Taking chances and embracing opportunities

Maitray Patel has always explored the opportunities life has presented. Now the MD/PhD student is embarking on the greatest journey yet as he dives into the world of research and plans for a life in medicine.

By Jennifer Párraga, BA’93


The MaRS Discovery District sits in the heart of downtown Toronto. A blend of old and new architecture, the facility is somewhat intimidating. Known as a place of cutting-edge science and filled with brilliant minds, it was the daily destination for Maitray Patel, BMSc’21, the summer following grade 11.

Months before, a teacher had encouraged him to further explore his interests in medicine and research and take a chance on securing a volunteer role in a lab. After nearly 100 cold emails, presenting himself as someone with very little experience but lots of energy and willingness, the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) responded.

The experience was a turning point for the curious high-school student who had a wide range of interests. From business, technology clubs and deejaying to participating in air cadets and the Coalition Youth Council for the City of Mississauga, Patel explored and embraced the opportunities before him.

“Growing up, I tried to get involved with anything that interested me even remotely,” he said. “But spending the summer working in research with passionate people really helped me reconfirm my interest in medicine.”

Building on that initial experience with the OICR, Patel was enthusiastic to establish a research relationship with a faculty member during his undergraduate studies.

Once again, he took a chance and connected with Mark Daley, PhD, Chief Digital Officer. A few months with the Daley Lab turned into a nearly fouryear experience. Patel says that he spent the first few months listening, learning, and wrapping his head around computational methods that the Daley Lab used for concussion research. Soon enough, he began to work on projects and contribute to the efforts of the team.

Still focused on pursuing his medical degree, Patel shifted his research and began working with Dr. Douglas Fraser, Professor, Paediatrics. He focused on machine learning and how to identify molecules that could assist with finding disease markers or assist with the diagnosis of disease.

Fascinated by Fraser’s research program, Patel believed pursuing an MD/PhD was the best option for him.

“I became so engaged with the research and knew then the MD/PhD was right for me. I applied to the program and here we are,” he said.

Patel has decided to complete his PhD first and then move into the four years of the Doctor of Medicine program.

“For me, it’s always been about learning in the moment. I’m most excited that in the next few years I’ll be developing skills in epidemiology and developing a clinical mindset that I can build on.” — Maitray Patel

He says that he has really adjusted to the independence of graduate training and learned how to become much more self-reliant. He’s also grateful that he has the space to stay curious and develop opinions and ideas.

Patel has already received recognition for his promise as a researcher, as a recipient of a Dean’s Research Scholarship in 2021. The annual scholarships are awarded to incoming or current graduate trainees focused on collaborative or translational research.

“For me, it’s always been about learning in the moment. I’m most excited that in the next few years I’ll be developing skills in epidemiology and developing a clinical mindset that I can build on.”

Looking ahead to his four years of medical training, Patel is also excited to better understand the types of clinical research questions that need to be asked, and the role he can play in answering them.

With the next seven years mapped out for him academically, Patel has returned to his passion for music more seriously and started to deejay once again.

“When I was in high school I discovered how I could combine my computer and technology interests with music and I started deejaying,” he said. “I love music and deejaying and I’m excited to get more involved with that world again.”