Toronto native Caroline Diorio, MD, FRCPC, FAAP, was inspired to move from Canada to Philadelphia after one of her patients did to receive cell therapy treatment. 

“I actually had a patient who I cared for as a resident come down to Greater Philadelphia for one of the first CAR-T trials,” said Dr. Diorio. “I did my medical school at the University of Toronto and then my specialty training in pediatrics at McMaster Children’s Hospital. Then I had a patient being treated in Philadelphia with cell therapy, and it hit me that I should move to Philadelphia to work in cell and gene therapy.”

Dr. Diorio is now a physician-scientist and attending oncology physician at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and an instructor at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. The move to Philadelphia’s Fairmount neighborhood was after years of her husband commuting to Zurich from their home in Toronto for work. 

“Out of the three, Toronto, Zurich, and Philadelphia, Philadelphia is our favorite,” said Dr. Diorio. “It’s so affordable, the people are super friendly, and we’ve been able to build a great community here. And not just at CHOP, but in my neighborhood. We’ve been finding Philadelphia a really wonderful place to have a young family.”

Despite the occasional trip to Switzerland, most weekends, Dr. Diorio spends her time in the region’s abundant green spaces that underscore Greater Philadelphia’s unique livability, like Fairmount Park, or tending to her plot in her neighborhood community garden. 

“It’s taken a long time to get a [community garden] plot, but not as long as in Toronto! I’m still on a waitlist for a plot in Toronto.”

Dr. Diorio’s patience is also a virtue necessary for the scientific progress she works toward in her lab. 

“Science is slow, for sure,” said Dr. Diorio. “Everything’s always slower than I want it to be. So recognizing that these things take a long time, it’s really inspiring to be able to see improvements in kids’ lives through treatments.”

“One of the cell therapy products that we worked on in the lab, we were able to show that it works very well in mice. And right now, we have that product going through approvals to open it as a phase one trial. And it was in such a short time! I’m not sure if people outside of medicine can appreciate how short of a time frame this really is for a new thing to go from the bench to the bedside. It’s really exciting and inspiring.”

One way advancement can be made, Dr. Diorio said, is through collaboration. 

“It’s such a collaborative, positive environment here. I’ve had such outstanding mentorship as a young scientist at every level. And my senior mentors are excellent. My peer mentors are excellent. It’s a really exceptional environment from that point of view. At CHOP, everyone is working toward the same goal of improving the lives of kids affected by disease, and everyone is coming at this problem with different perspectives and areas of expertise. It’s been so cool to experience.”

To explore career opportunities in cell and gene therapy in the Greater Philadelphia region and join Dr. Diorio and thousands of others in the mission to bring groundbreaking therapies to patients, visit Select Greater Philadelphia’s new job search tool here.

To learn more about what it means to live and work in the life sciences in Greater Philadelphia, watch more of our “Discovery Starts with Me” series here.