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A Sneak Peek into Grad School with Tamara Perez

Tamara Perez is a personal friend of mine, who is a compassionate, intellectual, and super witty young woman. Having just begun her first year of graduate studies here at McGill, here she discusses the fascinating aspects (and inevitable challenges) of being a grad student. For all of the undergrad students out there pondering the idea of pursuing grad school, keep reading! 

Lisa Oliviero for HerCampus McGill (HCMcGill): Tell me a bit about yourself.

Tamara: I am a Master’s Student in the Division of Experimental Medicine with a concentration in Bioethics. I was born and raised in Montreal. Aside from being a student, I work as a medical scribe in the emergency room at the Jewish General Hospital, I powerlift, and I am really interested in exercise and nutrition. I love being outdoors, and I have spent many of my summers at Camp Oconto where I was surrounded by strong role models and friends, and got to empower young girls to take on new challenges and celebrate their individuality.  

HCMcGill: How do you juggle various commitments as a grad student? What are your strategies?

Tamara: I find that keeping a calendar is very helpful, as well as trying to schedule designated blocks of time to do certain tasks. I also try to get things done in small pockets of time and being deliberate with my time, like by putting my phone away to focus on readings. I’ve learnt that I am more productive early in the morning, so I typically go to bed early to start my day early.

What is particularly challenging about being a grad student while working is the combination of more concrete commitments (like going to class, completing an assignment for a given date, shifts at work, social commitments), and open-ended commitments, like ongoing thesis work and readings. I build my schedule around my concrete commitments and try to set aside sufficient time for each of my tasks. I truly believe that if you want to do something, there is time to do it!

I also always make sure to get enough sleep, which requires adjusting my sleeping schedule around regular overnights in the emergency room. In terms of downtime, I wouldn’t say the gym is downtime, but it is a break from school and work. Cooking is something I would really consider as my downtime, particularly baking sourdough. It is very therapeutic in that it’s inherently a slow process, and it is also a creative process. I am not traditionally artistic, but I can be through this medium. Enjoying the product that takes that much time, thought, and practice is rewarding.

Grad school, work, training, social commitments, and baking are all breaks from each other because they require very different cognitive processes for me. This gives me some diversity and variety in my life!

HCMcGill: Bioethics is a very unique and perhaps not a widely known field to many. What made you decide to pursue a bioethics degree?

Tamara: I became interested in the philosophy of medicine, the concept of disease, and the lived experience of illness while in my undergrad. I’m particularly interested in how the medical and social construction of disease differ from the experience of illness, and the implications of word choice and language in this. Through my experience in the emergency room in the last year and a half, I have witnessed first-hand cases in which the intricacies of these different concepts and the language used by physicians and patients may contribute to challenges in medical care.

My interest in bioethics is rooted in the implications for the patient experience in healthcare and promoting autonomy and self-efficacy through better communication between clinician and patient.

HCMcGill: How would you like to apply your distinct education in bioethics to the clinical realm as a future healthcare provider?

Tamara: My intention is to integrate this consideration for language and the differences between the lived experience of illness to the social and medical constructions of disease into a whole-person care approach to primary care. Studying bioethics allows me to gain a deeper understanding of a variety of current issues in the field of clinical care and research that allow me to have a more holistic understanding of health and healthcare.

My hope is that I can use my understanding of the principles and core issues in bioethics as guidance in my future practice as a healthcare practitioner. I may also continue to pursue research in this domain and potentially play a teaching role down the line.


Image obtained from interviewee.

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