The College of Medicine provides education to more than its’ MD students – students within the Canadian Centre for Health and Safety, and biomedical studies are all part of the work the CoM does to help bolster health-related education and research within the province.
And that includes the students in the School of Physical Therapy.
One of those, Neha Raj, has just finished her last year at the school – not including a six-week practicum she’ll be commencing shortly – and has shared her experiences moving halfway across the world and landing in Saskatoon to study physiotherapy.
What did you do your undergrad in, and why did you choose it?
I’m from India, I completed my undergrad in Occupational Therapy in Delhi University in 2011.
I actually had an intense rehab background since I was a little kid and had to go through intense rehabilitation for congenital scoliosis, and that’s what made me interested in the rehab sciences. So I got into occupational therapy and really loved it, worked for about six months in India and then actually realized that according to the culture in India, (where) we live in huge joint families, there always are people around you to help you. So people didn’t really want to get independent in their daily activities because they were always surrounded by family and had somebody to help them. So any home exercise protocol you’d give them, or anything you’d ask them to do they wouldn’t take it seriously.
So I discussed this with my mum and dad, and told them that I studied for five years and love what I’m doing, but probably India’s not the right place for me to practice.
How did you find yourself at the University of Saskatchewan?
I decided on moving to the States actually, and applied for my Master’s in occupational therapy there and got through, but the tuition was (too) high. Then I got this offer from Fanshawe College in London, ON for Autism and Behavioural Sciences, so I accepted their offer and moved to Canada instead. I spent two years in London, and then got accepted to the MPT program here.
My brother also lived in Lloydminster and wanted me to move to Saskatchewan too, so that’s how I ended up applying here.
What has your experience in the MPT program been like?
It was really good. If I compare it to back home in India, I feel that the PT program here is more hands-on and more practically-based. You get so much more practice and clinical placements, and I really liked that. I also liked how they integrated the practicum after each module so you can go practice what you’d learned, come back to school and study more, and use those advance skills further in your practicum. And if I compare this to back home, we went through school for five long years, and then had a six-month practicum afterwards – so I really liked this better.
Were there any particular parts of the curriculum you enjoyed?
I really liked is that there are a lot of aspects of this program, like Indigenous health, and talking about sexuality and how they help make us a holistic professional – make us focus on everything – as compared to just musculoskeletal professionals, or rehab professionals.
After moving from India I didn’t know much about the Canadian culture, and this program really helped with that. I had to go back and learn the history, learn about the aboriginal culture, learn more about the Canadian culture to help interact with people during placement, so that was really interesting. I really enjoyed it.
What’s next after your practicum?
I actually did get two job offers to practice in Saskatchewan – one in North Battleford, and one in PA, so I’m still in the process of deciding.
I am thinking of going back to India to practice. My husband is a physio as well, so it’s something we’ve talked about. But right now I just want to use my skills here in Saskatchewan and practice in Canada for a little bit.
What role do you ideally see physiotherapists playing in the healthcare system?
I think it’s definitely an important part of the healthcare sector, and I would really like it to be directed as more of a primary health care. I feel like, while medical sciences are incredibly important in giving somebody their life, but helping to improve the quality of their life is what physiotherapists can help with.
So just improving that quality of life means a lot.