Convocation Profile: An unwavering thirst for knowledge

BMSc Student Katherina Baranova has always loved learning. After emigrating from Latvia when she was two, she spent much of her childhood in Canada with her nose in a book. “I'd read everything I could put my hands on,” she said. “I remember in pre-school reading through all the See Spot Run books and being disappointed that they didn't have anything more interesting,” she said.

By high school she was reading Plato and Neil Postman and read through half of her local library’s collection of 1960s feminist literature. “I was never a kid who asked a lot of questions,” she said. “I would just look things up in a book.”

This week as she crosses the stage at convocation with 350 of her peers in the Bachelor of Medical Sciences Program, she does so with that same unwavering thirst for knowledge.

For Baranova, complex and abstract concepts have always just made sense, so when she started in the inaugural Medical Health Informatics (MHI) program at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry, she saw an opportunity to help make those abstract concepts palatable for a wider audience.

“When I went into science I came from a nursing background, and the more I studied science the more I realized that it is hard to understand for many people,” she said. "Being able to take something complicated and distill it down in a way that people can understand is the motivation behind a lot of the work I did in my program."

One of her most important accomplishments was building a website with her classmates that summarizes scientific articles on maternity to help pregnant and new mothers make educated decisions about things like breastfeeding or medication choices.

Working with Peter Rogan, PhD, professor in the Departments of Biochemistry and Computer Science, she also studied how technology could be used to predict chemotherapy resistance in breast cancer. Using a computer, she demonstrated how using gene expression data could point to whether a patient would be resistant to chemotherapy or not.

It was this concept of using computers as a way to help solve medical and health related questions that drew Baranova to the MHI program. “When I enrolled, it was a brand new program, and I really liked the idea of working with computers as a tool,” she said. “MHI really interested me because it had that focus; learning about computers to help you in whatever it is you want to do, and then also having a broad background in physiology, pathology, biochemistry, so it is really good blend of the two things I was interested in."

She can already see the potential to use the skills and knowledge from the MHI program in her future endeavors and is thrilled to be staying at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry to begin her medical training in September. One of the things that drew her to studying medicine at the School is the focus on rural medicine, and she says her Medical Health Informatics background fits in very well with that focus.

“Mobile health and electronic records are the future,” she said. “And these computer-driven applications are really going to benefit those in remote areas because they help connect people across long distances."

Baranova is one of 350 students who will graduate during Schulich Medicine & Dentistry’s Bachelor of Medical Sciences convocation, taking place at 10:00 a.m. on June 16. The Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry congratulates Baranova and the entire BMSc class of 2016 on their incredible achievements throughout their studies and on their graduation.