Image of Kat Aguilar and her family

When I returned to work from maternity leave four years ago, I remember a few of my colleagues and fellow parents advising that there wouldn’t be a balance between personal and professional, per se, but rather an integration.

Now that we’re all home, all the time, I’ve found that this is truer than ever. I’ve tried to embrace the juxtaposition, which may mean speaking at an FDA review meeting one moment and teaching my son how to write the next (this actually happened, and the FDA meeting went much better).

Image of Kat Aguilar and her sonI play many roles these days: I’m a mom to a vivacious 4-year-old, which brings with it the responsibilities of being tutor, personal chef and nurse, and I’m also an associate director with the real-world research team at Ontada. Life has felt a bit like the movie Groundhog Day while we have been working from home. Luckily, my team at Ontada has had a number of great projects happening recently, which make every day eventful. And I’ve found that being challenged yet fulfilled in multiple areas of my life make me a better researcher, colleague and mom.

In my professional role, I am responsible for supporting research studies that use data from Ontada’s electronic health record (EHR), iKnowMedSM, to answer questions about the care and treatment of patients with cancer. My longest-running project, which began in 2015, is a collaboration with some of our life sciences partners to investigate the treatment of patients with advanced melanoma. Our team has been able to observe how these groundbreaking therapies have shifted the treatment paradigm for this patient population and, along the way, we’ve completed nine publications with more to be published soon. We have many other meaningful studies underway, for example, we’re in the midst of completing additional analyses to describe the characteristics and outcomes among patients with advanced head and neck cancers who received treatment in The US Oncology Network.

Besides facilitating these studies, I also work closely with other members of the Ontada team to find new and improved ways of performing real-world research. For example, we recently developed an approach to using publicly-reported obituary information to supplement the death records we capture from iKnowMed. With this additional data, we’re able to improve how well we can assess outcomes like survival in the community oncology setting, which is very important because there are major challenges to conducting follow-up assessments (as is done in clinical trials).

Every day at Ontada, I have the opportunity to work with smart and thoughtful people on projects that can improve the treatment of and outcomes for patients with cancer. Like too many other families, I’ve lost loved ones to the disease. I know that someday we will be able to cure those diagnosed with cancer and, until then, I will be supporting the fight any way I can.

These days, while it can certainly feel tiring to run from a Zoom meeting with a biotech manufacturer to a virtual art class with my son, I feel fortunate to be inspired and supported professionally and be joyful and fulfilled personally – and I think these feelings are intertwined. I could not be the researcher I am without the happiness my family brings, and I could not be the mom I am without feeling gratified by the work I do with the brilliant team at Ontada.