ELLICSR Summer Student Program

Written By Alaina Cyr

Each summer desk space at ELLICSR becomes a hot commodity as undergraduate students join the team to get practical experience working in applied research over their summer break. I asked Ali, a medical student at the University of Toronto, about his experience as an ELLICSR summer student in 2012 and 2013.

Alaina: Tell me about the projects you worked on while at ELLICSR.

Ali: During my first summer at ELLICSR, I worked on an informational needs assessment for the head and neck cancer population. This was an incredible experience because I was able to work with very vulnerable patients that had rarely been asked what information and education they needed to receive from their care providers. I also had the chance to work with a multidisciplinary team to create a “Getting Back on Track” class to assist head and neck cancer survivors with their transition from treatment completion to returning to routine daily life. As part of this work, I was able to author a resource guide to connect survivors with community, online, and written resources to assist them with this transition, which is still in use at the hospital today.

Image of a group of students sitting in the ELLICSR boardroom
A few of the summer students who joined the ELLICSR team
in the summer of 2012

In my second summer at ELLISCR, I completed the analysis and manuscript preparation for a study of the practice patterns, knowledge, and guideline-concordance of prostate cancer specialists in the treatment of bone health in patients undergoing androgen deprivation therapy. This was a really fascinating project, because it gave me an understanding of Canadian practice patterns, and it sparked an interest in using research to promote positive practice change. I also assisted with a nursing training program for using survivorship care plans where I got to try out my acting skills as a mock patient, which was definitely a fun highlight!

Alaina: What do you remember most about your time at ELLICSR?

Ali: I will never forget the inspiring stories I heard from numerous cancer survivors during my time at ELLICSR. Their personal strength, positivity, resilience, and courage in the face of their long and often difficult cancer journeys were nothing short of extraordinary, and will continue to inspire me in the years to come.

I will never forget all of the delicious food that was left over after the cooking demos, they were wonderful Thursday treats! Or the Friday afternoon Kit Kats!

Alaina: What have you taken from your experience as an ELLICSR summer student that you still use today?

Ali: My ELLICSR experiences were really influential and have served me well to this day. It was one of my first hands-on encounters with clinical research, a field that I had little exposure to during my undergraduate studies. I’m still using many of the skills I learned on the job such as doing statistical analysis, writing a manuscript and Research Ethics Board proposals, and using survey methodology in my current capacity as a medical student. More importantly, ELLICSR taught me how important it is to take a holistic perspective in patient care; namely, to recognize that the cancer journey does not stop after the cancer is treated and that survivorship is a large part of this journey. This holistic perspective is very important to me, and something that I plan to keep holding in my future career as a physician when I interact with patients.

Alaina: How has your experience at ELLICSR changed your career path?

Ali: I can say with utmost certainty, that I would not be where I am today, on track to reaching my career goals without the supportive and nurturing learning environment, and one-of-a-kind leadership and educational experiences provided at ELLICSR.

ELLICSR has really broadened my perspectives on research and clinical practice, and taught me that it really is possible to do a bit of both! It has really sparked an interest and passion for clinical research, and I plan to continue developing my skills as a clinician and researcher throughout medical school with the intent of still actively engaging in research while practicing as a physician down the road.


Find out more about the summer student program and other research opportunities at ELLICSR.