Canada Day is a time to celebrate a great Canadian citizenship. For immigrants such as myself, it gives us a rare chance to celebrate great milestones. For instance, Jemy Joseph has only been in Canada just over a decade but she has achieved more than her share. Currently a medical student at the University of Ottawa and an MSc student at the University of Toronto, Joseph is on an ambitious mission for herself and her adopted country. She is passionate about many things including her medical school career as well as the issue of bullying.
You are a young woman of many achievements, enough to even compete for the Rhodes scholarships not long ago. Tell us about your academic journey so far.
It's been such a blessing to be in Canada for the past 11 years! My parents immigrated here in order to provide my brother and me with the best education, and I am very grateful for this privilege. I completed an Honours BSc in life sciences at University of Toronto. Subsequently, I pursued an MA at University of Toronto in transplant immunology, working in collaboration with Toronto General Hospital. In 2011, I began my degree in medicine at the University of Ottawa. Yes, I have been in school for a long time.
You have often said, you envision "a career that will combine medicine, advocacy, research, healthcare, policy development, administration and politics." Explain.
Growing up, I mistakenly thought I could pursue only one field. Logical and analytical skills came to me so naturally that I didn't even consider a career outside of the sciences. My love for the sciences accordingly led me to do research in health-related topics, which I was passionate about.
Though researchers are never fully acknowledged for the work they do, I gained gratification in knowing that my small contributions are part of a greater effort to understand the basic mechanisms of diseases, which may eventually lead to discovering cures. In addition to my lab work, my undergraduate electives in health studies sparked an interest in exploring healthcare from a broader perspective.
However, it was my extra-curricular involvement that surprised me in terms of what my potential might be outside of the scientific world. My peers dragged me to join the student union. I quickly learned that being an advocate, discussing policies and engaging in administrative work were things I absolutely enjoyed. Working in governance opened my eyes to the "politics" behind decision-making and how this was just a microcosm of larger political institutions that govern our country. Institutions like Massey College helped me realize that I could be a part of transforming Canada. In this country, it is okay to have multiple interests and pursue them all.
I realized that I wanted a career where I could continue to foster my scientific and medical interests, while helping improve the health and well-being of Canadian and global society. Being an advocate, promoting public health, engaging in social issues and making contributions globally are all important to me. After very deep soul-searching, prayers, and consultations with wonderful mentors, medicine emerged as a wonderful "next step" where I can be fully engaged clinically and pursue my varied interests.
Now that you have lived in Canada for a decade, where would you want to be in another decade?
Most of the next decade will be consumed by medical school followed by residency. Along the way, I have many dreams, which includes doing some international work in medical fields, working with NGOs and health organizations, engaging in health advocacy and promoting and protecting public health in Canada.
You have recently supported the Ontario government's effort to bring in a new anti-bullying legislation -- why is this piece of legislation important?
It is never too late to strengthen the battle against bullying! The scars of bullying on one's mental (and physical) health can be drastic. Therefore it is necessary to work towards prevention, education and adequate punishment and counseling for those who engage in such destructive behavior. In Canadian society, respect for human life is a cornerstone value and our youth must be taught that.
For young immigrants who may be going through the journey you went through in 2000 as a new immigrant to Canada, what advice would you have for them?
If you come from a more traditional or conservative culture, you might have some initial difficulty in understanding the culture and values of this land. Take time to understand the Canadian culture and people. Combine the best of what you learn with the best of what you have gained from your previous country and you will have an enriching life. Don't be afraid to try something new -- like skating or exploring outside the big cities.
Canada is a land of opportunities. In this country, you can be who you want to be. So don't be your own barrier. Open up your mind to a world of possibilities because in Canada, the world is in your backyard!
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