International co-ops chart a path to med school

Co-op, Science

- Erin King

From touring animal shelters in South Africa to analyzing cells from human blood or harvested mouse spleens in Vancouver, Stacey LeDoux’s UVic experiences have been a little different than most.

LeDoux graduates this month from UVic, and as she waits to hear back about her med school applications, she’s reflecting on her time as an undergraduate. “UVic not only gave me the opportunity to travel, but to explore my interests, develop my skills, and apply my learning,” she says.

LeDoux is one of the thousands of UVic students every year who’s benefited from the co-op program. “I joined co-op because I thought the experience would allow me to explore my options in science and help me decide what I wanted to pursue in my future.”

LeDoux’s first co-op work term at UVic drew upon her love for animals. She travelled to Johannesburg and Cape Town in South Africa where she volunteered for FurKidz, an organization that supports local domestic animal shelters. Together with a team of international volunteers, she spent time with the animals in different shelters and created profiles of those up for adoption. “It was a great cultural and social experience,” says LeDoux. “I gained a greater awareness of poverty, political strife, and the after-effects of apartheid. South Africa is a beautiful country and I’m grateful to have lived there.”

Back at UVic, LeDoux’s interests began shifting towards biochemistry and microbiology. “After taking my first microbiology class in second year, I fell for the micro-world of cells and proteins. The material fascinated me and I enjoyed the practicality of the early lab work.” These interests led her to a co-op term at the Genome BC Proteomics Centre followed by an eight-month stint at STEMCELL Technologies in Vancouver. An NSERC undergraduate research award funded her work at STEMCELL.

“STEMCELL is a private biotechnology company that develops and improves products used in life science research. The project I was working on was to develop a better particle to be used in their cell separation kits – the kits help researchers isolate a particular cell type of interest in order to continue on with their work.” Through the course of her work at STEMCELL, LeDoux developed a high throughput assay to test a higher number of particles at once. Her work will help to improve the methods by which researchers work with cells in the future.

Somehow, LeDoux also finds time to volunteer. “I have always balanced my school, and now work, with volunteer work,” says LeDoux. “I help with fundraising and riding events for the Victoria Therapeutic Riding Association. It’s an organization that gives disabled children an opportunity to interact with horses.”

Now that she’s completed her studies at UVic, LeDoux’s sights are set on medical school. “My experiences helping vulnerable animals in South Africa, helping an organization bring joy to families who have gone through some hardships, and working with a variety of people throughout my volunteer and co-op work terms have definitely all drawn me to medicine,” she says. 

With such a breadth of experience, enthusiasm for health research, and genuine caring, those goals don’t sound too far off the mark for one of UVic’s newest alumni. 


In this story

Keywords: convocation, student life, international, Africa, animals, wildlife, biochemistry and microbiology, co-op

People: Stacey LeDoux

Related stories