Thoughts and Thank Yous.

I am very grateful to have been selected for the Baird Of Bute Scholarship.

I feel it has been an amazing experience and has given me valuable and inspiring experience and a network of contacts. The “bench to bedside”programme  has also broadened my horizons. Seeing the amazing research taking place in Canadian hospitals and labs has made me consider working abroad, an idea which had never much appealed to me before.

This scholarship is an amazing opportunity for young people interested in studies and a career in science. It allows you to see some of the cutting edge science being  done everyday as well as letting you see more of the world!

I would like to personally thank the Baird of Bute Society with generous assistance from For Bute, the Bute Family Trust and Dr Hazel and Chris Markwell as their contributions allowed my place in the scholarship. I would also like to thank The Gunning Group, University of Toronto, The Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, Centre for Clinical Ethics, St. Michaels Hospital, St. Josephs Health Centre, Providence Healthcare and the Ontario Science Center for sparing time, staff and resources to further our scientific knowledge.

A special Thanks to Chris and Hazel Markwell for their time, support, mentoring and for showing us a wonderful time in Canada as well as giving us all a good laugh.



Day 18 / 19 – Goodbyes and Return

Today we will be taking our flight from Toronto Pearson Airport and making our way home.

After packing our bags for the fourth time, we joined Chris and Hazel for a final brunch in the nearby resort town of Collingwood Ontario, before heading to the airport.  The beautiful day made us all the more reluctant to leave.

After arriving at Pearson International Airport in Toronto, checking our luggage and getting our boarding passes, we gathered for these final photographs of the trip with our hosts Chris and Hazel Markwell.

Our Air Transat flight left at six o’clock in the evening local time, and after briefly stopping in Montreal we arrived home in Scotland at 9:20 in the morning the following day.

The three of us said our goodbyes after our unique experience and days of getting to know each other, before embarking on our journeys home.

Our incredible 19 day odyssey was over  – what an experience!

Keir, Ross and Eilidh.


Day 17 – Blue Mountain

Blistering heat followed us around today: it was 36°C outside, and the air conditioning within the house was acting up. Nevertheless our day was relaxing, starting with waffles at breakfast before heading out to the local market. The many stalls included tasters of various foods, and Ross impressed us all by tasting – and enjoying – the hottest sauce in the market.

Following this, (and after applying A LOT of sun cream) Chris, Hazel and the three of us spent mid morning on the driving range where we were given golfing lessons from Chris to improve our technique.

In the Afternoon we enjoyed a gondola ride to the top of the mountain where we enjoyed a scenic nature walk before heading back down the mountain for lunch. After a delicious poutine lunch we headed for one of the adrenaline fueled attractions at the mountain. The Ridge Runner Mountain Coaster hurtled through the forest giving us a real thrill ride!

After our ride we headed back to the pool to relax and soak up the last of the sun before heading out for an exquisite Italian dinner in the village. We headed to bed early to prepare for our busy day tomorrow.13487916_10206294804040704_38492664_n

Keir, Ross and Eilidh.

Day 16 – Blue Mountain Retreat

Today, to our despair, is the last day in residence at the University of Toronto and of the “bedside” portion of our programme at St Michaels Hospital. Once we had frantically completed packing and assured all was in order for our desperate departure, Chris picked us up, loaded our luggage into the boot of his car and drove us to the hospital.

There we met with Dr Michael Szago, Manager of the Centre For Clinical Ethics, who Dr Markwell had asked to speak with us about careers in science, and more specifically about his speciality of genetic research. He had an impressive depth of knowledge and was very generous in sharing his experience within the healthcare profession, along with advice and suggestions regarding our future career paths.

Following our meeting with Dr Szago, we were again picked up by Chris, who drove us downtown into the financial district of the city. This is where we visited the Toronto Dominon Centre for a meeting with Jason Markwell; a pharmaceutical intellectual property lawyer and partner with a boutique law firm specialising in pharmaceutical patents and related  legal actions. Mr Markwell began his university career studying Life Sciences, with the intention of a career in medicine; however, as his interests changed, he transferred to law school after his fourth year. This unique education and experience allowed him to offer his advice on the endless variety of opportunities that lie ahead following a degree in science. As our programme is entitled “Bench to Bedside”, Mr Markwell was able to clearly detail the long and complex path any new  drug discovery must follow to ever reach the “bedside” and patient interaction.

The long trip north to the Markwell retreat at Blue Mountain on Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay began after midday. On the way we stopped at a McDonalds for our first Canadian drive-thru meal after negotiating the heavy traffic through metropolitan Toronto. We arrived at The Markwell Snowbridge property in the early evening and, after moving into our rooms, we drove into the Blue Mountain Village.  The village is a quaint, picturesque collection of restaurants, shops and activities that sits against the beautiful backdrop of the Blue Mountain itself.



A dinner of delicious pizzas was accompanied by very lively entertainment within the village – the annual salsa festival brought Spanish music and elegant, yet mysterious salsa dancers.

The busy day and many miles travelled eventually caught up with us, and within minutes of returning to our home, our tired eyes closed for the night.


  • Keir, Ross and Eilidh




Day 15 – Providence Healthcare


A new day, a new hospital and a new change of pace from the hectic schedule at the downtown St. Michael’s hospital to suburban Toronto. Today we were to visit Providence Healthcare, a leading hospital in providing rehabilitation, palliative and long-term care for the ageing.

A tour of the inpatient pharmacy was our first scientific endeavor of the day; we were given a step by step breakdown of the processes involved in distributing drugs across the hospital, from computer prescription software, through dosage and packaging, ultimately reaching the bedside and being administered to the patient.

Next, in the medical imaging department, we were lucky enough to shadow a radiologist performing an ultrasound scan. Unbeknownst to us, ultrasound scans can be utilized to diagnose a variety of diverse medical conditions, for example, to determine if there are any blood clots present within the major veins and arteries of the leg.

It just so happened that, at the time of our visit, Providence Healthcare was on its way to acquiring the results of the exhaustive and detailed provincial accreditation review that had just been completed by a team of external reviewers. For us, this was indeed a valuable introduction into the managerial and patient-care improvement aspect of the healthcare profession. Also, thanks to the end of accreditation, the hospital hosted a staff barbecue, which we were more than happy to participate in!

Following a lunch of BBQ hot dogs and burgers, Dr. Hazel Markwell showed us the senior’s residences and amenities for palliative and long-term care patients. It was evident that patient comfort and safety was of the utmost importance to the staff working at Providence.

The afternoon at the hospital was primarily focused on the extensive rehabilitation facilities. This included mock kitchen and bathroom setups, allowing patients with conditions that limit their movement to improve their mobility within the home. Also, Toyota’s purpose-built indoor car area enables these patients to practice maneuvering in and around a car using special equipment to help their mobility.

Later we visited a physiotherapist to learn more about the rehabilitation of elderly people with diseases such as Parkinson’s and arthritis. We were shown the facilities used to treat the patients as well as being allowed to sit in with  patient whilst they were being evaluated. Again it was evident how much the staff at Providence care about their patients and how much they genuinely want to help improve peoples quality of life.

Unfortunately due to patient confidentiality and a busy schedule we were unable to take any pictures of the inside of the hospital.

At the end of the day we took the subway back  downtown to our residence before again returning to our favorite Mexican restaurant  -La Carnita- for the final time. Tomorrow we will Go back to St. Michael’s to meet a geneticist before going to meet Chris and Hazels son, Jason Markwell – A pharmaceutical intellectual property Lawyer – after this we will  head North to Blue Mountain to relax, review and reflect upon our experiences of the scholarship.




Day 14 – Continued Experience at St. Michael’s


This morning we awoke early so we could walk to St. Michael’s hospital for our third day of the bedside part of our programme. We started our day with our routine pilgrimage to Tim Horton’s for coffee and muffins, before heading to “St. Mike’s” to get to work.

Upon arrival at the hospital, we were greeted by Dr. Corrine Fischer – Director of Geriatric Psychiatry and in charge of the hospital’s memory clinic – who assigned us to one of her colleagues who we were lucky enough to shadow.  This was a unique and intriguing experience as mental health is a very complex issue and psychiatry is not a commonly advertised branch of healthcare.

After this we took a short walk to a separate research building, where we spent time with a team of medical scientists who are currently researching different forms of cardiopulmonary resuscitation to increase chances of survival in heart attack patients.

We were then taken to Dr. Marsden’s lab where a colleague of his  kindly gave us a tour of the lab facilities and explained their research into endothelial cells – the cells that compose the thin membrane on the inside of blood vessels. Research in this area is imperative to the advancement of medicine, as understanding these cells could lead to the treatment of diseases such as atherosclerosis.

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A brief lunch was followed by a visit to the subterranean part of St. Michael’s, an area containing MRI and X-Ray machines. We were guided through the use of the equipment by a radiologist and learned how to examine various cross-sectional images of the body.

To celebrate our success within the Baird of Bute scholarship, Chris and Dr. Markwell treated us to a formal dinner at the Royal Canadian Military Institute. Before our meal, we were presented with certificates to honour our taking part in the programme and as a memento from this unforgettable experience.

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  • Keir, Ross and Eilidh

Day 13 -Hospital and Research Experience

Our second day at St Michael’s Hospital provided a whirl-wind of information that we all greedily absorbed. Initially, we met with the dedicated, hard-working Injury Prevention Team, where we spent time learning about the clinic and their research regarding brain injuries. An aspect of the team’s project work is with rough contact sports such as rugby, and the concussions – often multiple – which can be sustained within a game. This was of particular interest to Keir and Ross as they both play for their local rugby clubs. To our surprise, we discovered that there is much that is still unknown regarding the field of brain injuries; thus, educating others on the dangers of head trauma – including minor injuries like concussion – is of great importance to the Injury Prevention Team.

Our second port of call, the  Trauma Simulation Centre, left us all enthralled by its ingenious design and function. The centre is the most advanced in Canada, with its mock operating rooms allowing healthcare workers to practise a wide range of procedures on mannequins, thus improving their technique and efficiency. Heart and breath sounds, dilating pupils, spurts of blood leaping from “wounds” and an array of monitoring equipment make the experience that much more realistic for the practising professionals.

Succeeding our visit to the Sim Centre, we amassed another cascade of information at the Eye Tissue BioBank Lab. It was a cross between relief and disappointment that we felt upon discovering that the eyeballs had been preserved in paraffin and were not, as our adventurous imaginations had led us to believe, grotesquely left to rot in fluid filled glass jars. One of the researchers informed us that eyes can actually provide an insight into the general health of a patient, and so, by studying a patient’s eye (using new, non-invasive imaging techniques) the presence or absence of certain cancers can be detected.

After lunch, we eagerly awaited the opportunity to test out a carefully designed experiment aiming to determine the effects of audio-visual distractions on driving. Despite being bombarded with true or false questions and also driving on the “wrong” side of the road, we all managed not to crash (bearing in mind this was a simulation and, much to our disappointment, we weren’t actually let loose on the roads of Toronto).

At the end of the day, we chose to return to the Simulation Centre in order to witness an experienced practitioner deal with a particularly difficult situation. This simulation was part of an investigation into the stress levels of trauma doctors. To measure stress, volunteer health workers gave samples of saliva before and after undertaking a devilishly hard simulation. Cortisol levels within the saliva indicate how well the doctors cope with stress within these situations.

As is common within the blog, we of course must describe the tantalising and heavenly array of foods we gift our tastebuds with – and tonight was no exception! We ventured deeper into the city and found what we now agree is the best restaurant we have visited, a Mexican Taco bar called La Carnita. The food was so exquisite that Keir and Ross had to order a second round of tacos, it seriously was that amazing! Mexico, we are coming for you.


  • Keir, Ross and Eilidh