Stories of HopeCelebrating Asian Leaders in Healthcare: Dr. Julia Sun

Posted on: May 17, 2022

Celebrating Dr. Julia Sun, an oncologist with the Allard Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer (HBOC) Clinic at the Lois Hole Hospital For Women, in honour and recognition of Asian Heritage Month.

In Canada, May is Asian Heritage Month. Representing over 4.8 billion people and a mosaic of cultures, Asian Heritage Month provides an opportunity for us to learn more about the history of Canadians of Asian heritage, and to celebrate their contributions to the growth and prosperity of our communities.

The Royal Alexandra Hospital is one of the largest hospitals in Western Canada. It serves an extremely diverse population of people, with staff from all over the world. It is important to us at the Foundation to amplify and celebrate the different perspectives and voices that add to the richness of the hospital we support. While the Foundation aims to celebrate equity, diversity and inclusion every day, this month we are proud to showcase some of the Asian healthcare leaders at the Royal Alexandra Hospital.

Dr. Julia Sun is an oncologist and cancer researcher currently working at the Royal Alex.

Originally from China, where she lived until age five, Dr. Sun spent most of her life in Calgary, Alberta. It was here she completed all her education, including her medical training at the University of Calgary. After medical school, Dr. Sun moved to Edmonton to complete medical residencies in internal medicine and then oncology, followed by a one-year fellowship in Vancouver focusing on breast cancer.

Outside of work, she is a mom to a two-year-old daughter, loves to swim, and picked up baking as a hobby during the pandemic. 

“I’ve always loved science,” she said. “As a summer student in university I did a project on cancer research, and I’ve been hooked ever since!”

Specifically, Dr. Sun works at the Allard Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer (HBOC) Clinic, the only clinic of its kind in Alberta. The clinic provides risk assessment and surveillance for women throughout the province of Alberta who have a higher risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. Women with genetic mutations to the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes have an increased risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancers before menopause.

Dr. Sun’s passion for the work being conducted at the HBOC clinic, and for helping its patients, is obvious. “Oncology is always changing and that’s what I love about it,” she said. “There’s always new research coming out, there’s always a new drug, always a new clinical trial. The field is always moving and evolving. It keeps me engaged and keeps me learning. The clinic raises a lot of awareness about these kinds of cancers.”

“As a breast cancer researcher, aside from the research itself, which is fascinating, it’s the population that motivates me. I love helping women. I want our patients to know someone is looking out for them.” – Dr. Julia Sun 

Dr. Sun went on to expand on the types of cancer research advancements currently underway at the HBOC clinic, such as progress in genetic testing and discovering new gene mutations linked to breast cancer. She also discussed how the future of cancer research was becoming more individualized and tailored to the patient's unique needs.

Dr. Sun praised the Lois Hole Hospital for Women for being a collaborative place and that her experience working at the hospital has been very positive, and that steps in the right direction are being taken within healthcare to make the experience more accessible for patients. She also added that her personal experience growing up between two cultures has made her a better doctor.

“Being born in China and raised in Canada has provided me with a unique perspective on a personal level and as a physician. You become more attuned to the challenges people might face such as language barriers or cultural differences." - Dr. Sun.

Being on both sides of that, I think, helps me provide better care to my patients. It’s important to remember there is more than one perspective in each situation," she said.

“As a medical student, it could be difficult if there wasn’t an interpreter around,” she said, “but we have made progress for sure. Little steps lead to a big change!”

Thank you so much to Dr. Julia Sun for taking the time to sit down and chat with us about this important topic, and for all your excellent work in cancer research!