Algoma U student success stories often lead to impressive postgraduate sequels elsewhere, and many begin with a degree
in biology.

Michael Kendall, MD received acceptance letters from three Ontario medical schools when he concluded his studies in 2013. He chose Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry and completed its Doctor of Medicine program in 2017.

Dr. Kendall will finish his family medicine residency requirements through Queen’s University next year.

“I chose medicine as it’s a career that involves the application of cutting-edge science to sometimes complex individual human circumstances,” he said. “It places huge emphasis on the interactions between biological, psychological, and social issues.”

Algoma U served as an excellent stepping stone, the Sault Ste. Marie-raised physician continues.

“I chose Algoma U primarily because of the small class sizes and low student-teacher ratio. Smaller class sizes allowed me to shine.”

Remaining in his hometown offered other advantages, too.

“Being close to home let me save for later. I knew going into undergrad studies that it wouldn’t be my last degree and I wanted to excel early.”

Dr. Kendall emphasized that two Algoma U faculty members in particular, contributed greatly towards his accomplishments.

“I volunteered in Dr. Brandon Schamp’s lab throughout my degree and worked with him to secure funding for an Undergraduate Student Research Award through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. This allowed me to do paid research over the summer.

“I also took almost every course Dr. Dave Brodbeck offered. He often spends much time after classes teaching about everything from psychiatric drugs to some of the more advanced statistical tests. He taught me a lot about statistics early on, thus facilitating a much deeper understanding of scientific literature.”

Practicing in the Sault is among options now under consideration for Dr. Kendall.

Earlier this year, Nadine Paul was accepted into veterinary medicine at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Glasgow in Scotland. The University of Guelph is another potential destination.

Paul began undergraduate studies at Ryerson University in Toronto. An exceptional student, she earned a U Sports Academic All-Canadian award while playing varsity women’s hockey. But big city life had its drawbacks, she said.

“I’m from a small town (Trenton, ON) and didn’t enjoy living downtown with all the hustle and bustle. I decided I wanted to finish my degree somewhere more quiet and quaint. I did some research and found Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma U. I decided to transfer and finish my degree there.

“I had the experience of a lifetime in the Sault. One of the main reasons that attracted me is that Algoma U is a nice, small school. Everyone knows your name and the teachers know you personally.”

Paul graduated from Algoma U in 2016 and then followed up with a year of additional studies.

The city’s Hiawatha Highlands Conservation Area provided an outdoor lab for some of her course work.

“I really, really love birds and did an interesting thesis project on Ovenbird vocalization with Dr. Jennifer Foote,” she continued. “I really look up to her and she’s been one of the key factors in me being able to get this far in terms of my studies. I even presented my work — which I was truly proud of and quite vested in — at the North American Ornithological Conference in Washington, DC.”

That experience solidified Paul’s interest in becoming a veterinarian, concentrating on avian medicine.

Another Algoma U alumnus, Ryan Pietrzakowski, O.D. (Doctor of Optometry) is now practicing in Sault Ste. Marie.

After receiving his degree in 2012, he attended the widely acclaimed Illinois College of Optometry in Chicago and graduated in 2016.

Looking back, Dr. Pietrzakowski recalled selecting Algoma U for undergraduate studies “because of the opportunities it offered me both in and out of the classroom. The science and technology facility at the University was brand new, and the small class sizes allow a very personalized approach to education.The idea of having very modern laboratory equipment and learning to use it from a very qualified professor instead of a
teaching assistant really appealed to me.”

This alum also valued ecological science classes in the city’s surrounding forests that allowed students to study theories introduced on campus.

“Being able to apply what was taught in a classroom with hands-on activities supports a great understanding and is what helped build the knowledge base I needed to succeed following graduating from Algoma U.”

Dr. Pietrzakowski appreciates the support of many, including Dr. István Imre, who served as both a professor and an adviser, and Dr. Arthur Perlini, then longtime Dean of Algoma U.

“They went far beyond what I would have expected of them in order to prepare me for the next step in my academic career. The ability to reach out to a support system when I needed it made the application process much more straightforward for me.”

Similar factors led Jessica Wilson, MD to Algoma U where she began her long post-secondary journey.

“I initially chose Algoma University because it was close to home and offered small class sizes,” the 2012 Algoma U graduate said. “I found the small class sizes conducive to my learning and I thrived in this environment.”

A prestigious Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarship helped Dr. Wilson complete a Master of Science degree in Nutritional Sciences at the University of Guelph in 2013.

“From there, I proceeded to medical school at the University of Toronto where I graduated in June 2017,” she continued. “I am currently completing postgraduate training in family medicine at the University of Toronto. I will be completing this degree in June 2019.”

Dr. Wilson also hopes to do an extra year of residency training in Care of the Elderly.

Thereafter, she would like to complete some family medicine locum positions in a rural setting before settling down in a non-urban area to join a family medicine practice.

“My Algoma U professors provided me with the skills required to critically analyze scientific literature which has helped throughout my studies,” Dr. Wilson said. “They also helped as mentors throughout my time at Algoma U. I was given numerous opportunities to complete research to better understand the scientific process. Dr. Brandon Schamp provided me with numerous opportunities to complete research and projects within his lab. He was a wonderful mentor throughout my time at Algoma U and I learned a great deal in his classes.

“In addition to this, I found Algoma U’s focus on Indigenous practices invaluable throughout my training as a physician as I have a better understanding of how to approach this patient population to provide the best medical care possible.” Personal circumstances have greatly influenced Dr. Wilson’s academic and career goals.

“Growing up in rural Northern Ontario, I experienced living in a medically underserved community,” she observed. “I was without a family physician for much of my childhood and often travelled to Toronto for specialty care.

“My upbringing made me appreciate the vast differences in care between urban and rural centres, and I quickly learned to appreciate the unique role of family physicians. Seeing how family physicians approach patients holistically in order to understand how the patient’s experiences shape their illness is a concept I connect deeply with.”

Written by Rick McGee for the 2018 spring/summer Algoma U Today magazine.