INTRODUCE YOURSELF! TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR FORMAL AND INFORMAL EDUCATION.
My name is Ciara Pendrith. I did my bachelor’s degree in Life Sciences at Queen’s. After that, I went to Western for a Masters in Epidemiology and Biostatistics. I really enjoyed the classes in Epidemiology I took during my undergrad, and thought this Masters degree would prepare me well for either a career in medicine, research, or both (which I was I hope to do!). I then spent a couple of years working at Women’s College Hospital in research, and now I’m in the MD program at the University of Calgary.
My most impactful informal learning experiences were the canoe trips I went on growing up at summer camp. They got progressively longer, up to a five week trip. I learned so much about teamwork and goal setting. I also took ballet when I was in high school, and resumed adult classes when I was working after undergrad. Not only is ballet an excellent form of exercise, but I was able to express my artistic side, and learn a lot about dedication and time management.
WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON OR SKILL YOU LEARNED INSIDE THE CLASSROOM/LAB?
In medicine, communication is the most important thing. Good communication skills are how you connect with your patients and build relationships, and a good history will lead to 80% of diagnoses in medicine. Breakdown in communication is the point of most medical errors.
WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON OR SKILL YOU LEARNED OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM?
Perseverance. When I was in grad school, my original thesis supervisor left Western very suddenly. I had already written parts of my thesis, and had to change my whole topic, and find a new supervisor. It put me behind in my program and was a very challenging time. I learned the importance of perseverance and ultimately ended up with a better project than I would’ve had before. It is important during times like these to buckle down, and not get too discouraged.
WHO WAS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE TEACHER?
Mr. McVay, my history teacher at Branksome was hilarious, and truly instilled a love of learning in all of his students.
Outside of school, I credit my mom. She has taught me so many life skills, and it doesn’t hurt that she’s also a doctor. She is an amazing resource.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO STUDY STEM?
I’ve always been interested in Science, but in Grade 12, I was conflicted between taking more science courses or history courses. I felt compelled by science, and more specifically, scientific research.
The complexities of biology, chemistry, and medicine were so fascinating to me. Not to mention all of the opportunities and transferable skills that come along with a degree in science.
The skills that I learned in my undergraduate and masters degrees allowed me to do research in health services, quality improvement, and women’s health. For example, my master’s thesis was an economic analysis of incentives for cervical cancer screening. Right now I’m working on a systematic review of interventions to increase breast and cervical cancer screening among immigrant women in Canada.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO GIRLS WHO WANT TO PURSUE A STEM CAREER?
Just go out and do it! There are so many more opportunities for women who want to do STEM careers. MD programs are now more than 50% female. This is not the case in computer science and engineering, but just because there may not be a lot of women in the specific field you want to go into now, doesn’t mean that it isn’t the right place for you. If you look hard enough, you can find people to mentor you in any field of science.
WHAT IS ONE LESSON YOU YOU’VE LEARNED THAT YOU’D LIKE YOUNG GIRLS?
Don’t be afraid of failing. When we hear about the successes of people like Oprah Winfrey and Hillary Clinton, we only see their highlight reels. They will have had many failures along the way. It is important to know that it is okay to fail, and that you will take those learnings along with you and find new ways to succeed.
As a personal example, I didn’t get into medical school the first time I applied. On average, people have to apply two or three times before they’re accepted. And in hindsight, my first application wasn’t very good. I learned from that, persevered, and made improvements in my academic and professional life. My second application was much stronger, and I got in!
WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING RIGHT NOW?
Right now, I am reading Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. This book is teaching me so many little things about psychology and how people think.
My top book recommendation is When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. It’s a sad read, but it has so many important reflections on death and mortality for people to read at any stage in their life. From a medical point of view, it has helped me gain insight into the mind of a patient who has a terminal disease.
WHAT DID YOU LEARN TODAY?
It was recently discovered that the gas giants in our solar system likely have solid cores. Previously it was unknown if they were gaseous all the way through or not.