This month 548 students of Faculty of Health Sciences programs crossed the stage at convocation at FirstOntario Concert Hall to become McMaster University graduates.

They were from the programs of the School of Rehabilitation Science (SRS), the Physician Assistant Education Program, as well as a selection of the Faculty’s graduate programs. Here is the story of five of the new graduates.

Shiva Gheblehverdi found her path as an occupational therapist (OT) through a chance conversation with a friend on a bus already studying to become an OT, who described what they were learning and how to apply.

It changed her life. Having previously studied psychology at McMaster, Gheblehverdi wanted to understand the ‘why’ behind certain behaviours. Upon hearing about the many opportunities to do so in occupational therapy, she wasted no time in signing up for the MSc in occupational therapy program at the SRS.

As a student, Gheblehverdi worked on a secure patient ward at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, where a seemingly aggressive patient was acting out because he needed the bathroom but could not tell staff. Many of the patients on the ward had dementia or Alzheimer’s, often making the simplest communication difficult and causing some of them to act belligerently.

“I saw the occupational therapist digging for information, talking with nurses and physicians and that was it – I wanted to be an occupational therapist,” said Gheblehverdi, who is from Tehran but now living in Hamilton.

“I felt the whole world was showing me the path. I was 36 and had a daughter and we had some challenges as a family, which was why they supported me in going back to school. I cannot let my family down and this is something I love.”

Gheblehverdi plans on eventually opening her own practice, as well as helping train a new generation of occupational therapists (OT).

Zobaida Mohammad Hussain says her true calling is serving adolescent refugees as an OT.

Mohammad Hussain and her family arrived in Canada as refugees from Afghanistan when she was twelve years old, forcing her to adapt to a different way of life in Winnipeg. The upheaval in her daily life eventually drew her to the master’s in occupational therapy program at the SRS.

Mohammad Hussain said being an OT is often about helping clients perform or re-learn simple everyday tasks and life skills after a major injury, physical or mental illness, or the emotional trauma that many refugees hold.

“I believe in the power of occupational therapy is in helping clients be independent or even go back to how they were before injury and seeing the smile on their faces, all these little changes that we can help them make,” said Mohammad Hussain.

“I can relate to what refugee clients are going through, and they can relate to me and open up, as I’ve been through it myself.”

Mohammad Hussain has sat her exam for full qualification and, like Gheblehverdi, plans on one day opening her own practice.

Kevin Moncion was born with a heart arrythmia that made exercise and physical activity difficult when he was a child growing up in Burlington.

Having completed his master’s in physiotherapy and a PhD in rehabilitation science, Moncion wants to put his own experience to use helping other people with cardiovascular conditions enjoy an active lifestyle. His PhD research focused on stroke rehabilitation, which was also personal to Moncion, as his grandmother had suffered one.

“Having the ability to interact with people living with these conditions is a tremendous gift, as well as being able to support them throughout their lives,” said Moncion.

“This is something I feel really personally connected to and being in this dual degree allows me to pursue and apply cutting-edge research in a clinical setting. That is what truly motivates me,” he said.

“My ultimate goal is to become a faculty member in a clinical program like physiotherapy, or to pursue clinical research in stroke rehabilitation and teach the next generation.”

Linda Nguyen established a six-member Sibling Youth Advisory Council. She formed the council to support both families and her PhD research in rehabilitation science, focusing on how best to support siblings of youth with disabilities who are transitioning into adulthood.

After finishing her program, Nguyen completed a 10-week internship in the Dutch city of Utrecht, where she partnered with siblings of people with disabilities and chronic illnesses.

“One of my goals is building an international network because it is so valuable to learn from their experiences,” said Nguyen, who is from Vaughan, Ontario.

“This is the type of research that helps shape government and social policy, as well as make a positive impact on communities and families,” she said.

“I am really grateful that I had the opportunity to learn so much from the knowledge and expertise of the entire McMaster community. I truly value the collaboration among different research teams at McMaster, including rehabilitation, health sciences and other research groups.”

Emily Whalen joined the Physician Assistant Education Program from a mathematics and statistics background.

Whalen had considered a career in finance, actuarial science, or teaching math but by the second year of her mathematics and statistics program, she decided to switch gears for a career in health sciences.

She found herself learning how to interview patients, taking their medical history, performing physical exams and consulting with her supervising doctor, all essential physician assistant (PA) duties.

“I was immediately hooked on becoming a physician assistant,” said Whalen, from Simcoe.

“The PA career is perfect for me because it allows me to practice medicine but is a much shorter program than a full medical doctor program, and with a better work-life balance,” she said.

“Being in this career is a privilege for me, because like in any healthcare role, you are making an impact at a critical time in a patient’s life. I feel very grateful that I got to experience this program.”






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