I was 9-years old when my grandfather (my Zaidy) was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and it was here when my family life began to change. I was 18-years old when he passed away. Those nine years would be tremendously difficult not only for him but also for my family. Gradually, the warm, soft-spoken man we had come to know, began to decline and transform into someone we could no longer recognize, nor could he recognize us. As his disease progressed, he became confused, anxious, and short-tempered. I still remember the day when he no longer knew my name. Long before he passed away, my family and I began to mourn the loss of this wonderful, charismatic man.
When my grandmother (my Bubbie) was no longer able to provide care for him at home, my Zaidy was moved into an elder care facility in Ottawa. At each visit, I witnessed the staff simultaneously manage my family’s anxieties around care provisions and his physical state, while offering my grandfather compassionate care. Moved by their compassion, and motivated by the desire to serve patients and their families facing situations like my own, I decided to pursue a B.Sc. degree in Health Sciences at the University of Ottawa with a long-term goal of achieving my M.D.
While at UofO, I pursued opportunities to give back to my community through healthcare-related and science-related initiatives. In first year, I joined the Emergency Response Team, a student-led organization that provides campus-wide first-aid services. I have since held the position of internal trainer and maintained participation as a general member each year.
I also pursued opportunities to get involved in research at UofO. Under the supervision of Dr. Johnson, I spent the first three years of my B.Sc. collecting data for a longitudinal study aimed at improving children’s control of their socio-emotional abilities. Having myself worked with a speech pathologist for delayed speech, and later a developmental child social psychologist for shyness in my childhood, I was driven to pursue research pertaining to socio-emotional abilities in children and adolescents. I am currently working on a publication about the impact of socio-emotional interventions on children’s social development, and will be completing a thesis on the impact of student confidence on academic performance.
My interest in the human body and its pathologies led me to pursue a two-month internship in Hatseva, Israel after first-year. Here I examined a rare mutation that causes familial Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) using zebrafish as the model organism. In contrast to Alzheimer’s disease, ALS takes control of the body rather than the mind. (My proximity to the Red Sea offered the added bonus of allowing me to further my scuba-diving education. I am continuing to work towards a Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) Rescue Diver Certification). Through this internship, I learned microbial laboratory techniques such as immunohistochemistry, networked with many people from across the globe, and demonstrated initiative in seeking an experience that was unique in itself. In addition, this experience exposed me to how another country’s medical system functions in comparison to Canada. Furthermore, I was able to draw from these experiences when later learning of the various healthcare systems in other countries, such as the United States, in my Canadian Healthcare System class.
Last summer, I began volunteering on the Behaviour Neurology Unit at Bayview Hospital in Toronto. Patients on this floor have an array of cognitive disabilities, from Alzheimer’s disease to Lewy Body Dementia. These patients were admitted from alternative care facilities because they, like my Zaidy, displayed levels of aggression that cannot be accommodated elsewhere. While at Bayview, my responsibilities included assisting nurses and personal support workers with feeding patients during meal times, attending rounds, and providing one-on-one companionship to patients. Every day I experienced immense fulfillment from learning how to provide patient-centered plans of care for patients and their families. One of my most memorable encounters was testing my background in competitive chess with a match against a patient who once held a world ranking; needless to say, I was given a bit of a lesson in chess that day.
If enrolled into medicine, I aim to develop patient care plans that enhance social interactions between patients suffering from cognitive disabilities, and their loved ones, while also educating families on the important role of social support for the patient’s treatment and improving quality of life. In particular, the growing elderly population has brought with it a prevalent increase in the manifestation of cognitive disabilities and extended waitlists to enter long-term care facilities make this concern of significant importance. I have experienced and appreciate what it is like to be the the family in the waiting room and part of the healthcare team. With further scholarly scrutiny, I hope to draw from my experiences in Israel, at Bayview hospital, my grandfather in long term care, and from my socio-emotional research, in allowing these disciplines to inform one another, and by extension, the medical community.
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