I love to explore the wonderful and sometimes weird world of pathology and neuropathology to broaden my horizon. I also love to go out on a sunny, very cold winter day for a walk to breathe in the ice cold, fresh Canadian air and to relax afterwards with a good Hatha yoga session with painting and meditation. I like to say, “Take a deep breath, meditate, let it go and let it flow!”

I like having a good music break on Friday nights and recently enjoyed a wonderful candlelight concert at the Metropolitan Community Church in Toronto - a beautiful sea of lights and music. It was like being transported into another world.

Now we are living in a pandemic and travelling is a challenge, I like to attend online meet-ups / parties/ festivals to keep connected with my friends and family all over the world.

What is your favourite album, film and novel? 

As I have a passion for tango, my favourite composer is Astor Piazzolla. I love to listen to one of his great music pieces called "Oblivion" (version with piano and cello), feeling the passion and obsession to dance wildly.

I was a member of the Philosophy and Poetry Club in high school and since then have adored Ovid's Metamorphoses, in particular, "Orpheus and Eurydice". This is the perfect novel to take a journey back to the time of the Greek Gods and Goddesses, when the world was full of magic and to experience a tale of true love in its finest form.

Who would be your dream dinner guests? 

I would love to have dinner again with the Nobel Laureates Sir Martin J. Evans and Françoise Barré-Sinoussi. We would eat a delicious Schnitzel with a glass of fruity Merlot as they tell the best and funniest life stories ever.

Where is your favourite place? 

My favourite place is a wood bench in front of the chapel on top of the mountain by my hometown (Kellerjoch, 2344 meters above sea level) in Austria. I love being there on a sunny, golden Fall day with a cup of tea, feeling a nice, cool autumn breeze, staring at the sunset over the Alps and watching the beauty of the sunlight glitter on the River Inn of Tyrol.

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

I would bring my piano and compose the symphony of my life.

Ruchika Gupta and Ariel Gershon

Resident Appreciation Week: celebrating our residents

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