Josh AbrahamPresident
I am a fourth-year MD-PhD student at the University of Toronto. In my research, I integrate powerful yeast genetic systems with cutting-edge approaches using human cell lines to study the basic mechanisms that protect DNA from damage. My goals are to one day run a basic research program that will advance scientific knowledge to better understand and treat human disease, and to become a leading ambassador for Canadian biomedical research. In 2016, I was fortunate to work with an exceptional group of students who fulfilled various roles in the CITAC executive committee. Through my involvement with CITAC, I realized the vital role that CITAC fulfills within the Canadian clinician-scientist community and the many opportunities it offers. As president-elect, I look forward to working with our talented and hardworking CITAC executive members to realize these collective goals.
Elina CookPresident Elect
Elina Cook is a BSc and MSc alumnus of the University of Toronto, and is now a second-year MD-PhD student at Queen’s University. Her research deciphers the shared clinical and molecular landscape that precedes several comorbidities of aging, and draws from several disciplines of medicine and science. In 2016-17, she helped shape and run the 2017 CSCI-CITAC Annual Scientific Meeting as the AGM Chair. She believes in enhancing the clinician-scientist training experience.
Kirill ZaslavskyPast-President
Kirill obtained his HBSc from the University of Toronto specializing in neuroscience. During his undergraduate studies, he investigated the impact of deep brain stimulation on adult neurogenesis and learning with Dr. Scellig Stone and Dr. Paul Frankland. He entered University of Toronto’s MD/PhD program in 2010. During his time in the program, he has been involved in student government, and served as one of the editors-in-chief of the University of Toronto Medical Journal and the 7th edition of the Essentials of Clinical Examination. He is currently studying the neurobiology of autism using human stem cell-derived neurons from autistic children in the laboratory of James Ellis at the Hospital for Sick Children.
Kristen BartonVP Internal
Kristen Barton is a 7th year MD/PhD student at the University of Calgary, having previously completed the integrated BSc/MSc program in Kinesiology at the University of Calgary. Kristen completed her PhD in 2016 in Medical Sciences where she studied the use of a glucocorticoid on mitigating osteoarthritis development following knee injury. She is looking forward to working with Xiya Ma on continuing to enhance CITAC’s newsletters and website.
Xiya MaVP Internal Elect
Xiya Ma is a 5th year MD-MSc student at Université de Montréal. She works on a collaborative project between CHU Sainte-Justine and the Montreal Neurological Institute, focusing on peripheral nerve regeneration and biocompatible neurotechnological interfaces. As VP internal elect, Xiya aims to support the VP Internal in her various tasks, such as producing newsletters and facilitating communications with members. Xiya is looking forward to work with the rest of the team to take CITAC to another level.
Kirill ZaslavskyChair of Special Projects Committee
Kirill obtained his HBSc from the University of Toronto specializing in neuroscience. During his undergraduate studies, he investigated the impact of deep brain stimulation on adult neurogenesis and learning with Dr. Scellig Stone and Dr. Paul Frankland. He entered University of Toronto’s MD/PhD program in 2010. During his time in the program, he has been involved in student government, and served as one of the editors-in-chief of the University of Toronto Medical Journal and the 7th edition of the Essentials of Clinical Examination. He is currently studying the neurobiology of autism using human stem cell-derived neurons from autistic children in the laboratory of James Ellis at the Hospital for Sick Children.
Peter LiuVP External
I started the MD/PhD Program at the University of Toronto in 2015 after completing a Bachelor of Health Sciences Honours degree at the University of Calgary. During my undergraduate study, I have conducted research in Canadian and Chinese institutions and taught at a Nicaraguan university with a focus on oncology and molecular biology. I look forward to making the governance body effective, transparent, and interactive. Furthermore, I hope to organize meetings and communicate regularly with each member of the Executive Committee to help move us forward as a cohesive team.
Alan BlayneyVP External Elect
Alan Blayney is an Ottawa native and a McGill alum now in the third year of his MD/PhD at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY. As part of the External team, Alan is working on building bridges and tearing down walls between Canadian and US physician scientist trainees, by systematically analyzing the training pipelines in both countries and encouraging greater cross-border communication and collaboration. Outside of CITAC, he studies the role of the p53 tumour-suppressor protein in mitochondrially-mediated cell-death pathways related to heart attack and stroke, and sits on the board of a local free clinic.
Abdullah IshaquePolicy Chair
Abdullah Ishaque is a 3rd year MD/PhD student at the University of Alberta. His research focus is understanding the biological mechanisms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis through advanced neuroimaging techniques and developing non-invasive biomarkers for the disease. He was previously involved with the CFMS in their advocacy efforts for the clinician-scientist programs in Canada. He hopes to bring that experience into his position of Policy Chair with CITAC to further improve the trainee experience in the country.
Tina Binesh-MarvastiCFMS Liasion
I completed my undergraduate degree in Physiology and Biochemistry and my Masters training in Medical Sciences at the University of Toronto. As a second year MD/PhD student at the University of Toronto, I will be conducting my PhD research in the field of Cardiac Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Biology. Both as an undergraduate and a graduate student, I have worked with students and faculty members to improve mentorship programs at the University of Toronto. As the mentorship director for CITAC, I look forward to implementing programs for the clinician-scientists in training across Canada.
Ellen ZhouTreasurer
Ellen entered McGill’s MD-PhD program in 2013. Defended her thesis in 2017, her PhD research focuses on Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP), the most common cause of blindness in preterm newborns. Her research strives to understand the long-term sequelae of ROP and to develop novel therapeutics. Ellen served as the CITAC Finance Committee Chair in 2015 and VP-Internal in 2016 and 2017. As the Treasurer in 2018, she will maintain the financial balance of CITAC and partake in sponsorship recruitment.
Alexander LevitCIM Editorial Chair
I am currently in the 5th year of my MD/PhD program at Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Western University. In the department of Anatomy & Cell Biology, I research early behavioural and neurological changes in a transgenic rat model of Alzheimer disease and mixed dementia. I enjoy supporting my peers’ academic interests as current Co-Editor-in-Chief of the University of Western Ontario Medical Journal, and I look forward to motivating trainees nationwide to publish in Clinical and Investigative Medicine.
Nick TonialAGM Chair
Nicholas Tonial is a first year MD/PhD student at Western University in Dr. Brad Urquhart’s lab. He is currently completing 3 years of my PhD, followed by 4 years of medicine. His research focuses of chronic kidney disease (CKD) and the impact CKD has on drug disposition. Mainly, he focuses on non-renal alterations of drug exposure, specifically in the liver. He uses a combination of animal models and clinical studies to characterize the impact that CKD has on the liver’s ability to metabolize and excrete drugs from the body effectively, and how dialysis treatment impacts an individual’s exposure to therapies. As the AGM chair, he is hoping to shape the CSCI-CITAC Annual Scientific Meeting to continue to discuss modern and applicable issues and challenges that clinician trainees face and ways that we, as young trainees, can utilize the resources available to be successful in our future careers.
Heather Leduc-PessahMembership Chair
Heather Leduc-Pessah is an MD/PhD student from the University of Calgary who has been in the Joint training program in Calgary for 4 years. She has completed her PhD and is now in her first year of medical school. She has been involved in student executive throughout graduate school and has continued in Medical school as the Chair of our joint program (Leaders in Medicine) executive committee. Heather is working towards a career as a Clinician-Scientist and is eager to become more involved in CITAC through the position of Membership Chair.
Sachin KumarFinance Committee Chair
Sachin Kumaris currently a 3rd year MD/PhD student at the University of Toronto. His research focuses on investigating the role of metabolism and epigenomics in posterior fossa ependymoma, using whole genome CRISPR knockout screening. As Finance Chair for CITAC, he plans on continuing to build upon the strong sponsor partnerships CITAC has established, while securing new corporate sponsors to fund our initiatives. He also looks forward to working with the CITAC community nationally to collect data regarding finance for MD/PhD students, in order to publish a comprehensive report of the debt and funding climate for clinician scientist trainees in Canada.
Chris NewellSecretary
Chris Newell is a 6th year MD/PhD student at the University of Calgary, having completed his undergraduate degree at St. Francis Xavier University in 2012. Chris successfully defended his PhD in May of 2017 in Medical Sciences where he studied novel diagnostic and therapeutic techniques for the management of mitochondrial disease, a rare subset of metabolic disorders. Chris is currently completing his 1st year of clinical training and is planning on pursuing a career as a surgeon-scientist.
Sara MiraliMentorship Chair
Sara Mirali is a 3rd year MD/PhD student at the University of Toronto, having previously completed a Bachelor of Science Honours degree at McGill University. Her PhD work focuses on mitochondrial biology in Acute Myeloid Leukemia. As Mentorship Chair, Sara looks forward to implementing new and improving existing mentorship initiatives for clinician scientist trainees nationwide.
Ege BabadagliPR Chair
I hold a BSc in Electrical Engineering (with a Biomedical Engineering specialization) and a PhD in Engineering Management (Department of Mechanical Engineering), both earned at the University of Alberta. My undergraduate research experience with Dr. Hasan Uludag (Department of Chemical & Materials Engineering, University of Alberta) involved the investigation of various drug delivery systems in the context of tissue regeneration and anti-cancer therapies. Under the guidance of Dr. John Doucette (Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Alberta) and Dr. Ron Sloboda (Department of Oncology, University of Alberta and Cross Cancer Institute, Edmonton), my doctoral research focused on large-scale optimization models for automated treatment planning in radiation therapy. I’m currently completing my second year of medical school at Dalhousie University. My interests involve the application of electrical, biomedical and industrial engineering principles, methods and techniques for the development of practical solutions to healthcare and clinical problems.

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