ONDRI is Fostering Highly Qualified Personnel in Research
ONDRI provides exposure to many typically siloed areas of research
“Not getting into that graduate program and working as a Research Coordinator for ONDRI (out of the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences Center) turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me, both personally and in terms of helping map my career path”, says Brad Pugh, PMP, Clinical Operations Manager at Toronto Dementia Research Alliance.
ONDRI is a pan-Ontario research project that focuses on studying the similarities and differences between several diseases associated with dementia, including neurodegenerative diseases and stroke. ONDRI operates through a team science model where researchers, clinicians, and others in multiple labs and platforms work collaboratively, bringing specialized expertise to delve into the complexities of neurodegeneration and dementia. ONDRI research is driven by achieving impact on three levels: basic science, individual function and health system. With this ambitious mandate, the program provides a unique training ground for contributors working at all levels.
“I came into ONDRI as a graduate student while pursuing my MSc in biostatistics” says Myriam L., PhD, Biostatistician at University Health Network. “A big part of ONDRI at the outset, when I was there, was ensuring data collected was of highest quality. We were investigating the latest storage methods and quality control techniques. The opportunity to interact with multiple scientists, clinicians and researchers and to be involved with real research data was unique and very positive. The practical experience I gained was an asset for me later on in my career.”
Training of highly qualified personnel (HQP) has been a major focus for ONDRI since the research initiative got off the ground in 2013. As of 2020, ONDRI has benefited from the contributions of over 200 HQPs including 37 post-doctoral fellows, 15 PhD students, 18 Master’s students, 33 undergraduate students and more. ONDRI contributors, at all levels, are given the opportunity to reach out to a broad array of expert researchers across the province; these other individuals may be working with the same data sets and/or studying the same cohorts, yet they could be looking at the data through a different lens, a distinct platform, driven by a dissimilar hypothesis, thereby providing another view or perspective on what they may be seeing individually.
This is the story of two ONDRI HQPs, each of whom was induced, through their work with ONDRI, to stay in the health research field and continue to contribute to the health and wellness of future generations. There are many more stories to tell.