Learning how to identify cancerous cells from healthy cells and understanding lab techniques for cancer research were just a few of the things more than 100 high school students got to experience Thursday at a University of Windsor one-day symposium.
The fourth annual Let’s Talk Cancer symposium offered students from six area high schools the chance to hear from university professors, researchers, local health-care professionals and graduate biology students about the science and treatment of cancer.
Dr. Dora Cavallo-Medved, a biology professor and cancer researcher with the Windsor Cancer Research Group, was one of the opening speakers who gave students a glimpse at all the different academic streams that can work together collaboratively.
She explained translational research that effectively pulls together experts in the fields of chemistry, physics, nursing, environmental science, epidemiology, economics and math.
“It’s not just biology,” Cavallo-Medved said. “We use other areas of science in understanding cancer.”
Karen Metcalfe, the assistant director of WE-Spark Health Institute, gave a moving talk about the cancer journey her family embarked on in 2009 when her daughter Mckenna was diagnosed with a brain tumour.
“The impact of research on all of our every day lives is unbelievable,” Metcalfe said of the leading-edge surgery, treatment and rehabilitation that saved Mckenna’s life. “There are so many fields that went into Mckenna’s outcome.”
Mckenna underwent two surgeries to remove the tumour in 2010 and another major surgery on her spine in 2017. Now a Grade 9 student at Walkerville, she’s become a powerful voice for the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada. Her family alone has raised more than $200,000 for the foundation.
“Sometimes you have to be open to some changes because of different life experiences. Life is not linear,” Metcalfe said.
Graduate student Kyle Stokes helped organize the day’s agenda, which also featured interactive breakout sessions and an expert panel discussion.
“We do this because there’s a lot of misinformation in the media and a lot of people affected by cancer who don’t really know about it,” Stokes said. “In Grade 11 and 12, these students are thinking about career paths and this helps them out, directing where they might want to go in the future.”