Fresh Faces - Meet Bradley Dreher and Nicole Ngo

Hands-on training, technical skills development and the promise of making a difference in the lives of patients are key draws for incoming students to UAlberta’s Radiation Therapy and Medical Laboratory Science programs

By ROSS NEITZ - 09 September 2020

Students in the programs of Radiation Therapy and Medical Laboratory Science learn the practical and professional skills they need for meaningful and dynamic health sciences careers through a combination of classroom and laboratory experiences, simulated scenarios and real clinical exposure.

Bradley Dreher - Radiation Therapy, Class of 2023

Why did you choose the University of Alberta?

There are only two schools in Canada that offer Radiation Therapy programs, the U of A and University of Toronto. I've been at the U of A for four years and I absolutely love it. I love the campus, I love the environment and I love all of the buildings. I also live at home with my parents, so staying in Edmonton seemed like the smartest thing to do.

What drew you to the field of radiation therapy?

It started with seeing multiple family members and friends go through cancer treatment and seeing the difference that an oncology cancer treatment team made in their lives. I also found out this program combines my fascination with the physical sciences and my interest in oncology. There's a patient-care component that I’m looking forward to as well. You get to build meaningful relationships with patients in radiation therapy and that really intrigued me.

Another area that interested me is technology. The Radiation Therapy program has a training suite in the basement of the Cross Cancer Institute and it’s one of the only programs in the world that has a training suite like it. When I saw that firsthand, I got so excited seeing how many of my different areas of interest were combined with this program.

Do you have any worries going into this year?

I honestly don't have many worries. The biggest thing would just be adjusting to the full online format and maintaining that discipline and schedule at home. I've always been at school at seven in the morning studying and that's been part of my routine. So just transferring that to being at home every day in my office this semester is the biggest thing that worries me. I'm just beyond excited though, to finally be in this program and get to experience and grow into the best radiation therapist that I can be.

What are you most looking forward to in the program?

I am most looking forward to the cohort size. In my incoming cohort, there are only eight students. I feel like this will provide a unique opportunity to work alongside my fellow students and colleagues, and that it will create a better environment to learn in because we're all working together instead of against each other. 

There will be a very interesting dynamic when we get to know each other and we get to work alongside each other. In radiation therapy, we work as an interdisciplinary health team. So building those personal communication skills with everyone will be something that I'm looking forward to and then seeing how it transfers to the clinical environment.

Another thing that interests me in the Radiation Therapy program is the clinical experience you get. Because it is such a small program, I think there are more hands-on experiences available, which will help my fellow students and me better understand and cement the information in our brains so we can become the best functional radiation therapists we need to be. 

My goal in radiation therapy is to not only serve as a health-care practitioner, but to work towards eliminating inequities in our health-care system and reduce barriers. I want to work towards making our health-care system more inclusive and I want to be an advocate for my future patients.

Nicole Ngo - Medical Laboratory Sciences (MLS), Class of 2024

Why did you choose the U of A?

I've always known the U of A to be a top teaching and research institution with high rankings. To me, reputation is important. I know the name of the institution on my degree will carry weight in the real world. Also the campus energy is really great. I already have a degree in molecular genetics at the U of A, so I’ve already had some experience with campus activities and the energy from all of the students. It's a really vibrant and supportive learning environment with lots of resources, volunteer opportunities and community involvement available to us students. 

What drew you to MLS? 

I've been giving this program a lot of thought over the past few years and it's always been a dream of mine to work in the lab. I want to be an integral part of the health-care team but focused on the techniques rather than direct interaction with patients. The work done by medical laboratory technologists is really important to help physicians diagnose, treat and prevent disease. I know it has a very important role in the health-care world and it just aligned well with my personal and professional goals.

What drives you?

What motivates me is not the end goal of obtaining a degree. Of course that's important, but to me it's about challenging myself, learning about my strong points, my weaknesses and just growing as a person. For me, it's about the journey of learning.

Are you concerned about how the pandemic might impact your experience? 

Somewhat. I need to stay organized and motivated while studying from home and while not being able to access campus after class or to go to a local coffee shop with friends. I have implemented a few things to help keep me on track in staying organized. I think time management is the most essential quality to have right now because I know that it could be easy to get sidetracked and not stay on top of things without it.

Do you have any in-person labs, or is everything online?

All of the labs are in-person so I still get to see all of my classmates, which is great to really put a face to a name. 

What are you most looking forward to in the program?

Definitely the small class sizes. It gives us the opportunity to get to know our fellow classmates and instructors better. Also, being able to translate our theoretical knowledge into hands-on learning, which is very relevant because those are the skills that we're going to need in the real world. That's something that's very important to me. I'm already getting to experience that. In my first week we already performed phlebotomy (the act of drawing blood from a vein) on our partners in class. I know all of that practical application-based learning is going to be vital to my success in the future.