It’s Okay To Be Confused When You First Start College (Part 2)

Russ went to school to become a journalist but took a very different career path.  He shares an honest and detailed account of how his early experience–and a complete 180–lead to the career he was destined for. 
An open mind, an open heart and listening to good advice along the way ….here’s the second part of Russ’ story.

Missed the first part?  Not Good…..Click here 🙂

After defending my thesis, I indeed did get the opportunity to attend the Harvard School of Public Health, and graduated with a doctorate in nutrition.

I continued to work on studies of diet, body weight, and chronic disease (colon cancer) learning a lot about how to measure what people eat, and how to relate what people eat to the diseases they develop. The program of study was intensive, with 2 years of heavy coursework in statistics, epidemiology, and nutritional sciences.  It was a long, hard road, not without failures along the way, but after 5 years, I graduated with my doctorate in nutrition.

Following my studies in Boston, I returned to Toronto for a post-doctoral fellowship at McMaster University and the University of Toronto, learning new skills in meta-analysis (using statistics to summarize research studies).

This skill, coupled with my interest in heart disuse paved the way for my faculty appointment at McMaster University, where I am now an assistant professor.

It’s a challenging and fulfilling job, one that I feel very fortunate to have!

In this role, I manage to engage in several types of work that keeps my mind active and busy.  My primary job is to do research: come up with questions in the area of nutrition that need answers, and writing applications to the government and other non-profit agencies to raise the money to answer them.

It’s a tough climate now, so these are hard to get. I’m fortunate to be part of a team that can support me to do some of this work as I wait for my first big grant. I also teach- undergraduate students in a large lecture hall; smaller groups of graduate students; and also larger medical school student groups. I also supervise (1 on 1) graduate students.

So my path to a career in academia has been a roundabout one; but one that has taught me a lot along the way.

Each stage of this journey has taught me valuable lessons that I’ve tried to take with me on to the next stage.

6 Key Lessons

  1. Be prepared: know your options early, and keep them open as long as possible; take high school courses in math, sciences, and humanities so that you are well-rounded
  2. Don’t fear change: you will likely change careers at least once; you won’t know when this will happen, but when it does embrace it and keep an open mind
  3. Seek mentors: a mentor can help you avoid mistakes and open doors for you to opportunities that you would not usually have seen;
  4. Be thankful: don’t forget the people who have helped you in your career; they’ve done it because they saw your potential, and there’s no greater gift you can give to them than being successful; when you are don’t forget to thank them.
  5. Know your boundaries: I’m still learning this one but learn to say no to things that distract you from your ultimate goal
  6. You will make mistakes: pick yourself up and keep going; mistakes are how we learn science is the art of making better mistakes, and perseverance is one of the most important traits in a successful person- the ability to stay focused in the face of repeated setbacks

Author: Russell de Souza

Assistant Professor, Department of health research methods, evidence, and impact; McMaster University (September, 2017)

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