A Doctoral degree, just icing on a cupcake!




Carmen-SimaCarmen Sima is a PhD candidate in Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of British Columbia. She received her Master’s degree in Biology from the University of Victoria, British Columbia (2011). Carmen is originally from Romania, where she was trained as a medical doctor at the University of Craiova (1995). Her current research focuses on the role of pulmonary rehabilitation program in improving the cardiovascular health in COPD patients. She has also an interest in the clinical application of noninvasive assessments of vascular function in COPD. In her leisure time, she likes to travel and blog about personal development and experiences.

Writing about my experience as a doctoral student in the Physical Therapy department at UBC has not been an easy task. And not because I didn’t have much to write about; on the contrary, I couldn’t make up my mind about the most relevant aspects of this experience. My initial thought was to put together some of the academic accomplishments I achieved during my four years in this program. However, it did not take too long to realize that all the skills and successes I gained during these years, would not have been possible without the people who joined me in this journey. As always, when we revisit our memories, it is emotions and feelings rather than facts that come into the picture. For this reason, I decided simply to share with you some stories related to my research team, stories that contain unexpected life lessons.

Chan150The first memory that comes into my mind is about Chris (Chan) and the HLI Cupcake Wars contest; a fun annual event held in our centre and meant to gather us together as a big scientific family. I recall us decorating with symbols of pulmonary rehabilitation (bicycle wheels, heart, and lungs) uneven cupcakes cooked in the last minutes by Chris, in order to use our lab’s allotment in this contest. I happily remember our joy a few days later, when we found our cupcakes displayed on the HLI website for our original idea. Lesson learned from Chris: Don’t give up, as the outcome is always worth it.

KirkhamNext comes to mind pictures of Ashley (Kirkham) in her beautiful sparkling costumes performing on stages all around the world. She is the “factotum person” in our lab who is always ready for action and willing to help anyone in need. These attributes come from her strong determination to become a professional dancer, despite the many obstacles she faced along the way. Lesson learned from Ashley: Be persistent if you want to achieve your goals.

DhillonWhen I think of Sat (Dhillon) my heart is filled with the most powerful emotions. He was the person who brought into our lab the feeling of belonging to a big family and the need to support each other. He shared with us the most precious moments of his life, from the time of choosing the ring for his fiancée to his magnificent wedding. We lived with him a cumulus of positive emotions that not only reflected our humanity, but also managed to bring us closer together. Lesson learned from Sat: Being openhearted helps others to be authentic and sincere.

cropped-Pat_Camp17227.jpgLast but not least, I recall Pat (Camp), our supervisor, who gathered us together and created a strong research team. Despite the inevitable barriers and challenges we faced over time, she did everything possible to ensure that the team was performing at its best, and that the projects were running in a timely manner, with rigor and discipline. She also gave us plenty of room to develop and demonstrate our own individual research potential. Lesson learned from Pat: A good leader chooses people wisely and allows them to be independent and creative.

Now you understand why I couldn’t describe my experience as a graduate student in the Physical Therapy department without writing of these people. We worked together during different stages of our projects, giving and receiving  feedback, and supporting each other in various academic activities. They are part of my story and my individual academic goals would have been much more difficult to achieve without their continuous support. In the end, I can only say that during my graduate studies I was lucky enough to work with a team that made my research work enjoyable, successful, and memorable.

Post scriptum: If you want to know more about this great lab and the research we do, please visit us at: http://prrl.rehab.med.ubc.ca/