Q: What are some setbacks you had to face before reaching this stage of your academic education/career?

“Before coming here, I had completed a bachelors and a Masters’ degree back home in Iran, in which I then worked in cancer research for two years. And when I came to Canada, I had to re-do my MSc.  Sometimes, I think I should have graduated by now because I have been in graduate school for a while. And I’m not blaming the Canadian system. It’s just the way it is. At the end, I take this as a learning experience that has pushed me to become a better researcher.

Another setback was the financials. When I first started graduate school, I had to pay the complete tuition amount at the start, which was approximately $10,000. Frantically, I had to apply for several installments and emergency loans; thinking that I would not be able to pay for my education. This period of time was definitely the most difficult since my arrival in Canada. Although this has been a difficult journey but at the same time it’s been a wonderful and pleasant one. Canada is my home now and I’m proud to be a researcher here and some one who wants to contribute to Canadian health research. Moving forward, I’m hoping to become a researcher and continue working in Canadian health research.” – Javad Alizadeh, PhD Candidate & Vanier Canada Scholar

“Since I was a little girl I wanted to be a doctor like my grandfather, and his father before him. I wrote my ‘trial run’ MCAT and the next year I’d planned to retake the exam. But on March 23, 2016 I woke up to the news that my auntie, whom I was very close with, had simply not woken up. She was 52. My world ended. Everything I knew completely changed and what I wanted and valued in life changed along with it. I was no longer as passionate about medicine, but I was just as passionate about science. So I changed directions. I first completed my Honours Thesis at the University of Winnipeg doing neurovirology research. I was then lucky enough to be accepted into the Medical Microbiology and Infectious Disease Department to do my Master’s Degree in Dr. Jason Kindrachuk’s lab studying neurotropic viruses. I am so passionate about research because it allows you to contribute to science in a way that is your own. Every researcher has their own way of thinking, their own niche, their own collection of expertise in various areas. We all get to look at the parts of the same puzzle and try to solve it from our own angle. There’s a certain beauty in that. Through all of the changes life threw at me there was a lot of uncertainty. But I know now that this is what I am supposed to do.”
​Meagan Allardice

“Early in my childhood, while my parents were taking classes, they had to work multiple jobs and all sorts of hours, so my brothers and I would have every opportunity. Our extended family helped a lot with just making sure that we were being looked after while my parents worked to get their footing. Growing up, my parents worked super hard to get the careers they wanted and that motivated me to work hard as well, especially because I knew I would have to never as work as hard as they did”

Q: What advice do you have for students who want to pursue medicine?
“If possible, find mentors. I was told this when I was younger too and I never quite identified with that statement because I never knew anyone who looked like me or had quite the same interests as me within medicine. In Manitoba, I still don’t know any Black female physicians,  which made it more difficult to see myself in that role. Later in medical school, I was able to find amazing mentors, but I wish I had looked for them sooner! Once I found people that had similar experiences and similar interests to me, I found it was easier to see myself in the academic or advocacy-related position that they were currently in.” – Helen Teklemariam, MD

“There is this one celebrity in India named Priyanka Chopra. So, I really like her confidence and the ways she comes from nothing and has marked her presence in the world. I mean, her whole journey is so amazing, and it inspires me so much. Like you can be anything. I remember her sharing that she used to feel ugly about herself and then how she came from there to becoming successful. She had been bullied and she was miss World. The whole journey has been inspiring and like you can be any person you set to be – you just need confidence. And that’s inspiring.”  –  Akshi 

“In the country, where I’m from, it is a multi-ethnic country. We are mixes of every possible ethnicity. My mom ancestors are native… and black … I am even a bigger mix, but i have dark skin… we all are all mixed…So we have all shades of black and white. But the darker you are, the less European looking you are.. the less valuable to society you are. And in my country.. the racism is different from north America. It is hidden. Its this structural racism, that can be seen everywhere you go in my country. Songs, commercials, sayings, media, attitudes (among friends, neighbors, strangers). I grew up with my mom telling me and my sibling, that because we are dark skin we need to dress up more to fit in with the high class that i was fortunate to grow up in our country, which is white. She never let me or my sibling walk in flip flops, have our hoodies up in stores because people would think we were there to steal, not to purchase things“ – Anonymous

Q1: What motivated you to pursue a career in teaching? 

“When I worked as a clinical respiratory therapist, I always got the greatest pleasure in teaching patients and health professions students.  Helping a patient to understand their illness and learn to manage their condition to improve their quality of life was very satisfying.  It was great to know that I helped to prevent them from coming into the hospital because they couldn’t manage their disease.  In addition to providing clinical education to respiratory therapy students and staff, I also had the opportunity to provide clinical teaching to students and staff in other health professions.  I had many co-workers tell me that I would make a good teacher, and I guess it has always been a passion of mine.  When the opportunity to teach in the BRT program came, I had to go for it.”

Q2: What is your favourite quote? 

“My favourite quote is one by Ralph Waldo Emerson that I have framed in my office.  It reads:  “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”  This is how I have lived my career.  I have gone down many different paths and have tried to create my own.  I have had many different roles throughout my career, and now as a teacher, I encourage my students to go where there is no path, and create their own way, pushing the profession of respiratory therapy further into improving patient care and outcomes.” –  Sandra Biesheuvel BSc RRT CRE

“I remember feeling disappointed when my PhD fellowship application was not funded two years in a row. I was only eligible to apply one more time, so I knew I needed to take a different approach. When I was preparing my Vanier submission, I really worked on my telling a story that connected my PhD project with my life experiences. My research is on breastfeeding and child health, and I have volunteered with many programs that focus on supporting children and youth as they grow up. I believe that investing in supportive environments to meet children’s needs will help them to grow up healthy. Breastfeeding is an important early life experience that can set the stage for life-long health; but it require supportive environments and policies. In my Vanier application, I wove the theme of supportive environments throughout the grant, connecting my research and volunteer experiences. To me, being a Vanier scholar means that I can fully dedicate myself to my research for 3 more years and uncover more about the amazing qualities of breastmilk. I am so thankful for the opportunities that have been given to me. I hope that my research will provide evidence to help more women make informed and supported decisions about how they feed their babies. ” – Sarah Turner, PhD Candidate & Vanier Canada Scholar

“In my first year at the U of M I was really the type of student to come for my lectures and leave immediately after. I had known that there was an Indigenous community on campus, but I was always nervous to reach out as I was new to exploring my identity as a Metis student. Eventually in my second year, I volunteered at the Graduation Pow wow, which really was the moment that I knew I had to be involved with the community and get more involved. Everyone was so welcoming to me and understood that I didn’t know much yet but that I wanted to learn more about what being Metis meant and how to become a stronger leader. From then on, I felt right at home at the Indigenous Students’ Centre. I took every opportunity I could to get involved, and through it I was a part of some amazing extracurriculars, and even was the Indigenous Students’ Representative with the Science Students’ Association. What really inspired me was just how amazing and encouraging the Indigenous community was at the U of M.”

Q:If you could go back in time, when you were a first year undergraduate student, what would you tell yourself?

“I would tell myself to get involved sooner. Once I finally stepped outside of my comfort zone and started going to community events, my entire University experience became so much more meaningful. I know that it can be hard and nerve wracking to put yourself out there, but once you do it makes a huge difference!”- Gillian McIvor

Q: What does equality mean to you?
Answer: To me equality means everything.. Equal chances to opportunities, rights, status – Regardless of gender, color, religion, ethnicity, sexuality, age, disabilities –Anonymous

“I am telling this by my heart, racism in north America is disgusting! Not only against blacks, but Hispanic, Jews, Muslims… Wish they knew that, under the skin, there is no difference between us! The most important thing that we humans all share, is our brilliant and unique Genome!” – Anonymous

“Protesting is a right and an important one. With the pandemic there are extra steps that must be taken to protest safely. If these steps are not taken, this could lead to transmission of the virus which would be a catastrophic result of what was supposed to be a productive protest. Please adhere to the following measures to protest safely:

Individuals who are sick: you CAN NOT attend. If you are coughing, have a runny nose, a dry cough, a fever, or are experiencing any additional symptoms you MUST stay home. Your attendance puts everyone at risk. Please stay home. Everyone in attendance MUST wear a mask. You can wear a cloth mask, a surgical mask, whatever you have. But you must wear one. You must practice physical distancing. This means that in as much as you can, you must remain 6 feet from everyone around you at all times. Wearing gloves is optional. However, gloves are only as good as your practice wearing them. If you wear gloves and then touch your phone and other common items with these same gloves, you are contaminating your common items. You must remove your gloves properly and use hand sanitizer. With these steps you can safely and effectively protest! Be safe and be well.” – Megan, a fellow graduate student studying emerging infectious diseases.