Undergraduate Shrum medalist leapfrogs directly to MD/Phd program
By Diane Mar-Nicolle
At age three, Katrina Besler already knew she wanted to be a doctor, so it’s no surprise that the Gordon M. Shrum Gold Medal winner will begin an MD/PhD program this fall.
What is surprising is that she has won a six-year scholarship to enter the program without first earning a master’s degree. She’s not sure whether it was the extra hours she put in doing research, her many extracurricular leadership activities with charities, or her grades that impressed the admittance committee.
But she says, “In any case, I'm so grateful for this awesome opportunity, and I'm happy to call it a little miracle.”
Besler is graduating with a BSc Hons with a major in molecular biology and biochemistry (MBB). And she is receiving the Shrum medal for her high scholastic standing and for demonstrating outstanding qualities of character and unselfish devotion to SFU.
Besler says she became captivated with research during her SFU studies.
“The idea of using science and problem-solving skills to help people through direct interactions and care fits really well with who I am and the talents I've been given,” she says. “Career-wise, combining medicine with research gives me a way to impact the future and to translate new knowledge into the clinic. It means I'll always be learning, which is pretty cool.”
Arriving at SFU five years ago with a major entrance scholarship, Besler says she was inspired by the MBB program and the chance to work in professor Jonathan Choy’s lab, which she had set her sights on while still attending high school.
Today she credits her SFU success to her faith and to her mom.
“Faith guides how I treat people, what I value, and the decisions I make. I also wouldn't be the person I am without everything my mom has taught me and all the ways she's supported me behind the scenes.”
Of SFU, she says, “The knowledge and skills I gained undoubtedly contributed to my academic success, but of greater value is the ability I acquired to think critically and scientifically, and the direction I received for future pursuits.”
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