School of Graduate Studies

School of Graduate Studies
School of Graduate Studies

A brainy pursuit – Meet Nancy Chen

MD/PhD candidate   

by Phil Gaudreau, August 2020

Amy Cleaver

An average human brain weighs somewhere around three pounds. “It’s this little organ that controls so much and has this amazing capacity to learn and adapt,” notes Nancy Chen, a fourth-year MD/PhD candidate at Queen’s.

Nancy thinks about the brain a lot. Her research focuses on how learning changes the brain, and how the brain changes after injuries. Specifically, she’s comparing human and animal models for stroke rehabilitation to determine which therapies and interventions might be useful in order to develop future treatments.

The Boston native landed at Queen’s after completing her undergraduate and masters studies in Montreal. She was exposed to a lot of research opportunities during those studies and looked for an MD/PhD program that would fit her preferred style of learning.

“When you pursue an MD/PhD at Queen’s, you start with two years of PhD graduate studies before going onto medical school, and you then complete your first two years of classwork while conducting research in the summers,” she explains. “You then come back for one year to write your thesis, submit it, and defend it, after which you begin your clerkship. This model is unique and does a great job of integrating medical school into your graduate studies rather than segregating them.”

As Nancy looks ahead to the fall, and the beginning her second year of medical school, she is thinking about her career and life in academia. Nancy hopes to become a clinician scientist, work which would allow her to balance time with patients and continued research.

Even as she spends most of her time in classes now, Nancy still seeks opportunities to give back on a one-to-one level. She supports the communications work of OSLER, a made-in-Kingston program that unites healthcare students with community needs through Kingston Community Health Centres (KCHC). Students help those in need with nutrition information, stress and anxiety relief, and the distribution of harm reduction kits.

“There are specific populations in Kingston that are underserved, such as the homeless community and those struggling with addictions,” she says. “My time with OSLER has helped me better understand the makeup of Kingston’s population and learn about the resources available to serve their specific needs.”

Nancy is enjoying her graduate experience at Queen’s, and especially is grateful for the School of Graduate Studies staff as well as the tools to support a healthy lifestyle. Outside of school, Nancy can be found at the gym or on occasional hikes through Kingston landmarks like Rock Dunder.

To learn more about the Queen’s MD/PhD program, and other Queen’s graduate degrees, visit the School of Graduate Studies’ website.