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A Unique Opportunity Shared by Newtonbrook Students

Tuesday, September 26, 2017
Categories: Great Things, School Web Stories

This past summer three students from Newtonbrook SS along with six other students from Bloor CI participated in an eight-week pilot project called the summer student clinician scientist program. The pilot project gave the nine students a chance to earn money while learning. The teens worked at Princess Margaret with a mentor to assist a research team on supervised projects while exposing them to the many career paths available in hospitals. They also attended weekly seminars and participated in a summer student research day.

Students from Newtonbrook share their experience and what this unique opportunity meant to them.

Dr. Gelareh Zadeh, MD, PhD, is a neurosurgeon-scientist at Toronto Western hospital, and the Wilkins Family Chair in brain tumor research. And I, a 17 year old high school student with no medical education, had the opportunity to work in her research lab at Princess Margaret hospital this past summer.

Because Dr. Zadeh is such an accomplished neurosurgeon, she was at times very busy; therefore, I worked with her third year neuro-resident Dr. Suganth Suppiah. Suganth is very passionate about neurosurgery and as a result he taught me a lot and answered all my questions. He showed me MRI’s and CT’s of patients and explained to me how to read the scans, where the tumors were, and how you can tell what type of tumor it is. But I didn’t just get to see the brain tumors through the scans, I got to see and touch them in real life. Brain tumors called meningiomas had just been removed from a patient and brought to the lab for research. I had the chance to touch the tumor and the dura part of the brain that was also removed during surgery. I helped with the experiment and got to chop the tumor into little pieces so it could fit into the test tube. I also learned about another type of brain tumor called glioblastomas. I did literature reviews on research articles, made connections with other students doing their masters and PhDs, and also attended weekly learning series where different professionals from various healthcare areas would come to talk and teach us about their career. Being in the lab was a new experience for me, and during my time in the lab I was mostly doing immunohistochemistry (IHC). IHC involves staining tumor samples and checking to see if the antibodies we stained them with came out positive or negative. Through this, and with the help of one of the lab’s pathologist, I was able to see tumor cells, cancer cells and brain cells in the microscope.

The specialist high skills major (SHSM) program at Newtonbrook SS exposed me to co-op where my amazing co-op teacher Mr. Price got me a placement as a nurse’s aide at Mount Sinai Hospital. Through my co-op I learned of the many different healthcare careers available for me and made connections that I can benefit from in the future. However, most importantly, it was through co-op that I was offered this job. I got to spend my summer working with brain tumors and neurosurgeons and learned what most people in medical school are learning, and it was all possible because the SHSM and co-op program at my school.

Pooja Parkash, Student

Being a part of the SHSM Health and Wellness program has been such a huge advantage for me, because not only am I able to get certifications while in high school, but I've been able to have many learning experiences that you cannot experience in a classroom setting. Additionally, doing Co-op as a requirement for the SHSM program has been such an amazing experience. It has made me so much more aware of the things that happen in the world and has also opened a door to so many opportunities such as the Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) job. I'm so thankful that I made the decision to join the SHSM program because it has helped me with my career planning for the future. The PMH job is not an opportunity that most people can have before going into university, so I'm grateful that University Health Network (UHN) has created the Summer Student Scientist Clinician Program for high school students. Additionally, SHSM is something that I will always recommend that people join, whether it's the health and wellness SHSM or another type of SHSM.

Tamara Obuobi, Student 

I had a phenomenal experience in the Summer Student Clinician Scientist Program that was offered at Princess Margaret Cancer Center! I had the opportunity to work in a lab alongside the lab technicians, Master students and also other summer students. The doctor who I worked with is Dr. Scott Bratman and one of his focuses is on improving outcomes for patients with head and neck cancer through optimized detection and personalized treatments. As I was working in his lab, I was able to take part in the research he was doing. I tested whether or not their “gold standard” machine is sensitive enough to be used in clinic. I also had to chance to learn how to purify plasma and end up with only the DNA!

Kelly Jesalva, Student 

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