Our Stories

Student research group impacts community in hospital and beyond

Toronto, August 9, 2018

By Selma Al-Samarrai

The 11-member St. Michael’s Student Research Association
The 11-member St. Michael’s Student Research Association. (Photo by Yuri Markarov)

A common thought from research students at St. Michael’s Hospital is that they only have two career options: academia or medicine, explained Peter Norris, a PhD research student working with Dr. Alan Lazarus, a scientist at the Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science of St. Michael’s Hospital.

As a solution, Norris, who is also the chair of the St. Michael’s Student Research Association (SRSA), co-planned the first-ever Career Symposium at St. Michael’s for undergraduates, graduate students and post-doctoral fellows of Life Sciences in Toronto.

“Our goal was to expose the actual career landscape available to Life Sciences students, increase their knowledge of other careers available to them, including the pharmaceutical industry and even financial services, and get them interested,” explained Norris.

The Career Symposium included 11 speakers from various industries and panel discussions that sparked extensive engagement between the speakers and the attendees.

“We wanted to plan an event which promoted our goals of excellence in research training, which we feel is key for all research activities at St. Michael's,” explained Norris.

The career symposium is one of many opportunities the 11-member SRSA has created for the approximately 230 research graduate students, undergraduate students and post-doctoral fellows at St. Michael’s Hospital.

The SRSA’s role is to promote and advocate for student interests, and their work includes responding to student interests as they did with the Career Symposium, promoting research training in collaboration with the hospital’s Research Training Centre, planning community outreach to assist those in need, and meeting with senior leadership at St. Michael’s to bring the students’ voices to the table.

In the last year, SRSA helped raise more than $2,000 for men’s health as part of the Movember campaign, donated proceeds from a bake sale in support of victims of a terror attack in Mogadishu, Somalia, and supported the Yonge St. Mission organization by covering the cost of food and then volunteering on-site to cook and serve the meals to the homeless population.

“Everything we do is community directed, whether it’s for our own research community at St. Michael’s, or beyond,” explained Norris.

“We aim to make sure the needs of the student researchers are being met by the hospital. The SRSA is entirely a volunteer organization. Our main drive is to advocate for the student interest.”

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital with Providence Healthcare and St. Joseph’s Health Centre now operate under one corporate entity as of August 1, 2017. United, the three organizations serve patients, residents and clients across the full spectrum of care, spanning primary care, secondary community care, tertiary and quaternary care services to post-acute through rehabilitation, palliative care and long-term care, while investing in world-class research and education.

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