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Connecting on neuroscience

[Neuroscience Outreach Program]
Members of the Centre for Neuroscience Studies' Neuroscience Outreach Program join Richard Reznick, Dean of the Faculty of Health Studies, back row, fourth from left, after the group became the first recipient of the Advocacy Award from the Canadian Association of Neuroscience.​ (Supplied Photo)

Inspiration can be found in many places.

It can be found in mentors, collaborators and those who have led the way. It can be found in those you are reaching out to or are helping to make a difference in their lives. It can also be found when your efforts receive recognition.

For the many members of the Neuroscience Outreach Program of the Centre for Neuroscience Studies (CNS), they have found inspiration in all these places.

The graduate student-run initiative combines a total of 11 outreach programs – from organizing social, physical and learning activities to raising awareness about concussions and brain and mental health, reaching out to everyone from toddlers to seniors – in the Queen’s and Kingston-area communities and was recently recognized with the Canadian Association of Neuroscience’s (CAN) first Advocacy Award for promoting neuroscience to the public.

It’s a major achievement that has helped raise awareness of the group’s work at the local and national level, says Noor Al Dahhan, a doctoral student and co-director of SEEDS, a neuroscience enrichment course for students in grades 7 and 8, as well as the Social Club at Providence Care.

“It’s something that we are really proud of, absolutely,” she says. “The Neuroscience Outreach Program initiative is a great platform for graduate students to do something that they are really passionate about and take it to the community. When it started in 2005 there were only a few programs and it just continued to grow over the years. We’re really proud and really excited to get this national recognition for the programs that we have.”

And like most great achievements, it took a lot of people to make it happen. There have been many graduate students who have played a role, who have started programs and passed the baton on to others. It truly has been a rewarding group effort explains doctoral student Dylan Petrin, co-director of the Adolescent Psychiatry program.

“The award really is a reflection of all the students wanting to share their knowledge with the community and the long-term dedication that people have over many, many years that ultimately culminates in an award like this,” he says, adding that the programs themselves are rewarding for those involved. “The other aspect is that you can impart something greater than yourself. How you can build upon the foundation of giants of science and you see what the pillars of the community are doing.”

Of course, there are many hands at work and at the centre of it all are the staff members of the CNS –Kelly Moore, Lucy Russo-Smith and Dayna Scott – who have provided valuable support and continuity as the programs have grown and evolved over the years.

Also receiving individual recognition was the Concussion Education Safety Awareness Program (CESAP), directed by master’s student Allen Champagne, who points out that the access to resources through CNS has helped foster the outreach team’s success. It’s the combination of community work and research that has made the difference.

“There’s a scientific side which is part of our normal day life as master’s students, as PhD students, our research,” he says. “But a big part of it is we also want to give back to the community in terms of showing how great we are – how great the work we are doing is. Our job as scientists is to bring the knowledge to them and make it exciting so they can understand what we are working on why it matters both for society and for furthering science in general.”

More information about Neuroscience Outreach Program can be found on the CNS website.