Remembering Dr. Connie Eaves, a pioneer in leukemia and breast cancer research

Dr. Connie Eaves
Dr. Connie Eaves' ground-breaking research, spanning more than five decades, and advocacy for more women in STEM will have a profound impact for generations to come.
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It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of Dr. Connie Eaves, a true giant in science, a wonderful, thoughtful person who truly cared about all the people she touched, directly or indirectly. Connie was professor in UBC’s School of Biomedical Engineering and the Department of Medical Genetics, and a distinguished scientist at BC Cancer’s Terry Fox Laboratory.

A world authority on stem cells, Connie was an exceptional scientist, but she was also a leader, beloved mentor, and deeply-respected colleague and friend.

Her research career — spanning more than five decades — was driven by curiosity and an unwavering devotion to improving the lives of people with cancer.

Her discoveries advanced knowledge on the origin of leukemia and breast cancer, and her pioneering research methodologies — including developing a technique to separate cancerous from normal stem cells — have become gold standard approaches used by laboratories around the world.

But Connie’s impact and legacy goes far beyond research.

She was an exceptional mentor to the next generation of scientists. Over the course of her career, she trained more than 100 UBC graduate students and post-doctoral fellows at the BC Cancer Terry Fox Laboratory, which she co-founded in the early 1980s alongside her husband Dr. Allen Eaves. She was a founding faculty member of the School of Biomedical Engineering, providing guidance to new faculty members.

Connie was also a devoted champion for the next generation of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and maths), and widely recognized for her support and advocacy of early-career female scientists.

“Science needs more women because science needs smart people,” Connie told Chatelaine during an interview in 2019, the year she was named Chatelaine Woman of the Year.

Drawing on her own experience during medical school — as just one of 10 women in a class of 70 — Connie was a role model for countless women, and her influence will be felt for generations to come.  

Over the course of her career, Connie was the recipient of accolades of the highest honour, including appointment to the Order of Canada, election to the Royal Society (London, UK), induction into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame, and the Canada Gairdner Wightman Award, which recognizes scientists who make transformative contributions to human health research.

Connie touched the lives of so many, always with warmth, and always with humour — she was quick to make those around her smile. Her loss will undoubtedly be felt throughout the research community in BC, Canada and around the world. Our heartfelt condolences to her family, friends and colleagues. We will all miss Connie dearly.

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