June 8, 2022

Class of 2022: Health sciences grad learns to dream big and reach higher

Cumming School of Medicine honours graduate Tali Glazer reflects on her time at UCalgary immersed in mentorship, volunteerism and research
Tali Glazer

As a new university student, Tali Glazer didn’t yet appreciate the role of scientific research in human health. But taking introductory courses at UCalgary ignited a passion. Glazer’s first direct experience with research inspired a journey of diving head-first into every opportunity available to students at UCalgary including more research, mentorship and volunteerism.

This spring, Glazer graduated with an honours Bachelor of Health Sciences, majoring in biomedical sciences, from the Cumming School of Medicine.

In her research, Glazer came to focus on improving women’s reproductive health. She says her proudest accomplishment in the past year was her published research on fertility and cancer. Glazer has learned to dream big and reach higher and she’s graduating with the gold medal for highest academic distinction in her faculty.

When and why did you come to be interested in medicine as a career?

Growing up, I spent many formative years in the company of my grandparents and other elderly suffering from dementia. My time in nursing homes exposed me to the experiences of vulnerable health populations. I was excited when I started the biomedical science program at the University of Calgary because it combined my interest in science with the desire to improve the health of vulnerable communities.

What sparked your interest in research?

My introductory university courses ignited my interest. Following my first year, I was fortunate to have received university funding to conduct a summer studentship with the O’Brien Centre Summer Studentship opportunity at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre. My first foray into women’s health research inspired me to find further research opportunities in the same field, and it all took off from there.

What is it about the experience of research that clicks for you personally?

I love the intellectual challenge and problem-solving elements of scientific research. It is rewarding to apply what I have learned in my university classes to real-world health issues.

How did UCalgary support your growing interest in research?

I am grateful to have received mentorship from eminent UCalgary researchers who are international leaders in the field of reproductive science. UCalgary staff and faculty are strongly invested in student success. The Bachelor of Health Sciences administrative staff have supported my research goals by connecting me to professional mentors and funding for summer research. My proudest accomplishment this past year was the publication of a paper, “Barriers to Oncofertility Care among Female Adolescent Cancer Patients in Canada.” 

What university programs have you gotten involved in?

My academic experience has been enhanced by my acceptance to Scholars Academy, as well as various mentorship programs. Scholars Academy provided career and scholarship support, speaker events, and opportunities to contribute to university service projects. Having a strong support base throughout my undergraduate degree inspired me to pay that forward to younger students. I led orientation groups, delivered consent workshops and mentored first-year students to help with their transition from high school to university. During my third year, I was a member of the Cumming School of Medicine Vaccine Promotion Project, which disseminated evidence-based vaccine media to the UCalgary community.

What would you say to a new student who was on the fence about getting involved in mentoring? What has the value been for you personally?

I would encourage students to be brave and open-minded when considering mentorship programs. It can be intimidating meeting with a mentor for the first time! However, mentors can provide valuable support for students in their undergraduate degree. My mentors have supported me both professionally and personally, from connecting me to research projects to having candid chats about imposter syndrome and female experiences in academia.

What’s your area of research interest?

The overarching question in my research is: How can we improve reproductive health outcomes for women and their babies? 

During my undergraduate degree, I investigated this question through both clinical and basic science research. As a research assistant at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre, I explored patterns in surgical site infections in women with cancers of the reproductive system. In partnership with a professional mentor, I also tracked pregnancy and birth outcomes for Alberta women with COVID-19. Finally, in my fourth year of university, my interest in women’s health culminated in an exciting honours thesis in the field of reproductive biology. 

What’s your honours thesis about?

Under the supervision of Drs. Wendy Dean, PhD, and Myriam Hemberger, PhD, my honours thesis explored the essential role of the placenta in fetal heart development. I worked with mouse models to investigate the relationship between placental abnormalities and congenital heart defects. Our research discovered that placental defects are causatively involved in the development of congenital heart defects in a substantial fraction of cases.

In what ways can your research benefit others?  

My research contributes to a growing body of research that highlights the essential role of the placenta in healthy fetal development. Improved knowledge of the placenta could eventually lead to better diagnostics and earlier treatment of fetal birth defects. Basic science research is indispensable because it generates foundational knowledge on pregnancy and fetal health. 

What’s next for you?

I am looking forward to continuing my journey at UCalgary starting with classes this summer in the Cumming School of Medicine Doctor of Medicine program (Class of 2025). The skills and experiences I have gained at UCalgary will support my continued involvement in reproductive health research and community women’s organizations. I plan to pursue obstetrics and gynaecology with the goal of integrating my passion for scientific research into clinical care. I am grateful for all the mentorship and support I received at the University of Calgary, and I aim to carry that forward and continue to make a difference in my local communities.

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