TD Discovery Days held May 21 at McMaster University

May 22, 2015

DiscoveryDays2015web-2Hamilton Health Sciences Research and The Canadian Medical Hall of Fame joined forces to create a day of learning for high school students from across Ontario.

The Canadian Medical Hall of Fame’s TD Discovery Days in Health Sciences is a national initiative that encourages high school students to pursue health science careers. Delivered in partnership with universities, research institutions and health science centres across Canada, the program introduces students to a variety of health professions through keynote lectures, and interactive workshops.

Why was this event important?

  • Helps students to make key decisions about their academic future and career path
  • Provides authentic learning opportunities not available within a traditional classroom setting
  • Helps meet human resource needs of the sector and health care needs of individuals and communities across Canada

The event-facts

  • Total participants -190 students and 14 teachers.
  • Total schools – 38, with students coming from the furthest school in Collingwood, Ontario.
  • Two keynote speakers and sixteen workshops.
  • Workshop topics ranged from discussion on: Alzheimer’s disease, nutrition, devices used in cardiac surgery, cancer prevention, the obesity epidemic, physiotherapy and much more.


Keynote speaker presentations

Keynote speaker # 1-Dr. Mehran Anvari “From Telesurgery to Automation”

Tenured professor of surgery, research chair in Surgical Innovation at McMaster University. Dr. Anvari is the scientific director and CEO of the Centre for Surgical Invention and Innovation, and the founding director of the Centre for Minimal Access Surgery.


Dr. Anvari was one of the first surgeons in Canada to use robotics in surgery (2003), establishing the world’s first Telerobotic Remote Surgical Service. The “telementoring” style of surgery finessed by Dr. Anvari caught the attention of NASA-NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) who hope to send astronauts on a first mission to Mars by 2035-with this mission, the astronauts will be in space for more than two years. Of interest to NASA is the provision of medical care to the astronauts, long distance, should it ever be required.

At home, Dr. Anvari has been travelling across the country, training doctors in remote communities on the use of robotics so that he is able to assist them in surgeries where removal of the patient from the community is either too costly or not possible (due to limited accessibility of transportation, resources and unpredictability of weather conditions especially in Northern communities).

The Canada Space Agency, who invented the Canadarm, has also been working with Dr. Anvari. It is a proud time for Canada when we can see the robotics that were created for use in space find a place in providing best care to patients around the world. Such technology has been created to perform breast cancer surgery as well as other kinds of cancer treatments and spinal surgery.

As the world of robotics becomes more affordable, the possibilities seem limitless-an amazing time for the next generation of researchers to enter this industry.

Student comments

“I loved the 1st presentation by Dr. Anvari and it inspired me to make a positive contribution to the world of health sciences in Canada. I found today very enlightening and today has inspired me to set goals for the future.”

“I really enjoyed the connection Dr. Anvari made between the various branches of science, technology, engineering and math. His unique perspective on robotics and his accomplishments have inspired me (and affirmed) that I can achieve the impossible as long as I set my mind to it.” Gr. 11 student

Keynote speaker # 2-Dr. Guillaume Paré “Nature or Nurture: Is Cardiovascular disease in our genes?”

Associate Professor of Pathology and Molecular Medicine at McMaster University and Director of the Genetic and Molecular Epidemiology Laboratory as well as Deputy Director of the Clinical Research & Clinical Trials Laboratory for Hamilton Health Sciences.

In Dr. Pare’s presentation, he first explored the bigger picture of genetics and how much influence it has on particular human traits that impact the health of the individual. Dr. Paré delivered an insightful session that provided real university teaching style for students to experience.

For the curious, Dr. Paré mentioned was that height is more hereditable than most other traits demonstrating a “whopping” 80% influence by genetics. Also noted, the Genome Wide Association studies (GWAS) have identified 4.6 genes, 104 genetic variations which account for 10.6% of predicted heritability.

Dr. Parés research focuses on an important question-can we predict heart disease with heritability?

Dr. Paré stated that researchers are not able to predict this yet but believes that research activities are bringing them closer and so, such predictability is forthcoming in the very near future.

The presentation ended on a positive note-it seems that, similar to robotic research mentioned by Dr. Anvari, there has been a significant decrease in research cost in the sequencing of genomes-this type of research went from billions of dollars a few years ago to a few thousand dollars today to perform the same kind of research-this research produces an enormous amount of data to analyze which will allow the researchers to learn so much more about disease.

Student comment

 “Very fun! Great lectures by Dr. Mehran Anvari and Dr. Guillaume Paré.”


Student comments about the event

“Thank you for giving us the opportunity to open our minds to different careers on health sciences, to better our lives and the ones we love, or the ones we just met.” Gr. 11 student

“Beforehand I was only considering a career in health sciences but now I’m pretty sure it’s where I’m headed. Very satisfied, thank you!” Gr. 11 student

All in all, it was an amazing day filled with lots of opportunity for each student to explore a potential interest in the hopes of turning that very interest in to a lifelong career in health sciences.