Cobram-born surgeon scores top research prize

Big achievement: Dr Kasmira Wilson has just won a major award for her colorectal cancer research. Photo: Supplied by the Peter MacCallum Cancer Foundation Photo by Contributed

Cobram-born-and-raised surgeon and colorectal cancer researcher Dr Kasmira Wilson has won an internationally regarded research prize.

The Mark Killingback Prize recognises the best research in the field presented at the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons’ Annual Scientific Congress, which brings together high-powered research and extremely talented surgeons.

The award is considered to be one of the highest-regarded awards in the field, only given to high-quality research in colorectal surgery, involving a presentation to a judge panel and years of research.

Dr Wilson said even though she had never presented in the prize section of the congress before, she was happy with her win.

“I was surprised, but I was very grateful ... I’ve invested a lot of time into the research so it’s nice to have it recognised on a broader scale,” she said.

She said the award is a grant allowing her to travel to present her research, which focused on using immunotherapy before surgery in rectal cancer treatment.

Dr Wilson will be able to travel and present her research at the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons meeting in Seattle.

“Presenting this on an international scale opens up avenues for collaboration ... and allows for more far-reaching implications,” she said.

The daughter of Sarina Bisogni and Stephen Wilson, Dr Wilson’s journey to working as a surgeon began when she was a VCE student at St Mary of the Angels in Nathalia and living in Cobram.

“I was always drawn towards medicine, even when I was younger, it was always in the back of my mind as something I wanted to do,” Dr Wilson said.

Keen interest: Dr Kasmira Wilson’s interest in medicine started when she was still a student living in Cobram. Photo: Supplied by Kasmira Wilson Photo by Contributed

After finishing her VCE, she went on to study science at the University of Melbourne, before doing an honours year researching HIV.

“I was more interested in how patients were doing than how cells were doing in isolation ... that drove me to apply for postgrad medicine at Griffith University on the Gold Coast,” Dr Wilson said.

From there, she worked and trained at the Royal Brisbane Hospital and The Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, before starting work at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. It was here she started her PhD and did her award-winning research into the management of advanced rectal cancers.

Now, Dr Wilson is completing a two-year subspecialist training program in New Zealand with the Colorectal Surgical Society of Australia and New Zealand.

In between her professional achievements she has also found time to start a family and relocate to Auckland, but she has never forgotten where she started.

“(Growing up rurally) definitely makes me appreciate limitations placed on rural communities ... when you’re growing up in the country you don’t necessarily have access to local mentors,” Dr Wilson said.

“I think it makes you more motivated and driven ... (but) I don’t think your geographic location impacts what you can achieve.

“You’re certainly not afforded the same opportunities ... but If there is something they’re interested in, they should not hesitate to pursue it.”