5 Canadians Studying for Future in Multiple Sclerosis Research Awarded Scholarships

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by Patricia Silva, PhD |

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MS scholarships

The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada (MSSC) recently announced that five university students — either diagnosed with or affected by multiple sclerosis (MS) — were the 2016 recipients of scholarships worth up to $350,000 in tuition and other school-related expenses.

All five winners will receive the support throughout the four years of their undergraduate degrees, which are intended as preparation for a career in MS research.

The John Helou Scholarship was awarded to Jeannelle Bouvette, of Red Deer, Alberta, a relapsing/remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) patient, and to Lauren Smith, of Georgetown, Ontario, whose mother was diagnosed with MS before her birth. The John Helou Scholarship is supported by Pfizer Canada and Innovative Medicines Canada.

“As someone who has MS, trying to work while I complete my first year of university would be incredibly stressful, and stress is something that causes me to relapse,” Bouvette, who was diagnosed with MS in 2015, said in a press release. “This grant means I can go to school despite the financial difficulties that come with living with MS. Especially because my dorm room is more expensive …  because I need an accessible bathroom for when I experience vertigo. And it also motivates me to do more with MS research. I’ve been given the opportunity to work in this field and that motivates me to give back.”

Bouvette plans to work toward a Bachelor of Science degree with a specialty in immunology and infection at the University of Alberta, and Smith attends nursing school at Nipissing University. The two will receive a total of $25,000 each.

The Follow the Leader Scholarship was awarded to three students: Lucas Nystrom, of Kenora, Ontario, and Nicholas Addesso, of L’Original, Ontario, who both have had a parent with MS; and to Mathew Lee, of Toronto, Ontario, whose mother has neuromyelitis optica (NMO), an MS-affiliated condition. The Follow the Leader Scholarship is supported by the KRG Children’s Charitable Foundation.

“I lost my dad last October, and that was definitely hard. If a cure was found it would mean the world — and that no one else has to go through what we went through,” said Nystrom, whose stepfather died in October from MS-related complications. “Ever since I was 14, I’ve been working as much as I can. And after five years, I had enough money to pay for a single year of tuition. I didn’t want it to be a huge financial burden to my family. With this scholarship, now maybe I can apply for an internship over the summer and I can pursue clinical research to make a real difference, because I know what that means to young people growing up with this disease in their lives.”

The three will each receive $25,000 per year, for a total of $100,000 over four years.

Each winner was chosen by a selection committee based on their exemplary grades, involvement in extracurricular activities, and focus on MS research as a career path, as well as on evidence of communication and leadership skills.

“When a young person or a parent has MS, it brings uncertainty in a number of ways — financial uncertainty since a person with MS often can’t work or must work fewer hours, and emotional uncertainty because the uncertainty of a relapse or the decline of the health of a loved one,” said Sylvia Leonard, MSSC’s national vice president of talent, programs and services. “These young people know first-hand the need to put an end to this disease and support those who are affected.

“With the Follow the Leader and the John Helou scholarships, we want to ensure that qualified students who want to pursue a career in MS are relieved of financial constraints and inspired to become our MS leaders of the future,” Leonard said.

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