Medical students say UWI Toronto Gala scholarships lifeline to dreams

Career & Education

Medical students say UWI Toronto Gala scholarships lifeline to dreams

Sunday, January 26, 2020

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Medical faculty students Clifton Thompson and Natasha St Cyr are completing their degrees at The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, with assistance from UWI Toronto Gala Scholarship programme.

Thompson is studying clinical medicine, the programme cost of which is US$28,000, but with subsidies the cost to the student is approximately US$5,000 annually. St Cyr, meanwhile, is pursuing the doctor of pharmacy degree programme which costs US$10,000 each year.

St Cyr, now a fourth-year student, says her plans are to specialise in oncology or become a consultant pharmacist. This dream, she says, has been made possible by the CDN$3,000-a-year scholarship from the annual UWI Toronto Gala which raises funds for students in need.

Scotiabank, which has been the lead sponsor for its scholarship programme over the last 10 years, making awards to 500 students in that time, has committed to continuing its support for another five years, increasing the amount of its assistance to CDN$75,000 annually, including 15 new Scotiabank scholarships. These will benefit students such as Thompson and St Cyr.

“Pharmacy is a dynamic field with many areas you can go into. There is also a lot of room for improvement in the Caribbean in terms of catching up with first world countries,” St Cyr says, explaining her choice of programme.

Her mother, a single mom with four children, was challenged to assist, although employed as a nurse. But hope was born when St Cyr met Beverley Hunter, The UWI scholarship programme coordinator, who she said, “encouraged me and with her help my grades improved”.

Since her second year, St Cyr has been able to combine scholarship funds from various sources with loans and has been better able to cope. The 22-year-old says the UWI Toronto Gala Scholarship has been a great source of relief, allowing her to give full attention to studies and also be relaxed enough to participate in extracurricular activities.

St Cyr is the founder of the Pharmacy Students Association and served as the organisation's first president. She is scheduled to graduate in 2021.

As for Thompson, “This scholarship is helping me to achieve my goals and so far, it has helped with my studies tremendously, as it has eased some of the financial constraints that are there.”

“I've always wanted to study medicine, but due to the high cost and being from a poor background I gave up on that dream and passion. When I was awarded this scholarship, the passion was once again rekindled. I really needed the scholarship to assist me with my tuition fees as it is very costly,” he revealed.

Thompson has nine siblings (two brothers and seven sisters) and both his parents are unemployed.

“My parents parted from I was young [about nine years old] and I stayed with my father,” he disclosed. “My father got sick [and is still sick] from the time I was attending primary school and so I was the one who had to cook and take care of things along with my older brother.”

The challenge of paying for school affected his entire family.

He outlines that of his seven sisters, two are attending university, while one recently completed training at that level. One sibling is still in high school and two are working as teachers.

Thompson is optimistic about a future which has been made possible by the Toronto Gala and other scholarship support.

“In terms of my future career, I'm planning on becoming a cardiothoracic surgeon or a general surgeon, if it is God's will.”

His advice to those who are also struggling to pay for the education needed for their dream career is to also be optimistic and prayerful.

“I would like to say to those who want to study but think they do not have enough to do so, to just be strong and never give up on what you would like to become, because I was in that exact position.

He added: “Due to my determination and constant prayers, God has opened doors and made what seemed impossible turn into reality. So please don't give up hope. Apply for as many scholarships as possible, even when you think you're not qualified or fit the required criteria, because you might never know what God has in store without taking a leap of faith.”

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