25 Days of CoDI: Day 11

 On the eleventh day of CoDI, Heather and Sarah broke the news to me, that cervical cancer is history!


Heather Cubie and Sarah Howie: Cervical Cancer – You’re History!


How do you two know each other then?

Sarah & Heather

We have known each other for over 30 years and have worked together on human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and cervical cancer for the last 6 years. Both of us are working mothers and are committed to improving the health of women.

Over 30 years, not long then? So tell us a bit more about your research…

Heather is an Honorary Professor at the University of Edinburgh and was a clinical virologist within the NHS. Sarah is Professor of Immunopathology at the University of Edinburgh where she has worked since 1982.

Before “retiring” in 2013 Heather worked in NHS Lothian where she founded the Scottish HPV reference laboratory. Heather was awarded an MBE in 2013 for her work in the health Service. Furthermore, in the same year was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Since 2013 Heather has also been running a project to increase awareness and improve treatment of women with HPV infection in the Nkhoma Hospital in the Central region of Malawi.  Sarah has been researching how the immune system is involved in chronic disease processes for many years. So when Heather proposed working together on HPV infection of the cervix and how this relates to cervical cancer she was intrigued and delighted to take part.

Understanding how a small virus with only 8 genes can cause such devastating disease is a big challenge. Helping to improve awareness as well as options for prevention and better treatment of infections is a big motivator for both of us.

A short video on this work produced in the University’s “Research in a Nutshell” series can be seen at http://www.nutshell-videos.ed.ac.uk/sarah-howie-immunopathology-of-chronic-disease/. A video of Heather and Sarah’s recent lecture in the University’s Understanding Disease series of Public Lectures can be seen at https://media.ed.ac.uk/media/1_k5ndgqet

This isn’t their first time in the lion’s den however…

Doing CODI for the first time last year was very scary. Neither of us had done a stage show since school days. Even then it hadn’t been in any other capacity than backstage helpers for our daughters shows! However all the staff and associates were amazing. Susan Morrison, The Stand comedian, who compered the show and was our No.1 prop especially! During the actual show we were really relaxed.

The audience participation was really gratifying – we had lots of excellent questions from people who were genuinely interested in the problem – men and women! This year we will be looking forward to getting the messages out to a new audience. Our aim is to improve awareness of cervical infection and disease and hopefully convince the audience that in the not too distant future cervical cancer WILL be history.


Heather and Sarah’s show takes place on Sunday 14th August, Stand in the Square (Venue 372), 3-4pm, £8 (£6)

Purchase tickets at:  http://www.outstandingtickets.com/show/109/performance/1544/book-tickets