Enav Zusman

Associations between prenatal serotonin reuptake inhibitor antidepressant exposure-related longitudinal changes in stress regulation and mood across childhood
Timothy Oberlander (UBC), Robert Platt (McGill)
ImpactBC Scholarship in Health Care Research and Development
Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education- 3M National Student Fellowship
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

A long journey led me to my PhD, which included completing a BSc, an MSc, and most recently a PharmD. As a curious person who likes to explore, challenge ideas and concepts, and ask questions, a career as a researcher was somewhat of a calling. Working closely with scientist-clinicians during my master’s degree, I was very impressed by their operation within the research team. Their clinical background, training and education guided their research methods, and they were always aware of how their research may be applied to improve patient care, health, well-being, and experience in the healthcare system. This had a significant impact on me and led me to pursue a career as a scientist-clinician. At the same time, I learned first-hand the positive and negative impact medications can have on one’s life. I became fascinated with pharmacology and therapeutics and decided to pursue a Doctor of Pharmacy degree, which I recently completed. Over the course of my pharmacy training, I was astonished by how inconclusive the literature is on medications commonly prescribed to pregnant women, and the dearth of the collective knowledge of perinatal pharmacoepidemiology. I am now pursuing a PhD, aiming to conduct health-outcomes research with a focus on understanding the efficacy and safety of medication use during pregnancy. I want to add to the body of knowledge and support both women and healthcare professionals in better understanding the risks and benefits of medication use during pregnancy, which will lead to more informed decisions about medication use during pregnancy.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

UBC has been my home since 2014. I completed an MSc in Experimental Medicine at the VGH campus and a Doctor of Pharmacy at the Point Grey Campus. My time at UBC has been a very positive experience; I have had the opportunity to meet and work with world-class researchers, become involved with student government (as a student senator and the GSS VP University & Academic Affairs), work with and learn from wonderful mentors, and take advantage of many professional and personal development opportunities, which have led me to where I am today. Once I met my research supervisors, who are experts in their fields, staying at UBC for my PhD was an easy call to make. When deciding on a research facility, I was looking for a place that combines clinical work with research and found it at BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute, a clinical research facility that offers a superb multidisciplinary interprofessional collaboration.

What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?

The Reproductive and Developmental Sciences (RDS) program is a unique program as it is the only graduate program in Canada based in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. As I am interested in maternal and perinatal care, working out of a clinical facility that focuses on women’s and children’s care seemed like the perfect fit. I also like that since the program is small, trainees and investigators all know and support each other.

What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?

I was pleasantly surprised by how incredibly beautiful the campus and city are. Vancouver really is the most beautiful city in the world. I love living here and take every opportunity to travel the area. There is always something new to see and do. I think living in Vancouver provides you with a great balance of living in a big city, with all the perks of a big city, while living so close to nature and the ocean.

The Reproductive and Developmental Sciences (RDS) program is the only graduate program in Canada based in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. As I am interested in maternal and perinatal care, working out of a clinical facility that focuses on women’s and children’s care seemed like the perfect fit.
What aspect of your graduate program do you enjoy the most or are looking forward to with the greatest curiosity?

I have always enjoyed learning new things and adding more skills to my toolkit. I also enjoy spending time with other graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. My conversations with peers have always been mentally stimulating and often lead to productive collaborations. I look forward to exploring and interpreting the outcomes of my research thesis and devising potential changes that may be implemented in patient care and medical practice as a result of it. There is something really exciting about conducting research that has direct implications for patient care and I hope to see my work supporting healthcare providers and patients in making informed decisions about their health.

What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?

My pharmacy education, clinical experience in maternal-fetal medicine, and being a mother myself provided me with an interesting point of view on studying medication use during pregnancy. These experiences provided me with both the theoretical knowledge of the changes occurring in the body during pregnancy, while also lending hands-on experience in how to treat a pregnant patient. In addition, over my years as a student, I have taken every opportunity given to develop research and communication skills. I’ve attended workshops, seminars and conferences and taken courses to advance my knowledge. I have also been working as a research assistant since the first year of my undergraduate, trying to work and learn from as many people as possible and cultivate diverse experiences. My previous research training and experience with both quantitative and qualitative data have also provided me with a strong background which will contribute to my ability to conduct meaningful and successful research in my field.

What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?

I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and doing outdoor activities such as hiking and camping. I am also an amateur painter and painting is often my go-to at the end of a busy day.

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

Enjoy your experience in grad school! It is your time to learn, ask questions and figure out what you are passionate about. Be positive, patient, and open to new ideas and concepts. Make friends, network, collaborate and support your peers and colleagues. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes; we all make them, and they are a great opportunity for learning and growth. Academic life is full of rejection (papers, abstracts, scholarships); it is not personal, and there is much that can be learned from it. Graduate work can be overwhelming. Please don’t forget about your mental health and wellbeing. Try your best to maintain a healthy work-life balance and take time to destress, travel, meet friends and enjoy all the things that make you happy.


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