Who I am and What I strive for

Education and Career Goals: I have an extensive background in science. Throughout my undergraduate research at Queen’s University and Masters of Science at the University of Toronto I became competent in computational modeling of motoneurons, maintaining and growing neuronal cells, immunocytochemistry, confocal microscopy, viability and western blotting. This training required an understanding of and compliance with academic and research policies. I have developed skills in time management, leadership, data analysis and both independent and teamwork. I have spent many years looking at mechanisms behind disease, and potential avenues to address the devastating progression of spinal cord injury and Alzheimer’s disease.  However, the impact of these findings seemed far away. This feeling is what has led me to global health. Currently, at Duke I am part of a research group that studies emergency medicine, and alcohol use in Tanzania. I am fascinated by the central nervous system, and thus am working on their large traumatic brain injury data set, as well as working towards prognostic modeling. Accurate patient prognosis is crucial for the allocation of resources, and efficacious treatment optimizing patient care. Being part of this research group has assured me that implementation science and human centered design research strategies are ways in which I plan to bring scientific findings to life. To do this sustainably will require policy development, as I believe that policy is foundational to making long-term change.

Personal: I am from Brooklin Ontario Canada, I have lived in the same house my entire life and I have a very supportive family. Growing up I was rather shy but was always curious to find activities that excited me. I excelled in school from a young age and found that understanding numbers and science came easy to me. English – less so, grammar is not my thing (sorry about this), and my writing is improving as I age! Outside of school, I could be found playing outside, playing volleyball, skiing or playing in the pool… as you can tell I did a lot of playing. As I got older volleyball became an increasing interest of mine and I played it competitively for ~ 6 years. Playing this sport taught me about communication, female companionship, leadership, politics, team dynamics, and boundaries. In the end, volleyball became rather toxic and I found joy in other activities such as competitive downhill ski racing. Eventually, I transitioned out of organized sports and into exercising at the gym, this became my outlet throughout my undergraduate degree. I was never really nervous about entering the gym as I had an athletic background and was happy to ask for help if I didn’t know how to do something. I was fortunate to meet some of my very best friends in undergrad and had a very lively social life. After living in Kingston Ontario (That’s where Queen’s University is) I moved to Scarborough Ontario to do my Masters of Science at the University of Toronto. This was a BIG change… 1. I had never lived in a city before, 2. Scarborough is Scarborough (TO people know) 3. I was working in cellular biology laboratory for over 40 hours a week. I met some great people during this time and learned a lot about myself. During this two year span in Scarborough I was rejected from every medical school on the planet (that’s what it felt like), and really had to sit down and think about what I wanted to ‘do’ with my life. I had always been told I was excellent at everything – not to sound like a snob but I had never really struggled to ‘perform’. I had always worked my butt off and it had always worked out… except for this time, except for Medical school – my dream. To say I felt like I had fallen flat on my face is an understatement – Man I was so lost. Anyways fast forward through 7 months of grieving my ‘past-future self’ (If that even makes sense), doing a lot of hard work to better understand who Paige O’Leary is beyond what I had previously thought, taking a mechanics 101 course at Centennial College, and a Consulting course at the University of Toronto, I decided on my next step – Duke Global Health Masters of Science Program. YES, people I will in a year’s time have two MScs – (don’t tell me that’s silly, wasteful, etc, etc I don’t have time to hear that I’m too busy trying to build myself up).  Between making that decision in April 2019 and my start date Aug 2019 I grinded harder than ever and finished my thesis at the University of Toronto. In fact, before I left for Duke (Aug 17th ish) I had completed my thesis writing. However, I had yet to defend it (oral presentation). SO on September 13th, 2019 (~ three weeks into my current MSc program at Duke) I defended my Thesis project at the University of Toronto and got my degree! August 17th to September 13th, 2019 were SO STRESSFUL! I was trying to juggle 5 graduate-level courses, a new country, a new city, and new people plus preparing for my thesis defense. It all worked out – and I won’t say that it was luck, it was a lot of hard work. Since that time I have been working as a research assistant, being a student at Duke, working on my next thesis project for this Master’s degree, AND living through a Global Pandemic!

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