Researching for our futures

Jessica Belgrave Sookhoo ‘18 helps dignify the aging process through Applied Research

By Rowan Garrow- Journalism Student

Jessica Belgrave Sookhoo ’18 decided to pursue Mohawk’s Brain Disorders Management Post-Graduate Certificate after completing her Bachelor of Science, with a double major in biology and medical science.

“I chose Mohawk because it was close to home and [the post-graduate certificate] wouldn’t be a major long-term commitment,” Jessica said. “[and it] still opened up doors to advancing my career and allowed me to explore pathways in things like rehabilitation and mental health, which I was interested in.”

During her time at Mohawk College, Jessica cites one of her professors in her program, Dr. Anne-Marie DePape, as being an impactful and helpful figure in her academic journey. Jessica says that Anne-Marie always supported her and other students, further fueling her interest in the mental health field.

“Her classes were very fun, eye-opening and engaging,” Jessica said. “She always had amazing guest speakers coming in.”

Jessica’s in-class learning experiences and practical learning via her placement prepared her for her current role as a research coordinator for the Geras Centre for Aging Research.

At the Geras Centre, Jessica assists in conducting applied research. She says that to her, applied research is an incredibly valuable form of research which can actively help in improving people’s lives.

“Knowledge is great but it’s also important to know how to apply that knowledge in a way that’s effective and feasible so that we can make the gains that we are actually looking for in our society,” Jessica said.

That improvement in society is exactly what the Geras Centre is trying to achieve through its research in improving the quality of life and overall health of seniors. With the senior population expected to grow in the coming years, this kind of research is more important than ever.

“[Jessica’s supervisor] often says ’it typically takes 17 years for research to become a part of clinical practice, but Geras is trying to speed up that process so it’s within five years’,” Jessica said.

Along with research, some of the other facets of Geras that Jessica is responsible for include managing grant submissions, data collection and analysis, volunteer onboarding and staff training.

“I’m involved with many aspects of the research studies that I’m on from start to finish,” Jessica said.

Going forward, Jessica plans to complete her master’s in counselling psychology and register with the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario. Always looking to expand her knowledge, Jessica would like to tie together her interests in research and mental health as she continues her career.

Jessica has been approached by several students while working at the Geras Centre asking for career path advice, and she always says the following: “It’s important to follow your passion because it will help you overcome adversity and genuinely be invested in your field. Don’t stress the social pressures. Be patient and compassionate with yourself on this journey.”