#UofTMed Alumna Reflection by Razan 

After the completion of her undergraduate studies, Razan wanted to make a positive difference in the field of healthcare. She thought that the only two choices she had to achieve her goal were to either go to medical school or work as a lab researcher. That was until she came across the Translational Research Program, where she could focus on patients within their contexts and needs while working on solving real-world problems. As she looks back, she reflects on her journey with the TRP in this candid blog. 

An Unconventional Journey  

“Define the need, bridge the gap, keep it user-centric.” To most people in healthcare, this might not mean much, however, to a Translational Research Program (TRP) graduate these are words to live by. 

I graduated from the Translational Research Program as a part of the second cohort back in 2018. My capstone project, completed along with three fellow students, was on cancer outpatient nutritional status. We investigated nutritional education programs throughout Toronto and interviewed cancer outpatients to find the gap between the dietary recommendations and the integration of these recommendations into their daily lives. 

Six months after graduating, I landed my current role as a Knowledge Translation Coordinator at a not-for-profit organization, the Aphasia Institute. Aphasia is a communication disorder most commonly caused by a brain injury or a stroke. People with aphasia are intelligent, competent individuals who still can make decisions — however, their difficulty with speech masks this competence.  

Healthcare professionals have difficulty communicating with people with aphasia, and this gap leads to negative health-related quality of life and high social costs on identity and family relationships. The Aphasia Institute has begun addressing this gap by designing a method of facilitated conversation called “Supported Conversation for Adults with Aphasia (SCA)” to assist healthcare professionals in communicating with people with aphasia.  

Within my role at the Aphasia Institute, I am coordinating the dissemination of SCA resources to healthcare professionals nationally and internationally. Throughout different dissemination projects, I find myself reeling in skills learned through the TRP. From the facilitation of interdisciplinary meetings to user-centric testing and iterating, the skills gained through the TRP experience are invaluable to my work 

I find myself using the Toronto Translational Framework when planning for testing and distribution of the resources, and I find myself putting different “hats” on to cater to various stakeholders in this field. Driving change through the dissemination of different ideas and innovations is fulfilling, and the Translational Research Program has paved a new way of understanding the healthcare system, which has and will continue to aid me with healthcare projects throughout my career. Define the need, bridge the gap, keep it user-centric – the TRP words I live by. 

Razan is one of our TRP alumni who have discovered ways to make an impact on healthcare outside of the research or clinical settings. As Razan said, sometimes you must put on a different “hat” to change your perspective.  The roles of translating knowledge and implementing change to the healthcare system are crucial to the uptake of innovation, and through human-centric approach, these changes can be designed for the people who need them.