Back to School 2020
Meet the Students
This fall, learners from across a wide range of programs in the Faculty of Medicine will start a new academic year. Meet some of the learners here.
This fall, learners from across a wide range of programs in the Faculty of Medicine will start a new academic year. Meet some of the learners here.
August 15, 2020
I already have a Bachelor of Science in Occupational and Environmental Safety and Health from the University of the West Indies, so the transition to Occupational and Environmental (Industrial) Hygiene was pretty organic, with added influences from my lectures and professors. I have a specific interest in occupational hygiene as it allows me a hands-on approach in ensuring workers’ health, which should be of the utmost concern for any organization.
For my practicum I will look at ergonomics in the post-mortem room at the BC Animal Health Centre. I will be conducting ergonomic assessments with the aim of identifying work-related activities that pose a risk to employees and that may result in injuries, such as musculoskeletal injuries, and making recommendations to mitigate those risks.
I am most looking forward to wrapping up my studies, but I’m also eager to see how the context of teaching and lectures will change given the current restrictions due to the pandemic.
It has been pretty hard being in a different country with a health crisis of such gravity and not having the support system I’m used to with my family back in Jamaica. But ultimately, I realized that worrying will not change anything and I have to deal with the present. I am also super grateful for my classmates Daniella, Fiona, and Cheryl who constantly checked in and kept in constant communication, which lifted my spirits.
I’m a series junkie, so I have either started and completed various new series or caught up on my regulars. I have also gotten back into baking (not bread, lol).
August 16, 2020
I was inspired to pursue genetic counselling because it allows me to fulfill my career aspirations of helping and working with a variety of people, in the context of something I’m fascinated by. Genetics is a fascinating field – everything that makes us unique, yet similar to one another, is encoded in our tiny bundles of DNA, and even the slightest changes to these codes can have large impacts. As genetic counsellors, we get to learn about the effects of these changes, and then translate this knowledge into useful information for our patients and provide emotional support to them through their hardships – and I think that’s very meaningful work! Plus, genetic counsellors get to wear many hats (they’re also researchers, teachers, scientists, detectives, and more), and genetics is a rapidly growing field, which means I always get to learn something new.
I am most looking forward to spending more time with my classmates! Unfortunately, our first year together and summer plans changed because of the pandemic, and some of my classmates returned to their home provinces, so I am excited to be learning (and having fun) alongside them again in the fall. I am also looking forward to expanding my clinical experiences and collecting data for my research project in the coming year.
Recognizing and validating feelings of discomfort, stress, and low motivation were important first steps for me. When everything first started, our graduate advisor, Dr. Jehannine Austin, talked to us about how we are all feeling grief: over the loss of things we had been looking forward to, the loss of structure and routine that I was comfortable with, and the loss of certainty over what the near future would look like. Identifying grief made it easier to process as a normal emotional response to what is happening, and find ways to cope.
I try to add variety to my days by splitting my time up for work and leisurely activities. On days where I feel less productive or motivated, I try to be kind to myself by, for example, allowing myself to take the break I need instead of feeling bad about it. Keeping in touch with friends and family, re-visiting old hobbies, and finding silver linings/things to look forward to, have also been helpful in improving personal wellness. Finally, personal wellness on a physical level, which includes staying hydrated and active, and maintaining good personal hygiene to stay healthy, is important too!
Physically-distanced picnics in the park are my favourite, and I also enjoy video calls with friends to catch up.
August 17, 2020
During medical school I realized that anesthesia combined all of my favourite aspects of medicine, from the clinical application of physiology and pharmacology to the management of critically unwell patients. I like that anesthesia is an intellectually stimulating specialty dealing with acute medicine, while at the same time involving hands-on procedures. There is a lot of diversity within the specialty. We work with patients of all ages for all types of surgeries and in other settings such as the chronic pain clinic and intensive care unit (ICU). Last but not least, it’s rewarding to be able to help patients through their most stressful times.
This year I’m looking forward to my subspecialty anesthesia rotations in areas such as thoracic and neurosurgery, regional anesthesia, pediatrics and chronic pain.
For me, personal wellness involves getting outside into the mountains where I enjoy the solitude and experiencing natural landscapes. Over the last few months I’ve been enjoying trail running, scrambling (climbing rocky terrain without rope), and getting into mountain biking. Keeping in touch with friends and family has been key, whether that be through physically-distanced activities or over video calls.
Scrambling in the Rockies with my partner and family this summer has been really fun while allowing physical distancing. As COVID-19 will be an ongoing issue, it will be important to continue precautions like physical distancing into our fall and winter activities. I look forward to ski touring, which by nature is a small group activity that can be physically distanced while still being safe.
August 18, 2020
I’ve always been interested in science and medicine, and like the idea of a career where I can problem solve and work with others. However, I was inspired to become a doctor from a positive experience I had with a surgeon. When I was younger, family illness was something I was largely unfamiliar with and my mom needed surgery. Her surgeon was able to put my family and I at ease and instill confidence in us by explaining the procedure in simple terms. This experience made me want to be able to help others in the same way.
I am incredibly excited about pretty much everything, ranging from new friends to the curriculum, but I would have to say I am most excited to learn the essential hands-on skills! COVID-19 has made this more challenging, but I am very confident that we will find ways to work around it.
This is definitely a challenging time for everyone, and requires quite a bit of adaptation. I feel that, because of the risks the pandemic poses to our physical health, it has become easier to forget about our mental health. I’ve tried to take care of myself by getting outdoors in socially-responsible ways which, in my opinion, has greatly helped both my mental and physical well-being.
My favourite physically-distanced social activity would have to be whitewater kayaking, which needed to be adjusted a fair bit since the pandemic. Now, I’m able to whitewater kayak while minimizing exposure to my fellow paddlers, which has been great!
August 21, 2020
So many things have inspired me to pursue medicine – mostly it is the opportunity to make a difference at the individual level by being someone my community could lean on for support during their most difficult moments.
Coming into second year, I am excited to spend more time getting to know my professors and my peers – exploring their passions, experiences, and seeking their advice as I try to determine where I should cast my sail in the vast ocean of medicine.
COVID-19 has caused a lot of anxiety and accordingly, personal wellness is more important now than ever before. For me, it is taking time out of my day, no matter how busy I am, to make sure that I am doing the things I love (see below).
The 3 R’s: Running, Reading, and Relaxing
August 26, 2020
After completing my honours degree in psychology from the University of Victoria, I worked for the Island Health Authority for five years. I started in psychiatric rehabilitation before transitioning into coordinating large-scale clinical research projects and programs, with a focus in stroke and dementia. While I loved working in clinical neurosciences, I felt it was time to expand beyond my research skills and hone-in on developing some further practical skills (both quantitative and professional) that will help me move forward into leadership roles. The Master of Public Health (MPH) program at UBC was a natural fit for me.
I have spent an amazing summer working alongside Dr. Adam Lund, Clinical Associate Professor in UBC’s Department of Emergency Medicine. Although we were originally planning to work in harm reduction for large-scale electronic music festivals, we had to pivot under the context of COVID-19. After working on Free Open Access materials that could assist the reopening of many different industries during Phases 2 and 3 of BC’s Restart Plan, we are now setting-up and advising on COVID-19 health and safety plans for the TV and film industry.
I am looking forward to diving into many of my upcoming courses, particularly SPPH 536: Aboriginal People and Public Health: Ethics, Policy, and Practice and SPPH 541: Economic Evaluation.
I also really enjoy the teamwork of my MPH cohort. Even though we will likely be remote throughout the remainder of our program, I am looking forward to seeing everyone’s faces on Zoom and keeping up with the group chat!
As an MPH student during a pandemic, I found the biggest impact to my own wellness is the constant pressure of being the primary source of vetted information for everyone in all of my social circles. One morning I woke up to over 150 separate messages from loved ones with questions related to COVID-19. I also felt self-imposed pressure to check that my own behavior during quarantine was absolutely perfect (if I can’t model it, I can’t expect others to). I had to realize that I too am only human with my own limitations, capacities, and propensity to make mistakes. I am doing my best, and that’s all we can do!
Playing my ukulele on the beach or laying in my hammock!
August 27, 2020
I know medical school is going to be full of challenges and I wanted to be positioned for success. I was born and raised in Victoria and I have a strong support network here. I have lived in other cities in Canada before, but Victoria always felt like the best fit. I love the pace of a small city and the option to explore rural parts of the island. Like all of B.C., the island offers breathtaking views to reset yourself from everyday stresses. We have mountains, surf, old growth forests, and nightlife! What more can you ask for?
I am currently a paramedic for BC Emergency Health Services and I would love to apply my medical knowledge of diseases from the classroom to the field. Having worked alongside nurses and doctors, I am constantly reminded how much more there is to learn. I graduated from UVic in 2018 and I’ve missed the pace and breadth of university learning.
This pandemic has been hard on people for several different reasons including social isolation, interruption of daily routines, and possible contraction of COVID-19. Something that has kept me positive and active is my dog, Sigma. We go on beach walks and hikes every day to relieve the stresses of working as a paramedic. I also keep in contact with my friends through video chats and texts, so even though we don’t see each other face-to-face, we can still keep up-to-date with our everyday lives.
Going for walks on the beach while Sigma gets the zoomies (bursts of energy)!
August 27, 2020
A lot of what inspired me to become a physical therapist was influenced by my mom. Growing up she was an education assistant in the school system and seeing the impact she had on kids was very special. Although I didn’t feel like pursuing the educatio side of things was the right fit for me, I really enjoyed biology and physical education (PE) in high school. I combined the two and pursued a Bachelor’s in Kinesiology degree, where I realized that physical therapy was a great way to help people, just like my mom had been doing for so long. I have fallen in love with the field ever since.
Although I am not in a research-based graduate program, I had the chance to be a part of a Quality Improvement (QI) project within our program that aimed in improving the Total Knee Arthroplasty (TKA) experience of individuals at the Prince Rupert Regional Hospital (PRRH) student-led clinic. Research indicates that the stronger an individual is before a TKA, the better their outcomes will be. My team and I created a prehabilitation program that focused on strength and quality of life for the patients in Prince Rupert, which will be implemented in this coming year!
As I am seven weeks away from the end of the MPT program as I write this, I am very excited to jumpstart my career in the field of physical therapy. I am looking forward to getting the two national exams out of the way and becoming a fully licensed PT!
To be honest, I was not making my personal wellness a priority at the beginning of COVID-19, but with practice and experience, I realized how important it is. If I’m feeling tired or burnt out, I remind myself that the whole world is going through a pandemic and that because of this, I need to be kind to myself. It is next to impossible to be as productive as we were before COVID-19, so I have set reasonable boundaries for myself because of this. I have enjoyed physically-distanced hikes with friends and beach visits to keep myself mentally in check.
Golfing with friends and family! It is great because you can keep more than 2m apart the whole time.
August 27, 2020
Family medicine enables me to practice a broad scope of medicine so that I can help take care of my patients and advocate for their healthcare needs. As family physicians, we also have the privilege of building long-term relationships with our patients and their families too, which I find extremely rewarding.
I am excited to take on my new role as a Chief Resident for the Surrey-Fraser Family Residency Program, so that I can give back to the hospital and residents while continuing to ensure the program is an excellent site for learners. The faculty, staff, and clinicians here are fantastic and we will continue to develop competent and excellent family physicians right here in B.C.
I’ve learned that having continual support from friends and family is especially important during this time. I make sure to stay connected with friends and family via text or phone even if we cannot meet up.
Enjoying good ice-cream, all to myself!
August 27, 2020
My passion for helping people with mental health disorders has been at the center of my early career. In high school and undergrad, I knew of many friends who experienced mental health challenges and I felt a sense of purpose when supporting them in their struggles. I volunteered at a psychiatric institute in Montreal in search of a similar sense of fulfillment, which expanded my clinical competencies and amplified my desire to help vulnerable individuals. These experiences motivated me to pursue a MSc in Experimental Medicine and perform patient-oriented research, with the goal of providing patient-centered care that better addresses the specific healthcare needs of these individuals. As a MSc student in Experimental Medicine, I am able to be directly involved in the growing body of knowledge relating to the treatment and management of addiction and mental health challenges.
My research focuses on improving the health outcomes for vulnerable people with addiction and mental health challenges. I am currently piloting a survey on opioid overdose risk, which provides users with information about their risk of experiencing an overdose and evidence-based resources to prevent and manage this risk. I am also a co-investigator of a randomized controlled trial which will provide insight into the pharmacological treatment of opioid use disorder. With the presence of high potent opioids in today’s drug supply, the risk of overdose is high. Additional insight gained from this trial can render treatment more accessible for individuals and contribute a more effective response to the opioid overdose crisis.
The recruitment for the randomized controlled trial that I am co-investigating has been temporarily paused due to COVID-19, so I’ve embarked on many other projects as a result. I’ve published an article and submitted several others during the pandemic, but most of all, I look forward to interacting with patients and resuming my clinical studies once it’s ok to do so again!
Having a good work-life balance is instrumental to mental health and personal wellness. Socially, I’ve enjoyed connecting virtually with friends and family from all over the world. As well, I’ve turned to sports such as running, cycling, or swimming to relieve stress during the pandemic. As an athlete on the UBC triathlon team, my teammates and I have maintained a competitive aspect to our training. Even though we are unable to train together, they have helped me stay motivated and active.
My favourite physically-distanced social activity would have to be grabbing dinner and drinks with some friends at the beach!
August 27, 2020
I am attracted to a healthcare profession that acknowledges and blends the social, emotional, anatomical, physiological, cultural and medical aspects of health to provide holistic, individualized and evidence-based care.
After the birth of my son, born with Trisomy 21 (13 years ago), and experiencing firsthand the positive impacts of midwifery care, I began to percolate the idea of becoming a midwife. I regard birth as one of the most powerful, transformative and natural life events and I am honoured to witness it over and over again.
I am going into my fourth and final year of the UBC Midwifery program during a pandemic, national financial and economic hardship, political unrest and during a global revolution to confront systemic racism. As we have heard time and time again, these are certainly unprecedented times. I am eager to participate in – and positively contribute to – healthcare in the midst of significant change. I look forward to protecting the normality of birth in a time where nothing truly feels normal.
One thing I have found fascinating about COVID-19 is that our society has had the opportunity to step towards a more collective culture. It is a unique time in which our behaviour and decision making prioritizes the health of the community and not only that of personal wellness. I have been privileged enough during the pandemic to slow down, connect with my children and husband, garden, cook beautiful meals, learn to teach and homeschool, ride my bike and to be grateful for our family’s health.
Early-bird mountain bike rides with a friend have many benefits: the trails are absolutely empty, I can beat the heat, it’s easy to stay more than 2 metres apart, I get my socializing and exercising dose in one go, a little adrenaline is good for the soul and I still have the rest of the day to get things done.
August 27, 2020
What drove me to pursue the program was the smaller class sizes along with the ability to form professional relationships with some of the leading minds in pathology. Also, the program material being interesting and hands-on was a plus for me!
I am looking forward to my directed studies class in which I will be working on finding a better method for screening inherited metabolic diseases. I am also looking forward to applying to some graduate programs this fall for next year!
I love learning new skills and the lockdown has given me plenty of time for that, such as learning the bansuri, a wooden flute used in Indian Classical music. I also have a daily yoga and meditation practice that I follow, which has positively impacted both my mental and physical wellness. Apart from that, I make sure I maintain daily communication with my friends and family via video calls.
Online gaming, at-home calisthenics exercise, playing the bansuri and watching the anime show Kimetsu no Yaiba (Demon Slayer)!
August 27, 2020
I had been thinking about doing a master’s degree for a while when my 91-year-old grandmother said to me that learning is a lifelong process and it was about time that I went back. She is a formidable woman and she gave me the push I needed to start seriously looking at programs.
When I was considering different master’s programs, someone asked me why I wanted to go back to school. In his opinion, there were two potential reasons to go back: to build on my strengths or to fill in any knowledge gaps. I decided that filling in the gaps was more important, which lead me to the MHA at UBC.
I am working full-time for Provincial Laboratory Medicine Services while completing my MHA. For the past five months, I have been involved in the laboratory response to COVID-19. My work has focused on COVID-19 antibody testing, self-collection of samples for people in remote settings, and procurement of testing supplies.
When COVID-19 became very real for all of us in March, I was redeployed to work as part of the lab response at the BC Centre for Disease Control. I’ve had the opportunity to do some amazing work with wonderfully dedicated people during my reassignment, but one part stands out: working directly with an Indigenous community. The program’s Indigenous Health course is offered in second year and, after this experience, it’s the one course that I am looking forward to most.
What I am hoping for the most (with all fingers and toes crossed) is a return to in-person classes so my cohort can laugh and learn together again.
Physical activity is incredibly important for my personal well-being. It is my stress-relief. COVID-19 forced me to change my routine (less weights, more yoga) but I made sure to keep moving. Getting outside, even if it’s just a short walk, can be the difference between a day that seems manageable versus one that is overwhelming.
Sleep is my second weapon. It doesn’t matter how busy work is or how much schoolwork I need to do. I try and get 7-8 hours of sleep. Sometimes, knowing yourself is half the battle and I know that I don’t function well on minimal sleep.
This is a hard choice. It would be a toss-up between golf or wine “tasting” in our garden. My husband will be very happy that golf made the cut since he’s been slowly converting me the past few years.
August 27, 2020
I’m curious. Engineering lets me be exactly that. I spend my days identifying complex issues and creating elegant solutions to them. Medicine, on the other hand, allows me to work closely with people and navigate their healthcare journeys with them. It seemed pretty obvious that putting the two together through the MD/PhD program was a perfect fit for me. I learn and apply enormous amounts of knowledge in two vastly different, but equally interesting, fields. I get to have it all!
A kidney, an ultrasound probe, and an MD/PhD student walk into a lab…
Terrible jokes aside, I research chronic kidney disease (CKD). With rates of diabetes and hypertension increasing, CKD impacts nearly 10 per cent of Canadians. Of those Canadians, many will reach the point of needing dialysis or a kidney transplant.
While dialysis is good, it’s a tremendous burden on your quality of life. On the other hand, transplant waitlists take years if you don’t have a donor lined up. Even if you receive a kidney, you require lifelong monitoring to ensure that your new organ is healthy. With CKD, there’s thought to be some underlying damage that occurs and builds up before we can currently detect it. That’s what I focus in on.
I explore how we can use ultrasound imaging to quantify changes in the kidney, from early CKD all the way to after a transplant, and essentially making ultrasound “intelligent.” How early can we detect a failing kidney? Can we create new measurements of kidney health? Can we simplify kidney ultrasound? In answering these questions, I might be able to advance kidney care for Canadians.
Best of part of my research? I work with a world-class team of healthcare professionals and engineers, work for an amazing group of patients, and work in beautiful British Columbia.
I just completed two years of full-time medical school, so going back to engineering is definitely a nice change of pace. I missed math!
Besides that, my little sister, Krishma, is starting at UBC in Biomedical Engineering this September. It’ll be fun to have family around. Both her and my other sister, Ruby, are loads smarter than I am. I’m excited to see what Krishma does during her time here.
I take small steps every day. I start my mornings off with fresh coffee, some journaling, and reading a few pages of a book out on my deck – just to get my head in a good space for the day. Keeping a semi-regular routine and cutting down on the tidal wave of news has really helped, especially during the more uncertain parts of the pandemic. Ice cream never hurts too. And hey, if all that’s not working? Therapy.
I’m lucky. I moved into a house with three friends from medical school and it’s been a dream. Living with Alex, Nicky, and Jake is probably the best social activity I could ask for – physically distanced or not. Mix in watching classic samurai movies, eating lunch at the beach, and discovering new indie music – you’ve got yourself a recipe for thriving in the pandemic.
August 27, 2020
During my undergraduate degree, I had a chance to be a student ergonomist in a couple of different manufacturing companies. During that time, I realized I wanted to do more than just ergonomics and I was always really interested in other fields, especially environmental science. One day, I learned about occupational hygiene and I realized it would actually allow me to connect all of these things I was interested in together, while getting the chance to learn about how other people perform their work and help protect them at work. I’m glad I chose this because the program has been exactly as diverse and fascinating as I thought it would be.
I am looking forward to staying in one city long-term. Over the last five years, I’ve been moving every four or eight months and it’s been really nice to call the same place home for the long-term. I have found moving to be exhausting both mentally and physically, especially as the years have passed. Now I’ve gotten the chance to spend more time with my friends here than I would have otherwise and I’m looking forward to getting to know them and the city much more over the coming year.
I have been scheduling time off to do something that’s either fun or physically challenging and sticking to it. I also think that having a kinesiology degree and having had good friends in public health science has ingrained the idea of personal wellness in me, and I’m very grateful for that. It also helps that every time I take a walk or talk to someone, I notice that my energy returns.
Playing games, whether it’s on a virtual table or document. Even though the people I’m playing with can be quite far from me, I feel like we are all entirely present in that moment. It makes me feel close to them despite being in different rooms.
August 27, 2020
I didn’t know much about speech-language pathology (SLP) but was first introduced to it through my aunt who works as an SLP at a local hospital. I was initially drawn to SLP by my love of languages. I grew up speaking French in school, Spanish at home, and English among friends. I did my undergraduate degree at UVic in linguistics, where I was fascinated by this whole branch of study dedicated to the science of speech and language. My love of people also inspired me to pursue SLP. Growing up, I lived in nine different cities in three different countries and I’ve had many opportunities to travel. I learned how speech and language is such an essential part of our everyday lives and can also connect you to different people and places around the world.
I am most looking forward to my clinical externships this fall. They were originally supposed to start in the summer but were postponed due to COVID-19. I can’t wait to finally go out and put to use the new knowledge and skills I’ve learned during the past year and have the opportunity to learn from our clinical educators. This fall I’ll be working in a school district with children from kindergarten to grade five, where I will be helping a variety of kids with speech, motor speech, language, phonological awareness difficulties and stuttering.
During COVID-19, I’ve found it more important to maintain good mental health, which for me has meant training longer and more frequently than I normally would. I enjoy swimming, biking and running, which I’ve thankfully still been able to do during the pandemic. I’ve been able to check off certain training goals off my list, like biking 200 km and running another half marathon. I’ve also been making wellness a priority by making more time for hobbies and spending time with friends and family, whether it’s been virtually or in person from a distance.
When school transitioned to online courses at the end of March, I went to be with my family in Victoria. Victoria (and Vancouver Island) has been a great location to be during COVID-19 because it has so many beautiful beaches, lakes and parks. Some of my favourite physically-distanced social activities have been swimming at the lakes, trail runs and hikes in the parks, and just sitting at the beach with friends and enjoying the nice views. It’s been a great way to be social while also enjoying nature and getting some exercise.
August 27, 2020
My experience growing up with a rare health condition led me to be (unfortunately) quite familiar with doctor’s offices and hospital rooms. As a young and impressionable person with a rare condition, observing how physicians worked with me to determine exactly what was happening and finally arriving at a diagnosis was a defining moment in my life. I aspire to become a compassionate and driven physician like the ones who have made a difference in my life.
I’m really looking forward to getting to know my peers in the Northern Medical Program and starting the Case-Based Learning sessions! While it will certainly be a big adjustment learning during a global pandemic, I’m really excited to get back to some sense of normal (even if it’s via Zoom)!
I think it’s important to find joy wherever you can and return to the activities you enjoy during these challenging times. I’ve been spending a lot more time outdoors (when possible), getting back into old hobbies like baking, and learning more about photography. Above all, being patient with myself and others, as we are living through these strange times together, with our own unique sets of challenges. Oh – and lots coffee!
Walking the hill leading to UNBC has been a big one this summer! I also enjoy gaming sessions with my childhood friends and FaceTime with my family. I also started to get into kayaking this summer – it’s pretty easy to practice physical distancing in the middle of a lake!
August 27, 2020
My interest in pathology really started in undergrad when I became interested in human disease and medicine. I did my undergraduate degree in UBC’s Bachelor of Medical Laboratory Science Program and enjoyed learning about the field of disease research. I decided this was something I wanted to pursue further, as I liked the idea of being able to help people by researching ways to better understand disease and hopefully help advance the medical field. To do this, graduate school seemed like the next perfect step to get involved in this research.
My research focuses on finding a greater understanding of neurological biomarkers and how they can be utilized for diagnostic, prognostic and screening purposes in a variety of diseases. My thesis work will focus specifically on applying this to Alzheimer’s and other dementias in hopes of making the first steps towards creating a blood-based screening test. I have also had the opportunity during the pandemic to explore what these biomarkers might be able to tell us about the neurological manifestations of COVID-19 in critically ill patients.
There are quite a few things I am looking forward to this year that will go along with starting grad school. I think the thing I am most excited about is publishing my first paper. Being able to take a large role in my group’s involvement with COVID research has allowed me to get a paper out and recently into review. This will be a very exciting opportunity to be able to have a first author paper this early on in my education.
I have been in a somewhat unique position during the pandemic being involved in COVID-19 research. It has resulted in not having a lot of free time, with most of it dedicated to analyzing patient samples daily in the effort to help advance COVID-19 research. For me, personal wellness has been making sure I appreciate every moment I get to relax and recharge.
During this pandemic I have gained a large appreciation for being able to do the simplest activities that allow me to see the people I care about. Just sitting out in a circle of lawn chairs with friends or family to chat over a couple of drinks has been one of the things I’ve enjoyed the most.
August 27, 2020
Ever since I was first introduced to the fascinating field of biology, I have been intrigued by the basic molecular mechanism driving biological processes like gene expression. When I realized that I could pursue this as my career, there was no looking back. I got to explore different aspects of scientific research early during my undergrad degree at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research in Kolkata. The coronavirus projects I undertook in Prof. Jayasri Das Sarma’s lab during my master’s program solidified my interest in virology. I enjoy the process of discussing, designing, performing and presenting experiments. I wanted to further develop my analytical and experimental skills to further my independent research. The trust and support from my mentors, teachers, family and friends facilitated my journey and ultimate decision to pursue a PhD. It is with this enthusiasm I started my PhD in molecular virology at UBC.
I study viruses, which are tiny particles that invade and infect host cells. A virus inserts its genetic material into a host cell and takes over the host’s machinery in order to replicate itself. The goal of my research is to investigate how viral proteins interact with and trick host cells to cause infection. I am currently investigating how coronavirus encoded proteases (a protein that can cleave other proteins) are remodelling the host environment for the virus to replicate and evade host immune responses. This work will provide insights into the fundamental virus-host interactions and contribute to our understanding of the coronavirus life cycle.
I am very excited and curious about where my research will lead to in the days ahead, especially since I am pursuing research on the coronavirus and working directly towards discovering novel therapeutic targets for this virus. I am also hoping to see the progress in coronavirus vaccine research, so that myself and others can travel to meet our near and dear ones.
I am fortunate to be able to work directly towards understanding the coronavirus during this crucial time. Being able to contribute directly towards overcoming this pandemic has been very satisfying and has kept me going emotionally. During lockdown, I have had a little more time for myself and, with great pleasure, have found myself spending more time talking with my friends and family. I make sure to connect with them often.
Biking with my friends around the neighbourhood.
August 27, 2020
I came to medicine with a background in health policy and economics, and through all of my clinical training I maintained a separate interest in how our public systems impact and address health. Initially my interest was in health system policy, but over time it has grown to include the public health system (e.g. the branch of medicine responsible for the ongoing response to COVID-19), and the political and economic systems that impact health. Public health medicine explores practical ways to improve population health through health promotion and health protection, and instead of using medication or surgical procedures, it uses policy tools and programs.
Intellectually, public health allows me to check the boxes on academic interests, and so it was a natural fit.
COVID-19 has largely taken over the public health agenda, and so I’m looking forward to being involved in that response. As always, learning how to communicate risk, science, and recommendations is critical, and so I’ll be spending much of the year learning from public health leaders on how they talk to Canadians about our ongoing response to the pandemic.
The pandemic has not only been a challenging professional time, but it’s also been personally difficult as my partner who lives in Ontario developed a temporary full-body paralysis and ended up in an ICU on life support for most of the spring. He’s thankfully recovering, but being present for him while working full-time in a health emergency has required every wellness tool that I know of. The basics of nutrition, exercise, and sleep can’t be overstressed, but especially in a pandemic they become routines of self-care that can’t be forgotten.
I’ve also relied heavily on my family, and there have been some joys here that have helped me get through. A newborn, a milestone birthday, shared family moments, laughing through our failures to make IT connections work – the small constant moments of connection. I think this pandemic has brought us closer and these moments have become important parts of keeping well.
Exploring music together. Music changes the day, and I love discovering a new album or playlist with someone. During COVID-19, I restructured my song library to be categorized by colour (e.g. ‘red’ is my high-energy playlist for spinning, and ‘yellow’ is the light-hearted beach playlist). I share it and get recommendations, and it’s helped create these crowd-sourced collections to help fill times when I’m alone.
August 27, 2020
It was during my master’s degree that I discovered the field of pharmacology and all the possibilities it can offer. Studying drug interactions within the body can be applied to any type of medical condition, from neurological disorders to metabolic diseases. A lot of conditions/diseases lack good medications so finding new drugs or therapeutics is important, and I would love to contribute to this scientific innovation and development.
My area of research focuses on heart and lung diseases. We are testing known drugs for other possible therapeutic benefits. In the few past years, we have found that these medications are improving blood vessel integrity. In the context of the current COVID-19 situation, we hope that these drugs will be helpful in preventing some complications experienced in patients with severe cases of COVID-19, as their structure is similar to the virus receptor.
Like a lot of people, I look forward to having effective treatments for COVID-19. I dream of having a vaccine soon, but I know that it might take a long time to develop one that is safe and efficient. In the meantime, I hope that people from all around the world, including governments, understand the importance of continuing to follow hygiene guidelines and physical distancing.
I do several things to make sure that I stay healthy and safe. Because of COVID-19, I’m working remotely so I don’t get to interact with a lot of people. From my point of view, it’s very important to keep in touch with friends, family, and colleagues to make sure that everyone is doing fine. Feeling isolated can have huge psychological impacts, so I need to make sure that I am interacting with people in some way.
One benefit of working remotely is having the time to cook homemade dishes instead of buying pre-made food. This is far healthier than what you can buy from the supermarket as you control the ingredients you add to your dish.
Another thing that I am doing for my well being is making sure that I get some physical activity. I bike almost every day and hike on weekends. This is crucial for me because I need to get out of the house and enjoy the summer, while staying safe and respecting COVID-19 measures and advice.
I’m a social person, so I like having meetings/meet-ups using videoconference platforms. I do this often because it allows me to connect and socialize with people. You can be reunited with a lot of different people from around the world at the same time and have a drink or play different online games. It’s a lot of fun!