The life story of Kiran Dhillon, PhD, stands as a testament to the profound impact that passion, purpose, and resilience can wield. This significance is further underscored by her welcomed addition to the ReWA Board of Directors in 2022. Her story is closely linked to the mission of ReWA, which reflects her own experiences since childhood. Kiran’s journey began when her family moved from India to the United States, seeking safety and opportunities. After settling in Cleveland, Ohio, they faced challenges as Kiran’s parents worked hard to establish a new life. Their determination inspired Kiran to develop her own strength and perseverance, qualities that guided her in the years ahead.
However, this journey was not without difficulties. Kiran’s mother, who didn’t speak English and had never worked or driven before, faced new challenges. Similarly, her father dealt with adjusting to a new culture. Learning how important it was to contribute to the community, as valued in American culture, was not easy. This journey also saw setbacks, like the sad loss of Kiran’s mother when Kiran was just 16. Despite this, Kiran continued to work hard to improve her family’s life in the United States, fueled by a desire to honor her family’s resilience.
Kiran excelled academically, eventually earning a PhD in Genetics from the University of Washington. She delved into scientific research at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, focusing on understanding chemotherapy resistance in breast and ovarian cancer. She also co-founded an organization with a mission to increase the success of scientists from underrepresented backgrounds. This demonstrated her dedication to breaking down barriers and finding solutions.
As the Executive Director of UW Medicine’s Cancer Vaccine Institute, Kiran leads the institute’s goals, builds relationships with donors, and oversees its administration in the fight against cancer. Her ability to plan strategically is clear as she guides the institute’s programs and collaborations, all with the aim of making life-saving treatments accessible to everyone, regardless of their backgrounds.
However, Kiran’s aspirations extend beyond the lab. She recognizes the power of storytelling and representation, both in science and the arts. In Seattle’s vibrant arts scene, she was previously involved in South Asian films as a film festival director with Tasveer. She also serves as on the Board for Northwest Film Forum, where she empowers immigrants and refugees to share their stories through art.
Kiran’s experience serves as a bright illustration of how helping and empowerment can turn aspirations into reality. Her story, which is truly motivating, highlights the significance of organizations that equip immigrants and refugees with the resources required to shape a brighter tomorrow, much like Kiran did herself. We deeply appreciate having dedicated board members like Kiran, who advocate for immigrants and refugees within the ReWA community.