‘Some of my fondest memories include the time spent with my classmates’

Fall Convocation Q&A with MSc RS graduate Joni Nedeljak

20 November 2020

What is the degree you're receiving this fall? What are your former degrees (and where are they from)?
I am receiving a Master Science in Rehabilitation Science. Before this, I received a kinesiology degree from the University of Alberta.

What drew you to the area of your study, and why are you passionate about it?
I am interested in exercise and how that can improve an individual's health and well-being. I did not know much about cancer and exercise before starting this degree and was interested in how movement can improve one's rehabilitation after/during cancer treatment.

What is the most remarkable thing you learned while you were a student?
The most remarkable thing I learned is how important exercise is for your body and mind at all time points in your life. Although I learned about the importance of exercise for athletes in my undergraduate degree, it was inspiring to see participants of all ages, from 18 to 90 years old, join an exercise program. Even when participants were on treatment, or recently completed treatment, they motivated themselves to exercise and often saw improvements in their conditions. As a student, I was able to create connections with these participants and ask them many questions about their journey, which was an invaluable part of my learning experience. 

What is one of your fondest memories during your time in the program? 
One of my fondest memories was going to Montreal in 2018 for a conference with my supervisor and other classmates. This was my first conference, and it was really exciting to present my research and watch my classmates present theirs. We also had so much fun in our rental and touring around Old Montreal.

What was/were your favourite work placement(s) and why?
I was fortunate enough to spend most of my time in the Cancer Rehabilitation Clinic during my degree. I loved working and learning there as we had a variety of cancer survivors join our research studies. Although my research was with head and neck cancer survivors, I could interact with participants who were experiencing a variety of cancer diagnoses. I was also lucky to have Dr. Margie McNeely as my supervisor. She is in charge of the Cancer Rehabilitation Clinic and is so knowledgeable in the area of oncology. I learned a lot from watching her with participants and was able to ask her many questions!

What are you doing now? What is next for you? What are your long-term goals and aspirations?
I am currently working in the Cancer Rehabilitation Clinic as a research assistant. I will be moving to Australia next year to pursue a degree in physiotherapy and I hope to be able to work with cancer patients in the future.

What piece of advice do you wish someone had given you when you started your graduate degree in Rehabilitation Medicine?
Get to know the other students in your program. Some of my fondest memories include the time spent with my classmates. You are all a part of a unique experience that is challenging but very rewarding, and having others to lean on and provide advice is beneficial to your graduate experience.