#UofTMed TRP Student Reflection by Ankita

“How can I reinvent myself?”
“How do I understand and navigate the complexity of the health care system in Canada?”
“How can I learn to speak the language?”

These were the questions that plagued Ankita when she first moved to Toronto. An internationally trained physician with over seven years of clinical experience under her belt, she began her quest for graduate programs that would allow her to grow both personally and professionally by providing the right mix of exposure and hands-on learning. Her forage ended at the Translational Research Program offered by the University of Toronto. To her, the TRP provided the best amalgamation of innovation and tradition in the realm of research. As she approaches the end of her first year in this distinct program, she candidly shares her experience with us.

“A Journey of Transformation”

People talk about reinventing themselves. The Translational Research Program has been an integral part of my journey to do just that, reinvent myself. The journey has been challenging as all changes are meant to be – disheartening at times and exciting at others, but most importantly, refreshing all the same. So let me start from the very beginning.

As a physician trained abroad, I have considerable experience in speaking with patients. Clinical research questions usually arise from problems faced in practice by healthcare providers. I have conducted traditional research studies in order to answer these clinical questions, but, unfortunately, the results have lacked impact. The TRP was instrumental in making me aware of the need to validate any such inquiry to explore the desired effect. The crux of this program for me can be summarized as – “Explore, Understand, and Talk to people before defining your need”, which will lead to drafting the research question. Enlisting a need from the perspective of end-users is the only way to design a project to ensure that it translates into real life to demonstrate an impact. The end goal of all research is to help improve human life, therefore, thinking of how we can make an impact on someone’s health should direct the journey.

My experience through various projects in this program has changed my approach towards problems. I now pursue issues with various tools and guides to navigate a challenge. The beauty of the TRP and the framework we employ is its versatility. I have applied this knowledge in the challenges I face in my day-to-day life, as well as the scientific challenges presented to us during the course of last year. TRP has been instrumental in my professional and personal growth. I have had a chance to interact with influencers from various sectors of health care; policymakers, clinicians, financers, and innovators to name a few. I have also had the opportunity of contributing towards student-led organizations such as the Pillars of Health and Geo-health Network. The message of these communities has resonated with me and inspired me to explore health in broad contexts including geographical, political, social, financial, and policy in addition to service delivery. The coalescence of policy, science, geography, and society is extraordinary in its complexity and fascinating as a field of study. TRP has provided me with an environment conducive to explore the health landscape in this exciting era of health innovation.

In my second year, I am excited to work on my capstone project which is an interdisciplinary project that will address a real need of real people with a demonstrable impact at the end. The support of our mentors throughout the program allows for a guided journey to implement my learnings in the real world. Translational researchers would have an integral part to play in the near future to ascertain that the benefit of research reaches the masses in two ways – health care research and health system navigation to address current gaps by understanding and bringing multiple lenses to the table.

For my future endeavours, I aspire to be a physician in Canada to integrate my role as a translational researcher to the clinic with the ultimate aim to improve health care in Canada.