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Inspiring, Influencing and Impacting Ontario Youth through Discovery Days in Health Sciences Symposium

  • June 14, 2016
  • News

May 26, 2016 witnessed another successful Discovery Days in Hamilton hosted at the McMaster University Student Learning Centre. Discovery Days is an insightful and fun symposium geared toward students in grades 10 through 12 who are interested in a career in medicine and health sciences. Designed in a dynamic format, youth have an exciting opportunity to discover themselves. Through delivery of a keynote lecture, interactive/hands-on workshops and live laboratory activities, students are engaged throughout the day with the goal to help solidify (or identify) their potential and interests.

The inaugural debut of this event in 2004 was originally operated by Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) and was called Health Research under the Microscope (HRUM). In 2013, Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) collaborated with The Canadian Medical Hall of Fame (CMHF) to offer Discovery Days in Health Sciences, a national outreach program coordinated by the CMHF.  

This year’s event generated record-high numbers in both number of schools who expressed interest and number of attendees hosting 223 students and teachers from 52 high schools across Ontario attending — Barrie being the most distant location.

The Hamilton event began with an insightful welcome from the two host institutions: HHS and CMHF

Lissa Foster, Executive Director, at CMHF  opened the day with a resonating video of two medical students from Western University (London, Ontario) that helped establish the mindset for the day, as well as provided a glimpse into what is the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame. Building on the energy, hype and excitement, students were encouraged to use cell phones through Twitter and Facebook social media platforms to share what they loved about the day. 

Katie Porter, the Director of Research Administration at HHS, welcomed the students by promoting Hamilton as a top choice for health sciences academic studies and employment noting the paradigm shift transitioning from steel town to a health research hub. Hamilton boasts a rich environment under the auspices of three institutions working together: McMaster University-Faculty of Health Sciences, Hamilton Health Sciences and St. Joseph’s Healthcare. This has led to earning a well-deserved reputation with recruitment and retention of talented, dedicated  individuals with a proven record of accomplishments and productivity in the health research sector that has and continues to change our city (and beyond having global impact).

Keynote speaker-Dr. Zubin Austin

Dr. Austin is a Professor, the Koffler Chair in Management, and Academic Director for the Centre for Practice Excellence at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Toronto. He has published over 95 peer-reviewed manuscripts, authored three reference texts, and received national and international awards for his research.

Dr. Austin’s research interests focus on the personal and professional development of the health human resources workforce. This interest was the focus of his presentation on the health care profession at Discovery Days.

 Dr. Austin’s presentation, “The Future of Healthcare – for patients and practitioners”, brought students and teachers on a journey of discovery. Through humour and sharing real-life personal experiences, Dr. Austin delivered a compelling lecture that focused on the need for youth to reflect on themselves – to realize they are the future, what’s it like to be the future, and what their future in healthcare is and to question how people become healthcare professionals. Dr. Austin’s presentation also offered guidance to students through the discovery process that required  gaining an understanding of their psychological traits, through the “Big Five” broad domains/dimension of personality used to describe human beings.  Dr. Austin ended his lecture with a strong message endorsing the “value add” of the Discovery Days Program, a gateway specifically designed to discover, encouraging youth to optimize and leverage their experiences and have fun!

The Big Five that Dr. Austin mentioned are as follows:

Discovery days Dr Austin-five

  • Openness (routine vs unstructured)
  • Conscientiousness (rule-bound vs flexible)
  • Extraversion (outgoing vs reserved)
  • Agreeableness (need to be liked vs right)
  • Neuroticism (sensitive vs confident)      




Some comments from students about the keynote speaker:

  • The Keynote Speaker was AMAZING.
  • Keynote: I found his presentation very insightful and he offered some very good points to think about.  It was easy to follow and interesting so it kept my attentions and I enjoyed it very much.”

CMHF post event quote: “one of the best keynote lectures seen at Discovery Days, delivering a critical and relevant message for all the students who participate at the 14 events hosted across Canada each year…. leading to a new partnership to expand student material provided through DD program moving forward.”

Following the keynote speaker, the students were then divided in to the workshop groups that they had registered for in advance of the event and the topics that they chose from were:

  •  Alzheimer’s Disease Through Memoirs (challenges and coping strategies),
  • From Food to Body-How your diet impacts your health (nutrition),
  • Introduction to the Renal System and Key Molecular & Cellular Players in Nephrology,
  • Social Work in Health Care: Addressing the psychosocial needs of patients and families,
  • Radiation Therapy-Combining robotic accuracy with x-rays to destroy cancer,
  • Discovery days beaker
  • Interventional Radiology: The World of “Pin Hole Surgery”,
  • A Roadmap to Pharmacy, Caregivers Role in seniors with or without Dementia: How do you help your grandparents? ,
  • Stress Olympics (toolbox for managing stress),
  • Microbes: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly,
  • Real Lab Experiences: DNA Gel Electrophoresis and Analysis (hands on experience loading and running a DNA analysis),
  • Synthetic Biology: How to Stain and Design Cells,
  • Hang a Left…No! Your Other Left!!-What skills do you need to drive safely (driver assessment and rehabilitation)
  • Contagion (explore the spread of viruses).

There was a fantastic buzz amongst student groups following the event. The students seemed very pleased with the day as witnessed by a few of their comments:

“I really enjoyed all of the activities that I took part in today. I gained valuable knowledge that I can apply to the way I live my life and to my future career. I was able to meet new people, learn new things all the while having fun.”

 “Fun day.  Well planned. Had a great experience. Would recommend to a friend 10/10!”

  “Everything was well organized. I enjoyed my activities – they were really educational. Overall, great experiences and I would come again.”

 “I thought this was a really good program that helped me get a better view of the health sciences and what possible careers there are. Definitely keep doing these.”

 Discovery Days offers students and teachers an opportunity to explore many different areas found within the health care profession that provokes reflection – to question if this is the right field for them and perhaps even to confirm their own suspicions as to what area of the industry would best suit their personality and goals. Discovery Days is an inspiring, influencing and impactful day that acts as a think tank trajecting Ontario youth to discover themselves…a day most aptly named.