Spend 10 minutes in a conversation with York students Lyndsay Crump and Isaac De Souza and the inspiration for York University’s new “this is my time” campaign becomes very clear. Both are exceptional students with outstanding visions.
Crump, a mature student and psychology major in York’s Faculty of Health, has a vision that speaks to how cancer patients receive treatment for their disease. “2020: My work in psycho-social oncology improves the lives of millions of patients,” she says emphatically.
Isaac De Souza is enrolled in York University’s Space Engineering Program in the Lassonde School of Engineering. His vision extends beyond the confines of Earth: “2027: I’m helping land the first human on Mars.”
“Lyndsay and Isaac and the other students whose visions are part of the ‘this is my time’ campaign were selected to participate based on their visions, aspirations and how they exemplify York University’s students and innovative programs,” says Robin Edmison, associate director, Marketing & Creative Services in York’s Communications & Public Affairs Division.
“I have a different background from most students in postsecondary education and a different goal. I started out wanting to go to medical school but chemistry killed that dream,” says Lyndsay Crump. “But in the process of hating chemistry, I discovered psychology and learned that you don’t have to be a medical doctor to work in a hospital.”
Her vision of working with cancer patients to address their psycho-social needs during treatment and beyond has been her goal for the better part of seven years. “When I was 16, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease. I did a year of chemo and radiation and was told that everything would be fine,” says Crump. “A year later, I had an aggressive relapse. Treatments didn’t work and as a last ditch effort, we tried a stem cell transplant. I say ‘we’ because this experience involved my whole family. It is not something that you can do on your own.”
Emerging from this experience affirmed Crump’s vision to remedy a glaring deficit that she experienced throughout her cancer journey. “While I was going through my treatment, there was no psychological help; it was not something that was made available,” she says. Even today, Crump notes that there are plenty of resources available for medical care, centres such as the McMaster Children’s Hospital are unparalleled in the treating cancer, but few resources are available to handle the psychological needs of pediatric or adult cancer patients.
Now a research associate at Princess Margaret Hospital, Crump notes that little has changed since she was treated first as a pediatric cancer patient and then as adult patient. “There are just eight psychologists on staff for the entire hospital,” she notes.
“Psycho-social oncology should be part of every treatment experience for all cancer patients,” she says. She found through her own experience that her family and friends did not know what to say when she wanted to talk about the very real possibility that she would die. “When you don’t have anyone to talk to about your fears and your family cries when you ask about dying, it is a very isolating experience,” she says. Her ultimate goal is to see the psycho-social needs of every cancer patient addressed as part of their treatment plan. It would empower patients, she says, to ask those difficult questions so that they can understand and cope with the fear that comes with a diagnosis of cancer and the ensuing treatment.
“York University’s Faculty of Health provides students like Lyndsay not only with the knowledge, skills and practical experience in their chosen field, but also with the special leadership skills to be an agent of change,” says Harvey Skinner, dean of York University’s Faculty of Health. “Lyndsay and other graduates, are ready to make a difference to keep people healthier longer and to lead the transformation for sustainable healthcare: locally and globally. ”
“I always wanted to do something in space,” says Isaac De Souza. “I asked myself ‘who was the last person to step on the moon?’ and the answer was a geologist. What is the first thing that I would encounter in space? Rocks, so I pursued studies in geology.”
After a sojourn at the University of Manitoba, De Souza transferred to York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering to continue his studies in geology. “While it was interesting, I decided to pursue my passion and I applied to the Space Science Engineering Program and was accepted.”
He describes the role of the astronaut as being the ultimate experience. ”Only 12 people have ever walked on the moon, 12!”
As a member of York University’s Rover Team, De Souza is building the next generation of exploration vehicles that will traverse the Mars landscape.
“There is no reason why we can’t send a human to Mars,” says De Souza. A big thinker, he says there is a growing convergence funding, technical capability and the political will to send a human to Mars, something he expects to see in his lifetime.
“Space is the next step in human evolution,” says De Souza. “Humans have continued to grow in numbers. We are globalized; it takes just half a day to travel to China, which is halfway around the globe. Communications are instantaneous, there’s no more land to be explored or colonies to be established. The next step will be to colonize the moon and then Mars.
A big thinker, he says there is so much to be gained by humans going into space. “As a civilization, this is what we do; we explore and travel to unknown places. This brings some interesting questions to mind about what it means to be human. The first baby born on Mars will be a citizen of what planet?
“We have the technology and we have the science. I think what is about to happen is that society is grasping that sending humans to Mars is achievable. It is not a great leap of faith. If we want it, we can do it.”
York’s expertise in space science and robotics is leading edge, says De Souza. “It will be an eight-month journey just to get there. A critical mission will require two years, which is based on the technology we have today. New technologies are being developed by space engineers that will shorten that experience and limit the time we will spend in flight.
“I definitely want to be a big part of that effort. I want to find answers to the fundamental questions that come with such a mission. What happens if we find life on Mars? What happens if we don’t find life on Mars? Does that mean we are alone in the universe? What happens when we get to Mars and we see two moons in the night sky? This is what I live and breathe every day.”
“The key strength of the Lassonde School of Engineering is its people,” says Janusz Kozinski, dean of York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering. “Students like Isaac with a dream and a passion to achieve their dreams are empowered by our focus on instilling originality in thinking. The school’s unique emphasis on creative and entrepreneurial thinking is producing the world’s next generation of Renaissance engineers. I have no doubt that Isaac will realize his vision to help land the first human on Mars.”
By Jenny Pitt-Clark, YFile editor