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50th anniversary celebration

Submitted by melanie.tibbetts on Tue, 04/25/2017 - 10:46am

50 years of changing lives

Since opening our doors in 1967, our medical school has grown and evolved into an internationally recognized leader in education and research with a focus on precision medicine and precision public health. We are incredibly proud of the rich history of our medical school, and look forward to the next 50 years as we work together to create the future of health in Calgary and beyond.

Throughout 2017, we will mark this special milestone by appreciating how far we’ve come on our journey in the evolution of medicine, and the impact our school has in southern Alberta and around the world.

Celebrating Dr. Bill Cochrane

In 1967, Dr. William Cochrane became the founding dean of the University of Calgary's Faculty of Medicine. It is because of Dr. Cochrane's vision, and natural talents as a leader and business leader, that Calgary has a medical school – a school that’s dedicated to being a national leader in health research, that works to improve the quality-of-life for patients, and that benefits our community. 

This video was created in celebration of the school's 50th anniversary, and in thanks to Dr. Cochrane for bringing our medical school to life, and for the impact he has had on medicine and health care in Canada.

50 Years of Changing Lives

Created in celebration of our medical school's 50th anniversary, this video highlights how having a medical school in Calgary is changing lives and how we are working together to create the future of health.

50th Anniversary Celebration
April 20, 2017

Submitted by melanie.tibbetts on Tue, 04/25/2017 - 10:35am

50 faces of our medical school

This year, we’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of our medical school in many ways – like honouring the students, faculty and staff who make our school the amazing place it is.

Know someone who should be recognized? Let us know! Be sure to include their name, title, contact information, and a brief explanation as to why you're nominating them.

Dr. William A. Cochrane | Celebrating our founding dean

Dr. Bill Cochrane and his family at our 50th Anniversary Celebration
kickoff event on April 20, 2017.

Dr. William A. Cochrane

“I like to see something accomplished – I like to look 15 years ahead and target the future,” said Dr. Bill Cochrane about his approach to his work. He has always been driven by a desire for new challenges, and the satisfaction of seeing successful outcomes. It’s that motivation that empowered him to so greatly influence Canadian medicine.

Recognized early on as a leader in pediatrics, Dr. Cochrane’s career evolved through medical research, medical education, biotechnology, and business. In 1958, after completing his medical training and beginning his career in Toronto, Dr. Cochrane moved to Halifax where he became a professor of pediatrics at Dalhousie University. While there, he initiated the first cystic fibrosis clinic in the Maritimes, formed the Atlantic Research Centre for Mental Retardation, and secured support and funding for the Isaac Walton Killam Hospital for Children.

In 1967, Dr. Cochrane put his natural talents as a business leader to work by becoming the founding dean of the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Medicine and serving as a professor of pediatrics. “Calgary has always deserved a great medical school, and it wouldn’t be here without Bill Cochrane,” said Dr. Jon Meddings, Dean, Cumming School of Medicine.

Dr. Cochrane built our medical school from the ground up, being heavily involved with curriculum planning, the recruitment of faculty members and designing the Health Sciences Centre building. Dr. Cochrane introduced a new integrated and interdisciplinary approach to medical education, and established one of only two three-year doctor of medicine programs in North America.

In 1973, Dr. Cochrane was seconded by the Government of Alberta to serve as Deputy Minister of Health. However, he returned to UCalgary in 1974 as president and vice-chancellor, and established the faculties of humanities and law.

During the 10 years he spent at the university, Dr. Cochrane established a satellite health clinic at the Stoney Indian Reserve in Morley and was named honourary medicine chief, a very rare accolade. He also saw the first class of medical students graduate in the top half of the licentiates of the Medical Council of Canada (1973).

After leaving the university, Dr. Cochrane enjoyed many additional accomplishments. He served as chairman and CEO of Connaught Laboratories (1978–1989), received the Order of Canada (1989), the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Award (2002), the Alberta Order of Excellence (2007) and was elected to the Biotechnology Hall of Fame by the BioAlberta Association (2009). He was named one of 100 Alberta Physicians of the Century (2005) and has received four honourary doctorates. Dr. Cochrane was also inducted into The Canadian Medical Hall of Fame (2010).

The Cumming School of Medicine recognized Dr. Cochrane’s contributions during the 50th Anniversary Celebration on April 20 with a video and the unveiling of a special portrait. The Cumming School extends a sincere thank you to Dr. Cochrane for bringing his vision of our medical school to life, and for the impact he has had on medicine and health care in Canada. 


As part of our 50th anniversary celebrations, we're honouring the students, faculty and staff who make our school the amazing place it is.

Know someone who should be recognized? Let us know! Be sure to include their name, title, contact information, and a brief explanation as to why you're nominating them.

Josh White | Stepping into our 50th year with new socks created by a Cumming School of Medicine student

Stepping into our 50th year with new socks created by a Cumming School of Medicine student

Finding just the right takeaway gift to mark the 50th Anniversary of the school of medicine was no easy feat. But, as it turns out ‘feet’ play a key role. The gift is a customized pair of socks designed by Cumming School of Medicine (CSM) student, Josh White.  Josh is co-founder of Ponos Apparel, a Calgary-based business specializing in custom team socks.

The first order of socks White created for CSM was for his MD class of 2017. 

“Specializing in athletic socks was a natural fit for me and my business partner, Scott Peris. We both played competitive basketball for years, and we noticed every year, we would all get the same standard hoodie, sweatpants, etc., and no one was customizing socks for teams,” said White, who is completing his third year clerkship. “We did our research, and found out there was a niche market we could fill.”

While launching a business went smoothly for White, he says it was more of a winding path that brought him to medical school. He was a student at SAIT and at Mount Royal University with designs on being a dentist until one day he realized he really didn’t like talking about teeth that much. A relative encouraged him to take the MCAT and consider medical school.

“Once I was in, there was no looking back, the three year program was attractive, but I had no idea how hard it would be. It’s been a grind. There’s a lot to cover in three years, and I couldn’t have done it without three excellent mentors,” said White.

Guided by Clinical Assistant Professors, Drs. Jay Lee, Richard Baverstock and Greg Roberts, White is specializing in urology. Dr. Roberts passed away in 2016, from a rare form of cancer.

“Someone told me Dr. Roberts was wearing our special socks in the palliative ward, it made me so happy that he was still connected to us. I feel very lucky to have had him as my mentor,” said White.

 “I spent most of my time with Dr. Lee, who really helped develop my interest in urology.  He was always super helpful when I had questions.  I found that my personality really jived with the urologists I worked with, which was a major reason that I initially became interested in [the field].”

On Dr. Baverstock: “I was able to submit a case report with Dr. Baverstock and he is one of the nicest people I’ve worked with.  He takes the time to know his patients, and he’s the man!”

This summer White will be packing up and heading east to Halifax for his residency program where he’ll work at Dalhousie University in the Department of Urology. Taking the trip with him will be his trusted best friend, Alice, the labradoodle. Ponos Apparel will still be part of White’s future. White will go after new clients on the east coast, and Peris will focus on the western region.

“Oh yeah, I’m going to keep customizing socks, but being a doctor is my going to be my main focus. We have a lot of opportunities for growth and I’m excited for what the future will hold!”

Tidbits from Josh

Favorite meal: Butter chicken day at Cravings at the Women’s Health Centre.

Best thing about the Cumming School of Medicine: The diversity of the students who attend medical school here. From all ages, backgrounds and cultures. It’s a really special place.

Favorite memory: Ping-pong at BACS Centre

What should the Cumming School of Medicine do in the next 50 years: Stay on top of research and keep technology and facilities up-to-date.  A recent great example is the recently renovated Anatomy Lab.

Advice for incoming med students: Take the time you do have off and enjoy it, especially in Clerkship.  Use your flex days!


As part of our 50th anniversary celebrations, we're honouring the students, faculty and staff who make our school the amazing place it is.

Know someone who should be recognized? Let us know! Be sure to include their name, title, contact information, and a brief explanation as to why you're nominating them.

Aisling Gamble | Communications advisor, event planner and hockey mom

Communications advisor, event planner and hockey mom

“I feel like I’m planning my wedding multiple times a year, except it isn’t as stressful,” said Aisling Gamble when talking about her role on the Cumming School of Medicine’s (CSM) Communications, Media Relations and Marketing team.

If you attended the recent 50th Anniversary Celebration, you’ve participated in one of the many affairs Aisling has played a key role in organizing. As the Cumming School’s events and recognition advisor, Aisling knows a thing or two about parties, programs and promotions.

Aisling joined the CSM community in January 2001. “I had applied for five different positions, and finally nailed the fifth one,” she said. “There was just something about this place that made me want to work here. I was determined to make it happen,” she continued, noting that it was meant to be.

Over the past 17 years, she’s dabbled in a variety of roles including Dean’s Office receptionist, executive assistant, and self-study coordinator for the 2008 Undergraduate Medical Education accreditation. She has been in her current role for eight years.

“Growing up, I wanted to be a journalist; the next Mary Hart,” said Aisling with a chuckle. “I figured that if I couldn’t be famous, I’d interview the famous.”

Unknown at the time, the path Aisling was on would eventually lead her in a similar direction. In 2009, she was asked to assist with the planning of a memorial service for our former dean, Dr. Grant Gall. Shortly following, she was offered a position with the communications team and has been with the team ever since.

In addition to planning and promoting events, Aisling uses her natural writing skills to keep everyone here at the Cumming School up-to-date with the latest information. Have you ever wondered who’s behind our twice-weekly newsletter, News Digest? It’s Aisling!   

Outside of work, you can find Aisling at the hockey rink. “Communications advisor, event planner and hockey mom – that about sums me up,” she said with satisfaction. Aisling is the proud mom of soon-to-be 12 year-old triplet boys. “My favourite thing to do is watch them play hockey. Aside from two months during the summer when the season is over and it isn’t on TV, hockey is our life.”

Aside from having the greatest cheerleader around, her boys also get to enjoy birthday parties, family vacations and sporting trips planned by one of the best.

Tidbits from Aisling

Name pronunciation: ASH-ling

Origin: Born in Winnipeg, spent nine years in Ireland, moved to Calgary in 2000.

Favourite foods: Prime rib, cheesecake and her mom’s sherry trifle.

Favourite colour: Blue

Pets: A yellow lab, border collie cross named Henry.

Hidden talents: Retired competitive swimmer, makes a mean scallop potato, and placed fourth in a singing competition that was judged by Sony Music executives. She sang Mandy by Barry Manilow.

Proud to support: Make a Wish Southern Alberta after one of her sons was given a life-threatening diagnosis and was granted a wish.

What the Cumming School of Medicine should do in the next 50 years: Be more visible in the community. “This place holds such a special place in my heart; everyone should know how special it is.”


As part of our 50th anniversary celebrations, we're honouring the students, faculty and staff who make our school the amazing place it is.

Know someone who should be recognized? Let us know! Be sure to include their name, title, contact information, and a brief explanation as to why you're nominating them.

Dr. Aravind Ganesh | Rhodes Scholar, stand-up comedian

Dr. Aravind Ganesh, Rhodes Scholar, stand-up comedian

If you ask Dr. Aravind Ganesh about his personal motto, he would paraphrase the quote attributed to Gandhi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  As an immigrant to Canada during his teenage years, Aravind says those words had a profound influence on him.

And he still stands by them. 

Aravind, who completed his training as a medical doctor in 2012, is specializing in neurology. He is influencing change by exploring strategies for prevention and delivery of health care for conditions such as stroke and dementia.

As the Oxford lead of a collaboration with McGill looking for blood-based biomarkers in Alzheimer's disease, Aravind and his colleagues recently found promising results that can help early identification of patients for potential therapies before symptoms of dementia are evident. He sees this as one of his top projects to date. “It was an exhilarating experience and an excellent lesson in the value of building inter-disciplinary bridges,” he says, crediting mentors from both the University of Calgary and Oxford University for the training and opportunities.    

Aravind envisions his “ideal career” as one combining patient care, clinical research and innovation with a dash of medical education. His core vision is to help patients, figure out how to help them better, and teach others how to do so.

To achieve this vision, Aravind hopes he inherited some of his grandmother’s quiet determination. He counts her as someone in his life he most admires. While rising up the ranks in her career, she put six kids through college in India all on her own. “This incredible lady also introduced me to the English language,” he says. “If there's even a drop of that in me, I count myself to be incredibly lucky.”

But is it being lucky, or more about having the right attitude? If he got the chance to talk to his 16-year-old self, Aravind says he’d be sure to mention the Gandhi quote, but also make sure his younger self understood the importance of being true to who you are and being kind to others. “Those who say nice people finish last are looking at the wrong finish line.”

The finish line for Aravind is still many years away, and as busy as he is with his career path, he makes sure to enjoy some down time hiking, travelling, reading, writing, and spending time with family and friends. And a little detail that many may not know about Aravind is that he enjoys performing stand-up comedy from time to time.

As far as what is next, Aravind plans to continue enjoying the journey he is on, sharing it with the people he loves and making a difference in their lives and the lives of others along the way.

Tidbits from Aravind

Achievements: Aravind is one of eight Rhodes Scholarship recipients from the Cumming School of Medicine.

Favourites: He enjoys all genres of movies and loves fusion music.

Fun fact: Aravind says he has finally learned to cook a decent curry.

Passionate about: On the entrepreneurial end of things, Aravind is passionate about developing mobile-based monitoring and management solutions for chronic diseases.

What the Cumming School of Medicine should do in the next 50 years: Aravind would like the Cumming School of Medicine to become the leading centre for clinical trials and digital-health innovation in Canada.


As part of our 50th anniversary celebrations, we're honouring the students, faculty and staff who make our school the amazing place it is.

Know someone who should be recognized? Let us know! Be sure to include their name, title, contact information, and a brief explanation as to why you're nominating them.

Bob Phillips | From a career in banking to a career in security at the Cumming School of Medicine

From a career in banking to a career in security at the Cumming School of Medicine

Growing up on a farm in St. Paul, Alberta, Robert (Bob) Phillips dreamed of being an RCMP officer, but the force had a strict height policy which kept him from being accepted as a recruit. “I ended up in banking and with my farming background, working on agriculture related business loans was a perfect fit,” said Bob Phillips, University of Calgary Campus Security Officer at Foothills Campus. 

After 28 years at the Alberta Treasury Branch (ATB), Bob took advantage of an offer by ATB to  work with a career transitioning company where Bob’s dream of working in policing would come back into play. “I wasn’t ready to officially retire; I took a test which showed I had a knack for policing and security, something I’d always had an interest in,” said Bob. “Not long after that my daughter, who was a UCalgary student at the time, mentioned campus security and encouraged me to check it into it.”

Two weeks later, Bob started his second career, and now after 12 years with Campus Security  he can’t imagine being anywhere else. “It’s always fun to come to work.”

Fun because of the people who come through the door looking for help, the students, faculty and staff that strike up conversations and the constant challenges that you can’t plan for but you need to be prepared for.

“One day I had to assist a doctor. A worker was having a heart attack, and we had to administer the Automated External Defibrillator (A.E.D.). We’re trained for these situations, and thankfully, the individual survived.”

Interested in the research being done here, Bob stays informed of opportunities to volunteer for studies and has volunteered for a study himself. “It was the Vitamin D study, it was a three year commitment. I think it’s great that we have this world-class research facility in our city, I want to do what I can to help and to encourage others to participate.”

Bob was also one of the Campus Security members involved in planning the tour for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, working alongside members of Scotland Yard, Canadian Security Intelligence Services (CSIS), RCMP, and the Alberta Sheriffs Branch.

“It was really interesting, even though there were many meetings, some of the security teams would show up unannounced to ask additional questions, tour the routes and rooms and bring sniffer dogs through.”

The majority of Bob’s time at work is spent helping people, which can take many forms; wayfinding, problem solving and assisting them in some way. One time, Bob found himself using all those skills when a retired oncology nurse’s wheelchair broke down.

“I saw her in the hall, her electric wheelchair wasn’t moving, I tried to trouble shoot it, but couldn’t get it running. I couldn’t leave her, so I ended up pushing her (in the 140 kilogram wheelchair) to the east exit where her ride was going to meet her.” Bob also bought her a coffee and a muffin. He still has the thank you letter she wrote. “It was so nice of her to take the time to write that letter. It felt so good to know what I did on the job really mattered to someone. I’ve also been nominated for a U Make A Difference Award, and I’m really honoured that someone took the time to do that for me.”

For Bob, the key to the job is listening and knowing how to de-escalate a situation by simply talking to people. “My dad always said you’re given two ears and one mouth for a reason, to do twice as much listening as talking!”

The person he talks to the most at the Cumming School of Medicine is his co-worker Delores. The two are often seen together, and seem to make the perfect working team.

“It’s been the best 10 years of my life, I work with the best person in the world. It’s just the two of us, one day I’m the supervisor and the next day she is. We laugh about that.”

On Thursday, May 11, watch for the profile on Delores and read what she has to say about being Bob’s co-worker.

Tidbits from Bob

Favorite place to have a coffee or take a break: The fourth floor of the TRW along the windows is a great spot to take a deep breath, and enjoy the view. It’s quiet and private and a perfect spot for a small meeting or coffee/lunch break.

Favorite thing to do when you’re not at work: Spend time with my family. I have two fabulous children and three grandsons. I also love to golf with my wife. We make a great team, and enjoy heading out of town to various golf courses for weekend and summer getaways.

What should the Cumming School of Medicine do in the next 50 years: Keep up cutting edge research and recruiting the high caliber of clinicians and researchers who are driving change to improve our lives.


As part of our 50th anniversary celebrations, we're honouring the students, faculty and staff who make our school the amazing place it is.

Know someone who should be recognized? Let us know! Be sure to include their name, title, contact information, and a brief explanation as to why you're nominating them.

Delores Atkinson | Keeping students, faculty and staff safe and secure, and making patients, visitors and dignitaries feel welcome

Keeping students, faculty and staff safe and secure and making patients, visitors and dignitaries feel welcome

She’s been on the job for 28 years – 21 of those at the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM). At four-foot ten-inches she may seem an unlikely candidate for a security officer, but it’s her smile, cheery disposition and calm voice that create a seven-foot tall persona.

“I was working in caretaking, and one day, Lanny Fritz, the then-director of campus security, said to me, Delores, we’d love to have you join campus security, and that was that, I was so honored”, said Delores Atkinson, University of Calgary Campus Security Office, Foothills Campus. “We’re trained to be first responders, and handle crisis situations, but the heart of the job is building relationships, treating everyone with respect and helping people. That’s what I’m really good at and they saw that in me.”

“I also have the gift of remembering names and that comes in very handy at this job.” In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone Delores doesn’t know.  She makes a point of knowing who everyone at CSM is, including what they do, and where their office is.

“It’s absolutely amazing what goes on at this place, every day. Sometimes when I’m checking out the labs, I will talk to the researchers and peek into the microscope. The researchers and clinicians are making a huge difference in people’s lives and we are so lucky to have these facilities and these experts in Calgary.”

Delores and her family have experienced the expertise first-hand. When her son was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at 21, Delores encouraged him to be part of a research study. “The care he received was amazing, from the emotional support to advice with the medication, it really did help him and hopefully his participation in that study will help others.” When I know someone comes to our building to be part of a study, I thank them, these studies can change people’s lives for the better.”

Delores is a huge champion for CSM, you can often overhear her telling visitors all about the research institutes, the Bachelor of Health Science and summer programs. “I love talking to young people, we get a lot of school groups coming through and I tell them all about the research and cool things they could become involved in and I say some day I hope to see you back here as a student.”

Some of the toughest days on the job are the emergencies, but Delores is guided by a quote by Virginia Woolf “There is luxury in being quiet in the heart of chaos.” “That’s how I feel, I’ve had to get firm with some people when the building alarm is going off and they don’t want to leave, but I always manage to talk them into it. I say you might not care about what happens to you, but I have a family to get home to and I want to see them again, so we need to go.”

From making the decision to evacuate the buildings in 2013 when she smelled natural gas to being part of the security detail when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited the Ward of the 21st Century in 2011 Delores says there’s never a dull day on the job.

“From the first day I started the job at the University of Calgary I’ve been welcomed into a big family and I try to pass that feeling along to others.”

“President Cannon still stops and says hi whenever she’s in the building, I met her way back when I was in caretaking at the Schulich School of Engineering and she still takes the time to check in on me, that’s really neat.”

Delores has a big family of her own, with four children and nine grandchildren. One of her granddaughters attends UCalgary and about once a week they meet up for coffee at the Starbucks at Yamnuska Hall.  “We just meet up to chat, and check in on each other, everyone needs that, someone to talk to.”

Tidbits from Delores

What’s it like working with Bob: We’re best friends. We’ve heard jokes about me being his work-wife and him my work-husband, but the truth is, we’re on the same page, we share the same values and work ethic, we have each other’s back and when we’re not here, we sometimes hang out with our real partners, the four of us. Yeah.

Favorite snack at CSM: The samosas at Cravings at the Women’s Health Centre can’t be beat, and the vending machine. I’m fond of an Oh Henry! bar once in a while and Miss Vickie’s salt and vinegar chips. We all have our vices.

Best place to study or enjoy a quiet cup of tea or coffee: The cross-over floors on the north side between HRIC and HMRB, there’s little tables and chairs and plants, and you can glance over and see the picture of Bud McCaig, such a terrific man.

What should the Cumming School of Medicine do in the next 50 years: Recruit, nurture and encourage visionaries. This place was built on a vision of the future for Calgary and what a great medical school we could have here. There have been so many fabulous discoveries made here by people who were visionaries, people who could see what others couldn’t and they made it happen.


As part of our 50th anniversary celebrations, we're honouring the students, faculty and staff who make our school the amazing place it is.

Know someone who should be recognized? Let us know! Be sure to include their name, title, contact information, and a brief explanation as to why you're nominating them.

 

Trevor Emmel | Helping make everyone’s day just a little bit easier

Helping make everyone’s day just a little bit easier

As Trevor Emmel sits at a table in the Health Research Innovation Centre atrium, there are few people who walk by and don’t recognize him. He’s greeted with multiple smiling faces and friendly waves.

Trevor has been with the University of Calgary for a decade. Nine of those years have been as a distribution clerk at the Foothills Campus.

“My favourite part of the job is getting to interact with everyone, regardless of title or what area they work in,” says Trevor, who gets to connect with more people on a daily basis than most people do in a week. “Everyone who works here brings something different to the table. I enjoy seeing that variety.”

Prior to working at UCalgary, Trevor was on campus as a student. He completed his undergraduate degree in sociology in 2004, before heading to Europe on a backpacking tour. While there, he visited Denmark, Italy, France, and Germany. Then, in 2006, Trevor spent time working in New Zealand and Thailand. 

“Travelling is something I love, and that has taught me a lot,” says Trevor. “Being by yourself in a place you’ve never been before really forces you to step outside of your comfort zone. You can’t shy away, you need to meet new people and build new relationships. The skills I developed while abroad are something I use every day.”

After two years overseas, Trevor knew it was time to come back to Calgary. That’s when he took a job with UCalgary’s Alumni Relations team.

“That first gig was great, but it just wasn’t for me,” said Trevor. “It’s important to love what you do, and I knew I wanted to do something that had more variety and allowed me to help people.

“My current position is the perfect fit. The people here are like family, and I love helping them in any way I can; helping make their day a little bit easier,” he said with a broad smile. “I’m so proud of where I work. Such special things are happening here every day, and it means a lot that I get to be a part of that.”  

Tidbits from Trevor

Origin: British Columbia

Favourite colour: Blue

Favourite food: Seafood – prawns, scallops, lobster. And pizza!

Hobbies: Travelling, riding my mountain bike, listening to music, attending concerts, and watching sports.

Not so hidden talent: An incredible memory.

Advice for current and future students: “Be open to opportunity. You never know where you’ll end up, so keep an open mind. Just be sure that you’re always doing what you love – enjoy life!”

What the Cumming School of Medicine should do in the next 50 years: Continue to grow. “In my nine years here, I’ve seen so much change and growth. I’m excited to see what’s to come.”


As part of our 50th anniversary celebrations, we're honouring the students, faculty and staff who make our school the amazing place it is.

Know someone who should be recognized? Let us know! Be sure to include their name, title, contact information, and a brief explanation as to why you're nominating them.

Nabeela Nathoo | Pursuing her teenage dream to become a neurologist

Pursuing her teenage dream to become a neurologist

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” – Steve Jobs. 

Divulging a fun fact that a second career would be that of writing mystery novels, Leaders in Medicine student Nabeela Nathoo believes one must follow the path that will make them happy, so Steve Jobs' comment resonates strongly with her. Over the last eight years, Nabeela has been pursuing a dream she has had since her teens – working towards becoming a neurologist. She will graduate this June with her MD and PhD in Neuroscience. 

While pushing boundaries to improve the status quo, she has felt very well supported here at the Cumming School of Medicine. And she is giving back too. In 2016, Nabeela and her sister Safia created the Nathoo Family Graduate Scholarship, something she considers her greatest achievement. “Our parents emigrated from East Africa to create a better life for themselves and wanted us to have the opportunity to get a university education, which they could not do themselves,” she says. “The scholarship is a sort of dedication to our parents for all that they have done for us to make it this far.”

In addition to parents who helped lead her down a great path, Nabeela counts Safia as one of the people she admires the most. The older of the sisters, Safia was a role model for Nabeela during her schooling and was the one who opened her eyes to the world of research. “If not for her, I don’t think doing a PhD would have been on the table for me. Safia continues to inspire me with her intelligence, curiosity and unending wisdom.”

Aside from the many hours spent working towards her degree and on her future in a neurology residency, Nabeela is no stranger to enjoying some down time. She is an avid soccer player, enjoys those mystery novels she wouldn’t mind authouring one day, and spending time with those closest to her. 

As she moves on from her time here, Nabeela will look back on it fondly. From Dr. Phil Barber, whose lab she worked in during her early days to her current supervisors Jeff Dunn, PhD, and Wee Yong, PhD, one of the best things about being a part of the Cumming School, she says, is meeting so many incredible people and having the opportunity to collaborate on projects she never would have dreamt of getting to do so early in her career. 

“It has been a truly incredible eight years, and I am so grateful for all of the amazing people I have met and had the pleasure of working with.”

Tidbits from Nabeela

Fun Fact: Anytime she travels to a city in Europe, she attends a soccer match for the team in that city. So far, she has seen Manchester City, Inter Milan, and Real Madrid.

Passionate about: Nabeela has a passion for advocacy, particularly for the elderly and other vulnerable populations.

What should the Cumming School of Medicine do in the next 50 years? Nabeela sees the Cumming School as an emerging leader in the areas of brain and mental health, inflammation and chronic diseases, and cardiovascular health, and would love to see the faculty continue to build capacity and change the game in these areas, whether that be for diagnosis or treatment.


As part of our 50th anniversary celebrations, we're honouring the students, faculty and staff who make our school the amazing place it is.

Know someone who should be recognized? Let us know! Be sure to include their name, title, contact information, and a brief explanation as to why you're nominating them.

Emma Buzath | Using mental skills to solve the medical care puzzle

Using mental skills to solve the medical care puzzle

The mental skills it takes to safely scale a 50-metre-high cliff is what rock climber Emma Buzath brings to her work at the Cumming School of Medicine.

“I guess it’s the same thing in the sense that it’s a puzzle,” says Emma, who is a research assistant at the faculty. “There are so many different factors that can influence medical care.”

As part of the faculty’s Strategic Partnerships and Community Engagement (SPaCE) team, she assists a research project called Community Conversations: Enhancing end-of-life supports in the Bow Valley Corridor. Her job includes capturing people’s experiences and opinions surrounding palliative and end-of-life care in an area stretching from Cochrane and Canmore to Banff.

“Most of the people who came out were those who have lost somebody close to them, or who cared for somebody as they’re approaching the end of their lives, but it could have been anybody who wanted to talk to us,” says Emma. “It was really about the whole community and how palliative and end-of-life care affects everybody.”

The mindset the 22-year-old brings to her job was first cultivated doing rock climbing starting at age 10. Emma enjoys practicing the sport in the Rocky Mountains.

Safely scaling multiple sets of slopes and cliffs means planning the most efficient route while anticipating potential dangers, says Emma. “Climbing isn’t just a physical sport, it’s a mental sport,” she says.

She joined the Bow Valley project after earning her Bachelor of Health Sciences (honours) degree in 2016. She majored in health and society because she is fascinated by the complexity behind the social side of health care, particularly for diverse and vulnerable populations.

Improving their health isn’t as straightforward as looking at a patient and giving a diagnosis, says Emma. “There’s also the social support you have around you, or the type of diet you have, or the type of housing or community you live in, and how all of these different things lead from point A to point B,” she says. “It’s like a puzzle in the sense that you have all these things coming together.”

Emma temporarily left her job for two months on May 19 to study bioethics at Yale University. She credits her mentor – Dr. Eric Wasylenko, a palliative care physician who is a clinical associate professor at the Cumming School of Medicine – with making the opportunity possible. “He spent so much time with me, teaching me about ethics and allowing me to do my thesis with him,” she says.

Tidbits from Emma

What do you enjoy most about the Cumming School of Medicine: I had my days at my desk, but there were lots of days when I was in Canmore, Banff or Cochrane talking to people.

What would you like people to know about your work: It can be a great way to get a community involved in work that impacts its members.

What does it mean to you that the faculty is celebrating its 50th anniversary? You can see just how far we have come and how we continue to be an important part of the community.

Where would you like to see the faculty in the next 50 years? I’d like them to continue doing community-based projects – to help people develop their capacity to address their own health. That would be spectacular.

Advice for incoming students: Take advantage of every opportunity. Don’t be overwhelmed by all the different options.


As part of our 50th anniversary celebrations, we're honouring the students, faculty and staff who make our school the amazing place it is.

Know someone who should be recognized? Let us know! Be sure to include their name, title, contact information, and a brief explanation as to why you're nominating them.

John Nystrom | Pumped about problem solving

Pumped about problem solving

John Nystrom may not be a doctor or researcher, but his work is critical to the smooth operation of the Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta (LCIA).

As the systems manager, John solves an array of IT problems for researchers, physicians, students and staff on a daily basis and has been doing so for 20 years.

His calm demeanor and persistence in solving issues, coupled with his kindness, make him indispensable in the role he loves.

“I really like to make sure people are productive and happy,” said John when asked why he has remained in his role for so long.

John wasn’t always an IT professional.

In fact, the native Calgarian has a bachelor of commerce from the University of Calgary and worked in corporate finance until the early 1990s.

A layoff in the field turned out to be serendipitous for John.

He explained he saw an advertisement posted by the Government of Canada offering a training program and decided to take advantage of the opportunity.

He earned a diploma in network technologies from SAIT in just nine months as part of the intensive program.

In December 1997, John was hired as a contractor providing IT services for six labs that were part of what was then called the Cardiovascular Research Group (CVRG), situated at the Cumming School of Medicine.

John’s work ethic and professionalism created demand for his services from an increasing number of labs and clinical research groups. In fact, at one time, John said his salary was split between 15 different labs.

About 10 years ago, the CVRG became the Libin Institute, moved to the Health Research Innovation Centre and the Training, Research and Wellness buildings, and became integrated with the University’s IT structure.

John found himself an employee of the new institute with a changed role that allowed him more time to assist clients, monitor productivity, plan and research.  

Although John describes his work environment as “often chaotic,” he wouldn’t change it for anything.

“Every day I get a good mental and physical workout,” said John, adding he logs more than 10,000 steps most days as he visits offices throughout the Libin Institute.

Besides the joy he gets from problem solving, John enjoys the people at the Libin Institute—many of whom have become life-long friends. 

“Everyone here is so hard-working and dedicated,” he said. “Plus, there is so much international diversity here.”

John enjoys the diversity of his job so much that his favourite part of the day is the start of the workday.

“I like to see what is waiting for me, and I get pumped about what problems I am going to have to solve,” said John.

Tidbits from John

What was your first home computer? A Commodore 64.

What are your favourite foods: Butter chicken from Cravings at the Women’s Health Centre, and selections from the food trucks that visit on Wednesdays.

Do you have any hidden talents: I get premonitions, especially about computer issues. I often walk into someone’s office to check on their computer just as they are picking up the phone to call me.

What does a typical Saturday morning look like for you: I go to McDonalds for breakfast every Saturday morning. They know me, so when I walk in, they have already punched in my order.

Which talent would you most like to have: I would like to draw editorial cartoons or write Hollywood film scripts. I have all the material I would need right here at the Cumming School of Medicine.

Little known fact: My parents are from Finland and wanted to move back, so while I am a native Calgarian, I lived in Finland for several years as a child. I learned to speak the language and go back every year. 


As part of our 50th anniversary celebrations, we're honouring the students, faculty and staff who make our school the amazing place it is.

Know someone who should be recognized? Let us know! Be sure to include their name, title, contact information, and a brief explanation as to why you're nominating them.