May 30, 2024

Inspiring the next generation: pathways to a future in science and healthcare

A classroom full of people listening to a lecture

When in high school, students can be overwhelmed by the plethora of career choices and all the different pathways that one can take to get there. Trainees in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology gave high school students the opportunity to discover more about research and clinical laboratories earlier this month to help them consider these as future career options.

REACH is an annual event organized by CLAMPS (The Confederation of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology Students), giving young people the chance to explore careers in science. This year, led by MSc students Lauren Joe and Andrew Yim, they expanded the event to include some of the Laboratory Medicine aspects of LMP, collaborating with Chief Resident, Dr. Henry Xie.

Lauren commented, "REACH 2024 was a fantastic opportunity for high school students to learn about what science looks like at U of T, specifically in LMP. The event showcased a wide range of research and practices from basic, translational, and clinical perspectives. The attending students were highly motivated, eager, and interested to learn from the speakers, panelists, and those running the interactive activities." Andrew added, “"As organizers for the event, we wanted to ensure that students learned not only through presentations, but also by having the opportunity to actively speak, ask questions, and connect with those pursuing higher education, thus helping to shape their career paths. Through REACH 2024, we wanted to emphasize that science is a lifelong journey, with medicine being an excellent, yet not the only, possibility for one's scientific career beyond undergraduate studies.”

Around 75 senior high school students attended, some with their families. The day kicked off with short career talks by Maryam Khalil (PhD candidate), Dr. Ellen Avery (Clinical Microbiology Postdoctoral Fellowship Program trainee) and Dr. Teslin Sandstrom (Medical Microbiology resident). Then a panel including Cori Lau and Dina Greenberg (PhD candidates), Dr. Mary Kathryn Bohn (Clinical Chemistry Postdoctoral Fellowship Program trainee) and Emmanuel Suntres (medical student), followed by some networking time with speakers.

Lauren Joe
Lauren Joe leads a blood typing activity

After lunch, they began a series of interactive, hands-on activities to explore some of the scientific areas. Faculty member, Dr. Scott Yuzwa, gave tours of the MSB research labs, showing them the spaces researchers work in and the equipment they can use. Dr. Avery and Dr. Sandstrom ran a microbiology workshop – teaching safe practices and exercises with microscopes and samples. Lauren ran a blood typing workshop – a staple favourite at REACH - and Dr. Xie ran a digital histology slide bell ringer event which proved popular! The day closed with a talk from Dr. Patrick Kim about forensic pathology and his studies in LMP from undergraduate to grad school, residency training, and fellowship.

Attendees enjoyed the event, particularly opportunities to network with trainees, and taking part in the afternoon activities. One attendee commented, “REACH was a very fun experience! It was very engaging and helped me learn a lot more about pathology and post-secondary experiences.” Many commented on how useful it was to see so many career paths, and that it is ok to not know which path they want to follow at this early stage in their education.

Another attendee noted, “What REACH 2024 taught me was that it is important to never give up on what you want to accomplish. I felt inspired that the presenters spent years in university to get to where they want in life. They didn't succeed with everything at first try, but that didn't make them give up on their dreams”.

Dr. Avery said, ““It was a pleasure to take part in REACH to help students explore careers in science and lab medicine as they begin thinking about university and/or college. I didn’t have parents, friends or mentors that were in science careers growing up, so I didn’t really know what was out there until much later on in my education. The students that joined us on Saturday were really engaged with the material and activities which was great to see!”

This story showcases the following pillars of the LMP strategic plan: Inclusive Community (pillar 1), Dynamic Collaboration (pillar 2) and Agile Education (pillar 5)

Find out more

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See what happened at the 2023 event: LMP students REACH out to high schools to engage in science