Summer Fellow + Shavee: Meet Dr. Jennifer Tsai

by Erinn Jessop, St. Baldrick's Foundation
April 6, 2017

What happens when a student with a love for research and a passion for helping kids with cancer is granted a St. Baldrick’s Summer Fellow award? Read on to find out!

Dr. Jennifer Tsai shaves for St. Baldrick's

Dr. Jennifer Tsai will soon be a three-time shavee with St. Baldrick’s.

When Dr. Jennifer Tsai first heard about St. Baldrick’s, she fell in love with the idea. Shaving in solidarity with kids who have cancer AND raising money for research? It was the perfect package for the student with an interest in research.

Now Dr. Tsai is a pediatric hematology-oncology fellow with Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford, but back then she was a new medical student who wanted to become a good researcher.

But how does a student get experience in the world of research, when it’s so tough to get financial support?

That’s where St. Baldrick’s comes in.

In 2011, Dr. Tsai was granted a St. Baldrick’s Summer Fellow award and went on to work in the lab of St. Baldrick’s researcher Dr. Alex Huang.

Our 2017 Summer Fellow grants are here! Check out the announcement >

“One thing that I’ve found so impressive is how St. Baldrick’s is supporting people in the field at all different stages,” she said. “It’s important to support medical students and also junior investigators, young staff doctors, and also the researchers who’ve been working in the field for a long time. I think it’s great.”

Dr. Jennifer Tsai with Dr. Alex Huang

Dr. Alex Huang and Dr. Tsai smile together after their shave for St. Baldrick’s. Dr. Tsai spent a summer in Dr. Huang’s lab in 2011 as a St. Baldrick’s Summer Fellow.

Now, six years later, she’s in the clinical phase of her fellowship, where she’s taking care of kids with cancer. But at the end of June, she’ll be back in the lab to begin the next phase of her fellowship — research.

Thanks to that summer fellowship, supported by St. Baldrick’s all those years ago, she’ll have long-lasting connections with wonderful mentors and experience under her belt.

“I feel like I’m not starting from square one,” she said.

Dr. Tsai is looking forward to those two years of research, not only because she’s passionate about it, but also because she knows how important it is.

“My patients are my motivation. This is why I want to do research. This is why I want to be spending time in the lab or to be spending time being part of clinical trials that test new therapies, because we always need better therapies,” she said, explaining that some cancers are curable now, but not without tough and sometimes devastating side effects.

But her patients aren’t just her motivation to do research — they are also why she shaves her head with St. Baldrick’s.

Dr. Jennifer Tsai goes under the clippers

Dr. Tsai gives a thumbs up before she and her pigtails go under the clippers.

In just two weeks, Dr. Tsai will be supporting childhood cancer research by shaving her head for the third time at the Tech Tackles Cancer event in Palo Alto, Calif.

Support Dr. Tsai in shaving it forward! Give on her head today >

“It’s a good cause,” she said. “I’m on the same side as St. Baldrick’s. We have a common goal. We want to cure cancer and we want to do it in the best way and do the best for the patients and for the kids.”

When Dr. Tsai sees her patients after her shave on April 12, they’re in for quite the surprise.

“I have these patients that I’ve been following every week and I think they’re going to have a blast, or a shock, or something,” she said. “It’s going to be totally different, because it’s going to be their doctor — bald. A lot of my patients are bald. I think they’ll appreciate that I’m on their side.”

Join Dr. Tsai and shave it forward! Sign up as a shavee today.

Become a Shavee

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