Brampton Student Accepted Into Prestigious Medical Research Program

 

A student from Brampton is showing that hard work and dedication goes a long way.

Megh Rathod, 21, of Brampton is an undergraduate student currently studying Integrated Science with a Biology Concentration at McMaster University.

On top of that, Rathod is one of 15 Canadian students that has been accepted into the 2019 Amgen Scholars Canada Program.

The program is a 10-week research placement that offers undergraduate students the opportunity to engage in cutting-edge research, be mentored by some of the University of Toronto's world-renowned scientists and increase their exposure to study in the medical sciences.


The inaugural class of 2019 Amgen Scholars at the University of Toronto alongside executive members from Amgen and the University of Toronto's Faculty of Medicine.


"I honestly never even thought I'd get accepted," said Rathod. "It is nationwide, and even though it was a long shot for the summer, and I thought I should just go for it!"

Rathod is now working with supervisor Dr. Shaf Keshavjee in the Latner Thoracic Surgery Lab, as part of the Toronto General Research Institute. The research focuses on the ex vivo repair of the donor’s lungs for transplantation and gene modification to improve their function after transplant.

"Lungs are precious. There is a shortage of organ donors, and with efforts of the lab, we are trying to save possible lungs to meet the donor crisis and increase transplant success rates," says Rathod. "The lab does phenomenal work, and every day, I am learning something new and interdisciplinary. I'm very grateful to be selected for this prestigious program."


Megh Rathod and Amgen Canada Director Dr. Ponda Motsepe-Ditshego


Rathod has been interested in the medical sciences, since he had to take a trip to the emergency room after a tragic 'piggyback incident' as a child back in Oregon, in the U.S. While in the hospital, he saw an entire team of medical professionals working on people in the worst possible circumstances. "I just sort of thought to myself 'If they can put someone like that back together, there's magic in that,'" said Rathod. "They were like superheroes to me."

Ever since then, he has been slowly working towards the sciences, taking every opportunity he could to learn more. "I am fascinated by the wonders of the human body and its complexity on many different levels. The more I learn, the more amazed I am by what it does and how it ultimately allows us to do what we love."

He eventually moved to the Brampton neighbourhood of Knightsbridge in the second grade, and throughout his time in school, he stuck to science to feed his curiosity.

"Brampton had an impact on me growing up," said Rathod. "I'd like to consider myself a proud product of the public school system here, and I am so very thankful for the teachers who encouraged my interests and pushed me further." From Clark Blvd to Balmoral, W.G. Davis, and then a graduate of Turner Fenton Secondary School in 2016. An early kick-start into science was a middle school science fair trying to study the biomechanics of shooting better free-throws in basketball.

Another vital part of Brampton to Megh was the Brampton libraries. "The Brampton library helped a lot because it gave me a place to get lost into whatever I was reading. I could explore anything just by picking up a book. From providing access to books, special programming, and providing a great study space. I needed this positive influence in my life, especially during certain times, and it helped me out."

On top of all his school work with attending McMaster University, Rathod enjoys playing rugby, now as one of the captains of the university's varsity men’s rugby team. He also enjoys working with youth in the community and painting.

Balancing being a student-athlete is hard enough on its own, let alone aiming to get into medical school. Rathod is still figuring out where exactly in the medical field he wants to go into, but he has interests in emergency medicine, surgery, and geriatrics.

As one of 15 students being accepted to the Amgen Scholars Canada Program, he is now able to learn from the best scientists and physicians from around the world.

"A part of me feels kind of out of place here," said Rathod. "Sometimes I feel like I'm just a normal guy from Brampton and now I'm in with the big leagues. I'm just thrilled someone gave me a chance! As a first-generation university student coming from a hard-working blue-collar family, navigating academia can be difficult. I know how hard my parents work, to let me even dream like this. I'm excited for this adventure and the future."


Megh Rathod and executives of the Amgen company.


The Amgen Scholars Program first began in 2006 and has made research opportunities at many post-secondary institutions possible for more than 4,000 undergraduate students from over 700 colleges and universities who have participated to date.

Of those alumni who have completed their undergraduate studies, nearly 900 are currently pursuing an advanced graduate degree in a scientific field, and another 280 have earned their Ph.D. or M.D.- Ph.D.

Rathod hopes that being a part of the program will not just help him grow in the field, but also network with some of the best minds in it.

"I want to come out of this experience as a more refined thinker, and I want to think like a scientist. Watching others approach very challenging problems and breaking them down into manageable components." The concept of going from the 'lab bench to the bedside' is what I find inspiring," said Rathod, who hopes to pursue a career as a physician-scientist.

This is the first year Amgen Scholars is being held in Canada. It is being hosted at 24 top institutions across the U.S., Europe, Asia, and for the first time in 2019, China, Singapore, and Australia.

You can learn more about the program here.

Photos courtesy U of T and photo credit to Horst Herget

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