Member Spotlight – Elizabeth Sumiec

Jamie Chapman
Mar 29, 2023

Elizabeth Sumiec hails from Sussex, Wisconsin, and is passionate about cancer research. In 2021, she completed the first step of her journey to becoming a medical doctor when she received a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

While at UW-Madison, Elizabeth completed three years of human oncology research into radiation and immunotherapeutic interventions against melanoma and head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. She was also initiated into Phi Kappa Phi, volunteered with children from low-income housing to improve their math and reading skills, served as a chemistry and biochemistry teaching assistant, and worked with multiple clubs on campus to raise food donations.

Elizabeth went on to earn a master’s degree in global health systems theory and policy from Queen Mary University of London in 2022. While attending QM, she worked in Dr. Belinda Nedjai’s cancer lab to identify prognostic markers and low-cost screening tests for cancers with a high burden in low- and middle-income countries. 

Elizabeth has been accepted to the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health and plans to graduate in 2027. Her long-term goal is to actively care for the cancer community while investigating early detection and screening methods that are low-cost and widely accessible to reduce instances of late-stage cancer.

Let’s get to know Elizabeth!

Why did you accept the invitation to join Phi Kappa Phi?

I decided to accept my invitation to join Phi Kappa Phi not only because I knew of the reputation and community formed through the Society from older peers but also because I valued the opportunity to join a globally-connected, multidisciplinary group that I could draw from as I advanced into a professional career and beyond.

Who is your hero?

Although I have never been one to have heroes, I really look up to the female mentors I have had in my field, including Amber Bates, Claire Baniel, Dorota Scibior-Bentkowska, and Belinda Nedjai. They have not only tirelessly shared advice and supported my aspirations, but also, they have set an example for the types of things women working in cancer care and research, a heavily male-dominated field, can achieve.

What is your favorite sport to watch?

My favorite sport to watch is basketball. I played competitively until I started university, so I can cheer like I’m on the court. Of course, I have to say my favorite team is my alma mater–the Wisconsin Badgers. 

What is the best gift you have been given?

The best gift I have been given was tickets to the Chelsea Flower Show in London. Although I am a terrible gardener, I absolutely love admiring flowers, especially lupines, and this was one of the largest displays I had ever seen. 

When did you develop a passion for cancer treatment accessibility?

My first experience working with cancer patients was at eighteen when I was a certified nursing assistant in the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin cancer clinic and hospital. Then, I became intimately involved in cancer research at the University of Wisconsin and eventually traveled to study population health in Nepal. These experiences created my passion for improving prognosis and screening techniques to significantly reduce the burden of late-stage cancer.

What is your favorite food or type of cuisine?

My favorite cuisine is Indian–the only food I have found that can surpass my spice limits, and I love testing my limits on different curries with naan.  

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

I am most proud of my decision to move to London to earn a master’s degree. It was scary at first to move as far away as I did, but since being here, I’ve had the opportunity to work with and become friends with people from across the globe–drawing from their experiences to inform how I see the world and how I hope to connect with my future patients. I wouldn’t have had such experiences if I had remained in Wisconsin.

What’s the best vacation you’ve ever been on?

The best vacation I have been on was this past summer when my family visited where I live in London. It was special as they finally got to see the places I’ve grown to love over the year, and it concluded with a one-on-one trip with my older sister. We backpacked through the Dolomites, staying in huts dotted along the Northern Italian Alps.

What are you most thankful for?

I am most thankful for my family. Because of their encouragement, motivation and support, I have been able to continue pursuing my career aspirations, no matter if they’ve taken me an hour away from our hometown or across the globe. I couldn’t have achieved what I have without them. 

What is your favorite movie?

My favorite movie is Hillbilly Elegy; however, Marvel’s Thor Ragnarok and Disney’s Finding Dory are a close second and third.

To learn more about Elizabeth and connect, visit her profile within our online member community here.

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