Co-op Feature: Om Bhatt

In this edition of The Frequency’s co-op feature, we focus on another unique co-op opportunity. Om Bhatt is currently in his second year in the iBioMed program, pursuing a degree in Health, Engineering Science and Entrepreneurship. In this article he shares with us some experiences he has had during his co-op, how it has changed his approach to learning, and some tips he has for other students planning to enter the workforce.

How did you get this opportunity/position?

Networking, networking, and more networking! I met the CEO of Profound Medical in the unlikeliest of places: my sister’s dance class. We initially struck up a conversation to pass the time and it flowed naturally. We discussed some of my academic endeavours and I began to explain to him a bit about the innovative projects I worked on in the iBioMed program. Following our discussion, he gave me his business card and told me to keep in touch. I followed up with him via email and to my delight, he set me up with an interview! During this interview, we discussed some of my prior experiences, assisting in clinical research with Dr. Michelle Ghert, Professor in the Division of Orthopaedic Surgery at McMaster University and my collaborative projects in the iBioMed program. The moral of the story is that you never know when or where you will run into someone that can help you in your career.

What kind of projects does the company you are working for specialize in?

The company is called Profound Medical Inc. Profound Medical is an innovative health technology company that develops customizable, incision-free therapies, combining real-time magnetic resonance imaging, thermal ultrasound and closed-loop temperature feedback control for the radiation-free ablation of diseased tissue. We aim to improve lives for patients all over the world, treating conditions such as intermediate stage prostate cancer, localized radio-recurrent prostate cancer, retention and hematuria palliation in locally advanced prostate cancer, and the transition zone in large volume benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) with our TULSA-PRO® technology. We are also commercializing Sonalleve®, an innovative therapeutic platform that is CE marked (approved in Europe) for the treatment of uterine fibroids and palliative pain treatment of bone metastases. We are also exploring further clinical applications of Sonalleve®, such as non-invasive ablation of abdominal cancers and hyperthermia for cancer therapy.

What type of work are you doing and what have you learned from this experience?

I am currently working as a Clinical Research Intern. This role allows me to improve and apply my divergent thinking skills towards solving real-world problems. One project I’m working on is the automation of timing collection on behalf of the hospitals where our technologies are implemented, in order for our company’s client-side support team to help the hospitals improve their efficiency. For example, if our clinical team notices that a particular hospital is taking a large amount of time to set up the instrumentation prior to patient treatment, we would then be able to advise the hospital of how to improve this workflow situation, to improve the number of patients they can treat daily. Here, I’m working with a team implementing R scripts along with our proprietary software to collect and analyze this information automatically, rather than recording it by hand. Although I didn’t have any prior experience in R, I was able to learn it to the level required using online certification courses and tutorials; it's important to be adaptable! I’m also leading a large project where I am responsible for programming an electronic data capture database using a third-party software to electronically record information that will be collected for an upcoming clinical trial our company is planning. Although we don’t predict that there will be much programming required aside from basic JavaScript, the project will require an in-depth analysis of trial protocols in order to make the database as structurally sound as possible. I hope that I am able to further strengthen my skills in areas such as critical thinking, data science and project management, and apply them to my future endeavours!

How do you recommend others reach out for co-op/research opportunities?

As I mentioned before, networking is one of the most important things when it comes to looking for opportunities. While you may not get as lucky as I did, take full advantage of various networking opportunities, such as the events hosted by the ECCS department at McMaster University. Having experience in both academic and industry research, I believe what helped me stand out is doing my due diligence in terms of learning about the research conducted by the researcher or innovation at the company respectively. When reaching out for either co-op or research opportunities, I’d highly advise anyone to educate themselves in the areas in which they’re interested; something that I think not many people do. This will show the potential employer that you really do care about what they’re doing, and give you an edge over other applicants. Another piece of advice is to apply broadly; I must have emailed over 15 professors and applied to tens of jobs before I received my positions. It’s very easy to get discouraged when you see rejection after rejection rolling in, but it’s important to keep your chin up and to keep working to improve yourself, both academically and in the extra-curricular department to strengthen your portfolio.

Do you have any final thoughts?

I’m thrilled that I’m able to spend my summer at Profound Medical working on innovative projects that will help improve the lives of patients suffering from various medical conditions. I hope I can continue to grow and contribute to society in the future, and I hope that my story and learnings are able to help others in their search for jobs of their own.

Written by: Taylan Dalkan