Hey everyone, it’s been a while since I posted here. In case you don’t remember me – my name is Helena Lan, and I started in Professor Pascal Tyrrell’s group as a ROP299 student. Fast forward to the present, I have finished my specialist program in pharmacology, and will be graduating with an Honours Bachelor of Science degree later this month! But if you think that I am finally leaving U of T – nope, my journey is not over yet. This August, I will be living my dream of many years as I start my MD training at U of T! As I prepare to begin the next chapter of my life, I wanted to share with you how my involvement in Prof. Tyrrell’s group paved the way for me achieving my goal today.
At the end of my first year of undergrad, I connected with Prof. Tyrrell and took on a project investigating how the choice of non-invasive imaging modality for diagnosing carotid stenosis impacts patient care (check out my experience here https://www.tyrrell4innovation.ca/2014/08/helena-lan-summer-2014-rop.html).
Afterwards, I continued on as a research assistant, where I explored the need for statistics and research methodology training in the medical imaging department. My early research endeavours showed me that research was not just pipetting; there is a diversity of research that can drive innovations and improve patient care.
That being said, I also wanted to experience working in a wet lab setting. So upon completing my second year of undergrad, I ventured to the Karolinska Institute in Sweden to investigate the tumour killing mechanism of Natural Killer cells (find out more about my project here https://www.tyrrell4innovation.ca/2015/02/who-is-going-to-karolinska-institute.html). After a summer in basic science research, I decided to switch gears into translational research, where I worked on strategies to augment the therapeutic utility of stem cells and enhance the drug delivery platforms at Prof. Jeff Karp’s lab at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School. After I returned from Boston, my passion for discovering ways to improve existing treatments for diseases led me to my current work at Dr. Albert Wong’s lab at CAMH, where I am assisting with the characterization of a novel animal model for schizophrenia with the ultimate goal of using it as a screening platform for new anti-psychotics.
In my experiences as a researcher, I’ve always been very excited at the prospect that what I am working on right now may be brought into the clinic sometime down the road and offer benefits to patients. Then one day, I thought to myself, “How rewarding would it be if I can get involved in patient care, where I can directly impact the life of the person sitting in front of me?” With this idea planted in my mind, I decided to shadow a physician. As I observed how a doctor applies their scientific knowledge and the findings from medical research to figure out ways to best help their patients, my attraction to medicine gradually evolved. For a long time, my goal in life has been to make a positive impact on other people’s lives. But after that shadowing experience, I realized that I wanted to do so through taking on the role of a clinician.
I am incredibly grateful to the U of T medical school for giving me the opportunity to pursue my dream, as well as the pharmacology department and New College for their recognition of my undergrad academic achievements with the Dr. Walter Roschlau Memorial award and the Tricia L. Carroll Memorial Prize in the Life Sciences. But more importantly, thank you to U of T for the unforgettable undergrad experience. Not only was I able to immerse myself in fascinating science and interesting research, I was also connected with mentors who provided unconditional support to me along my journey. Even though the ROP project I worked on under the supervision of Prof. Pascal Tyrrell and Dr. Eli Lechtman ended years ago, the two of them have provided invaluable mentoring to me even to this day.
University can seem arduous at times, and it is almost inevitable that we run into obstacles here and there. But no matter how difficult the circumstances may be, never, ever, lose sight of your goal. Surround yourself with people who cheer you on, and invest the work that is necessary to reach your ambition. And one day, your dream will come true!
All the best,