Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) Women in Science Networking Initiative - Fatima Karzai

March 1, 2023

Fatima Karzai and Andrea Miyahira discuss the importance of having a pipeline of women in the field of GU oncology and prostate cancer research highlighting the year-round virtual Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) Women in Science Networking Initiative. This initiative springboards off of the PCF Women in Science forum held annually at the PCF Scientific Retreat. This new initiative aims to connect virtually all year round to bring about discussions, and leaders and build our community in ways to support women in oncology, particularly prostate cancer.

The virtual PCF Women in Science Initiative forums are global and open to anyone interested, regardless of gender or career level, and is not restricted to people in academics or oncology. For more information on joining the mailing list for this initiative and receiving invitations to the forums, email:


Fatima Karzai, MD, Associate Research Physician, Clinical Director, Genitourinary Malignancies Branch, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, NIH, Bethesda, MD

Andrea K. Miyahira, PhD, Director of Global Research & Scientific Communications, The Prostate Cancer Foundation

Read the Full Video Transcript

Andrea Miyahira: Hi, everyone. My name is Andrea Miyahira, and I'm the Senior Director of Global Research and Scientific Communications at the Prostate Cancer Foundation. Today I have the honor of being joined by Dr. Fatima Karzai, who is Associate Research Physician and Branch Clinical Director at the Genitourinary Malignancies Branch at the NCI. Dr. Karzai is also a 2017 PCF Young Investigator and has contributed so much to PCF's program since then.

Fatima Karzai: Thank you, Dr. Miyahira. I'm so happy to be here today and talk to you about these issues, particularly women in oncology and prostate cancer.

Andrea Miyahira: Thank you. Yeah, so today we're going to talk about a new global PCF Women in Science networking initiative, which is being led by Dr. Karzai.

But before we get to that, Dr. Karzai, can you tell us about your career path and what having a pipeline of women in the field of GU oncology and prostate cancer research has meant for you?

Fatima Karzai: Sure. So I am an investigator at the National Cancer Institute, so I run mainly phase 2 trials in prostate cancer. And my road to the National Cancer Institute, as many of our roads been, has had detours and surprises. And I think it's very important as women that we're able to collectively come together and talk about our career paths, particularly in a field like prostate cancer where it's more male-dominated.

So while enrollment of women in US medical schools equals or surpasses that of men, women only, as we get along the pipeline, start to decrease in numbers. We're talking about decreases in academic oncology faculty, hema onc, radiation onc, surg onc. And so it's really important that we talk about these issues for women and underrepresented minorities and how we can get to leadership positions, and because again, what we're seeing is a decrease in numbers of women in chair positions across the board.

Andrea Miyahira: Yes. So you've also been involved in Women in Science initiatives at the NCI. Before we talk about the PCF initiative, do you want to tell us about some of those?

Fatima Karzai: Sure. So I am a part of the Women Scientists Advisors at the NIH Center for Cancer Research. So it's basically a way for our women and men in the Center for Cancer Research to come together and talk about issues in the community and what we're facing.

And what I found particularly during the pandemic and afterwards is there's a sense that these issues are being faced by people alone, without a sense of community and without real solutions.

So that was one of the springboards for this initiative with PCF, because it's very important, I think, for us to be able to come together and bring light to these issues. So it stemmed from what I was seeing in our own community and bringing that out to more people.

Andrea Miyahira: Yeah, so I'm glad to hear that. It's really wonderful to have you thinking about these things for our community. So just for the audience who aren't familiar, since 2014, PCF has held the Women in Science forum at the annual PCF Scientific Retreat.

That particular forum was founded by doctors Karen Knudsen, Lorelei Mucci and Himisha Beltran. And so it gave us really a place where women in our PCF community could come together and talk about issues and barriers, discuss strategies and solutions.

But the problem with that was that it was only one day a year. And so last year at the 2022 PCF Women in Science Forum, Dr. Karzai announced a new global initiative that she envisioned and founded with the support from PCF, and this is the PCF Women in Science Networking Initiative. So Dr. Karzai, can you tell us about your vision for this year-round virtual program?

Fatima Karzai: So first, I'd like to give PCF a lot of credit for having that day for women and also for Young Investigators. It's surprising to know that these sorts of programs are not being seen across the board in oncology, whether basic, translational or clinical. So PCF really was one of the initiators of such an event.

So talking to you and others in your organization, we really thought that instead of having one day where we focus on certain issues, that we can make this a year-long group and initiative where we can actually bring about discussions and leaders and also question and answer sessions where we can get a lot more into the community and find out what we need to do to help support our women in oncology, particularly in prostate cancer.

So it was really a call to action by PCF and myself to see what we could do further to go even beyond what PCF have already been doing. And the day at the retreat is very successful. There's many women who volunteer to help organize that event.

And so what we're doing now is creating more organizing committees for these forums. So anybody who's interested will have a chance to contribute and be heard and also be a part of the discussions if they just want to be a part of the event itself.

Andrea Miyahira: Yeah. So one of the ways that we went about organizing the forum is that we put out a poll asking the women in our research community what issues were they most concerned about. I guess, do you want to discuss some of the top concerns that our survey respondents gave back to us?

Fatima Karzai: Sure. So through the help of PCF and Dr. Miyahira, what we did was get a survey together and we came back and looked at the data. So there was many concerns from the survey respondents including job hiring, retention, promotion, inclusivity in the cultures that we're working in. So diversity, inclusion, equity, facing discrimination.

We heard that people really want to hear leadership stories. How did women get to the positions they're in? What did it involve? And one of our big initiatives is work-life balance. What does that even mean? How do we achieve this? Is it achievable?

One thing that we've noticed that women have a harder time with than men are negotiations of contracts, financial literacy. So we'll be tackling those issues. And then balancing the roles that we all have, family, clinic, research, academic, industry, pharma.

So we really want to create measures that support women, including institutional policies, strategies to work with leadership, and talking about things that maybe men don't realize we're facing. So looking at allyship and how we can get more men involved. And also biases, so conscious and unconscious biases against women and underrepresented minorities.

So a lot of topics came up that maybe we weren't aware were so important to people and can't be handled by a one-day initiative.

Andrea Miyahira: Yeah. So based on this survey, what we did is we chose four topics to focus our first four quarterly forums on for 2023. The first one will be March 31st on work-life balance. Dr. Karzai, do you want to tell us a little bit about that forum and what we have planned or what we're planning?

Fatima Karzai: Sure. So we're very excited about our first forum. So again, we're going to be talking about work-life balance. We're looking for experts in the field to come and talk to us about what that means and how we can try to achieve a certain goal. So not to achieve work-life balance completely, because we don't know if that's even a goal that we should be striving towards, but what does that really mean and how can we work towards it? And afterwards, we'll be having small group discussions and questions and answer sessions to be able to really dig into the topic and go into it further.

Andrea Miyahira: Yeah, I'm really excited for this forum. I think I'm going to learn so much. And also for myself as a woman in science, it's important for me also. And yeah, so that's the first forum that we're having, March 31st. We have three other forums that we're going to plan throughout the rest of the year. Do you want to mention what those will be?

Fatima Karzai: Sure. So we'll also be looking at inclusivity culture in workplace. So again, diversity, equity and inclusion, negotiations and financial literacy and leadership coaching. So there's a very high percentage of women in our community that want to be leaders and want to have structured leadership coaching, so we'll be looking into that.

Andrea Miyahira: Awesome. And looking forward, what do you hope this networking initiative will achieve in the long run?

Fatima Karzai: So it's a goal that I think we all have in order to support women and their careers moving forward but also give a sense that we're all in these struggles together and that we can make a change. So what I'm hoping is that at some point as we move along this initiative, we'll actually see tangible results from what we're doing.

Andrea Miyahira: Yes, I'm really looking forward to this. And I do want to mention that alongside the first forum, we're also going to kickstart a Slack workspace for women in the prostate cancer research and oncology space. And we want to create a safe place where the dialogue can continue, people can talk about issues, offer advice, mentorship, support, network, make friends, just things that can't be done in a forum and are better supported in ongoing Slack community-based environment. So I don't know if you have any thoughts about that.

Fatima Karzai: Yeah, no, I think it's wonderful. I really think one of the things that we have established is this connectivity through PCF. And we're really going to be able to keep it going throughout the whole year and beyond, so I think it gives a great space where we probably didn't have it before for people to connect even on a more deep level and get mentorship, talk about other issues. Yeah. So there's a lot involved in the Slack space that I think is really exciting.

Andrea Miyahira: I'm very excited. And I just want to reiterate that the virtual PCF Women in Science Initiative forums are global and open to anyone who's interested, regardless of gender, career level, and it's not restricted to people in academics or oncology. We have colleagues from pharma and biotech who have also joined this initiative and are volunteering their time to some of the organization and want to attend the forums. So if anyone is interested in joining the mailing list for this initiative and receiving invitations to the forums, just send an email to .

Fatima Karzai: If you want to join Dr. Miyahira and myself to help organize events too, we'd be happy to hear from you.

Andrea Miyahira: Yeah, thank you. And then, so Dr. Karzai, I want to thank you for joining me today in conversation and for your leadership in this PCF Women in Science Networking Initiative. Working with you on this initiative so far has been just so rewarding and insightful already, and I'm so excited for the impact that it'll have on the pipeline of women in our field. So thank you so much.

Fatima Karzai: Well, I appreciate your time today, and I really want to say it's been a pleasure working with you and I look forward to see what we can do in the future.