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CAMH Stories Centre for Addiction
and Mental Health

CAMH’s student body as diverse as it is vast

Hundreds of students from different realms of health care come to CAMH for real-world experience

May 18, 2016 - For students, the chance to take textbook knowledge and apply it in a real-world setting is an invaluable experience. It’s what brings learning to life, and in the case of those entering the world of health care, it’s often where they see the impact their work can have on the lives of others.

CAMH is a teaching hospital fully affiliated with the University of Toronto (U of T), maintaining affiliation agreements with many other colleges and universities, as well. This means that students pursuing their respective professional disciplines have an opportunity to come to CAMH to put their classroom learning to work.

CAMH studentsStudents Christine O’Brien, Sravya Atluri and Ruby Shanker have a chat in CAMH’s Student Centre.

CAMH is currently home to 257 nursing students. With more than 406,000 registered nurses in Canada, this group of professionals is the largest in all of health care. What’s unique, however, is that CAMH is also home to 205 other students who come from a wide variety of backgrounds, including: performance improvement, occupational therapy, pharmacology, biomedical engineering, social work, and spiritual care.  

“Students are our future colleagues, so it’s important that we provide an exceptional teaching and learning environment,” said Linda Slodan, Manager of Interprofessional Education and Student Affairs, Education Services. “Whether it’s in or beyond direct clinical areas, students of all disciplines gain an appreciation for mental health and addictions care.”

It takes many people and professions to make up the health care system that we enjoy across the country. Meet four CAMH students whose areas of study are unrelated at first glance, but equally important to CAMH’s transformative work.

Zabina Meru, Performance Improvement

With a background in health, psychology, and management, Zabina has found a creative way to combine her areas of interest and expertise. “I’m specializing in Health Services Management as part of my MBA,” she explained. “I need to complete three co-op placements as part of this, all of which I hope to do in a hospital setting.” Zabina studies at the DeGroote School of Business at McMaster University.

Zabina MeruAs it turned out, this year was the first time CAMH had posted with her school, which piqued her interest. Zabina has always thought of the idea of either volunteering or working at CAMH given her educational background. 

In four months here, Zabina worked as part of the Performance Improvement team. Her projects were diverse, but one that she reflects on in particular is the “ULOA Reduction Project,” which has the overarching goal of reducing Unauthorized Leaves of Absence among clients and phasing out the commonly used acronym, AWOL. “It’s a big project that’s currently in its second phase, with a view to promoting safety by reducing absconding risks.” 

After a summer term of classes, Zabina hopes to be back at CAMH for one of her final two co-op placements, continuing to work with Performance Improvement towards making CAMH the best it can be.

Sravya Atluri, Research

Working in Research as part of CAMH’s Temerty Centre for Therapeutic Brain Stimulation, Sravya plays an important role in examining brain signals to identify neural patterns or biomarkers of depression.

Sravya Atluri“Research at Temerty combines the use of non-invasive brain stimulation [Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation] with a non-invasive and inexpensive method of monitoring the brain [electroencephalography] during stimulation,” she explained. “It’s very exciting to be a part of this state-of-the-art lab of researchers with diverse and specialized expertise.”

Sravya is currently working towards her PhD in biomedical engineering from the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering (IBBME) at U of T. Research may not be the first thing one thinks of when they imagine the hospital environment, but it’s an integral part of identifying illnesses and developing treatments.

As one of two doctoral students at CAMH in this area, Sravya works primarily to identify biomarkers to predict responses to certain treatments in depression. “Much of recent research suggests that mental illness may be a brain network problem,” she explained. “It might not necessarily be about one specific region of the brain, but instead the disruption in communication between several regions of the brain.”

Sravya has two years remaining in her doctoral degree and hopes that her work will be a foundation for the development of non-invasive and portable brain stimulation technologies that treat brain network dysfunction.

Ruby Shanker, Professional Practice

What happens when conflicted values make moral and ethical decisions difficult to make? Who do you call? Most often, the go-to person is an ethicist, and when it comes to health-related questions in particular, a bioethicist.

Ruby is CAMH’s lone bioethics fellow, working alongside Kevin Reel, CAMH Ethicist.

Ruby ShankerOriginally from India, Ruby moved to Canada in 2011. “After practicing medicine in rural India, I made a decision to switch paths,” she explained. “I saw many ethical issues – access to medication, access to care, and so on – and felt drawn to help. It just didn’t feel right.”

Ruby earned her master’s degree in bioethics from the Joint Centre for Bioethics (JBC) at U of T. Now, she’s completing six, four-month rotations as part of a clinical and organizational bioethics fellowship at the JBC. 

“Ethics as a field is fascinating,” she said. “We come from diverse backgrounds bringing unique perspectives to bioethics: philosophers, spiritual care providers, social workers, nurses, occupational therapists, lawyers…”

In her time at CAMH, she’s seen how ethics comes into play from the bedside to boardroom.  

Ruby will be at CAMH until June, before moving onto her third rotation at Humber River Hospital.

Christine O’Brien, Spiritual Care

Christine has always been drawn to academic and pastoral work. She completed her master’s degree in divinity from the Toronto School of Theology at U of T, and later began working towards a doctorate degree in church history. Unfortunately, she fell severely ill and had to focus her energy on getting better.

Christine O'BrienWith a persistent love for learning, she reclaimed ‘student’ status again later on, this time with the goal of applying her area of expertise in a health care environment. She recently completed her fourth and final unit, a requirement of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). 

“I believe that every human being is of profound worth and has inestimable dignity,” she explained. “When they are suffering it can be so important to have someone there to listen and help them rediscover meaning and purpose in times of crisis.”

Having done her first three units in more traditional hospital environments, Christine says she feels fortunate to have done her last stint at CAMH.

In her eight months here, Christine worked with Spiritual Care Services. “It’s a totally different culture to work in a mental health environment,” she said. “Even though this was my last unit, I found the learning experience to be refreshing.”

Christine says the experience she gained at CAMH is applicable anywhere, and she looks forward to bringing that know-how wherever she goes.

Are you a student interested in a placement at CAMH?

Students interested in a placement at CAMH should first contact their school placement coordinator.  For more information, visit the Professionals in Training webpage or email CAMH’s Student Centre

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