Toronto hospitals open their doors to McMaster co-op students ‘field trip’

Image of students in lab coats, in a lab standing around listing to a man speak

Students met with researchers and staff at the Ontario Institute for cancer Research in downtown Toronto.

How do drug makers develop medications when there are so many complex factors that affect how they work? A new program in the Faculty of Science gave Vanessa Bautista the rare chance to ask an expert in person.

The fourth-year Biology and Pharmacology Co-op student, along with 29 other students, signed up for the faculty’s Career and Cooperative Education’s first ever field trip.

The students met with researchers and staff at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR), University Health Network and Sick Kids in downtown Toronto.

The field trip led off with four OICR doctors talking their research and then fielding questions from students.

Bautista was the first to put up her hand. She asked how new medications are developed, given everything that needs to be factored in from drug-to-drug interactions to all the differences in how patients absorb and metabolize drugs because of their sex and age.

David Uehling was impressed. The director of Medicinal Chemistry in the OICR Drug Discovery Program joked that they should hire her on the spot.

Bautista’s question stemmed from what she’d studied in her courses about drug interactions and the differences in pharmacokinetics among different demographics. Going into the tour, she was curious how drug makers work through all these complexities to ensure that medications work with minimal adverse effects.

Touring world-class institutions and seeing groundbreaking research first-hand was inspiring, says Bautista.

She was also impressed that researchers made the time to talk with students and share their insights into new and emerging technologies.

“The field trip definitely reaffirmed my passion for research.”

Following the meet and greet at the OICR, students visited UHN’s Princess Margaret Living Biobank in the Princess Margaret Cancer Research Tower. Meeting with Dr. Beth Munro at Sick Kids Hospital was the last stop on the field trip and a personal highlight for Bautista because of her interest in pediatric health care.

Students got an overview of patient care offered at Sick Kids, along with the career opportunities that are available for science students

While it was SCCE’s first field trip, it won’t be the last, says Career Development and Relationship Manager Andreea Nicu who helped plan and organize the event.

“Visits like this showcase potential career paths to students and introduce them to leading employers. Everyone at Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, University Health Network and Sick Kids were so generous with their time and made this such an informative and inspiring field trip for our students.”

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