Abicumaran Uthamacumaran goes from high school directly to pre-med
MODERN-DAY DOOGIE HOWSER HONOURED AT MARYMOUNT
MONTREAL, OCTOBER 13, 2011 – Only four months removed from Marymount Academy, 17 year old savant Abicumaran (Abi) Uthamacumaran, who is now enrolled at McGill University in a program which supersedes Pre-Med and continues to double as a student and an internationally recognized scientist, was honoured by his alma-mater in N.D.G on October 13.
After graduating with his class in June, Uthamacumaran made the unprecedented leap from high school to university. He is enrolled in a program called MD/PhD, which allowed him to skip both CEGEP and Pre-Med. He advanced even further into pursuing a PhD in physiology, for which he is completing a Bachelor’s Degree in one semester and will be in Med School at the same time. He took the time to address students about his experience at Marymount Academy, as well as touch upon his innovative cancer research. Abi has been mentored by staff at the Goodman Cancer Research Centre of McGill. This includes Dr. Phil Gold, a world pioneer in cancer research with 50 years of clinical and teaching experience. He will be on hand at Marymount to congratulate Abi, a young man being described as a modern-day Doogie Howser, a teenage doctor working in a hospital portrayed on TV (1989-93) by actor Neil Patrick Harris.
“I am presently taking eight courses in my first semester and it is going very well,” Abi says. “I am on track to obtain my PhD and be practicing medicine within the next eight years”
Marymount guidance counsellor Elyssa Feldman presented Abi with a special Honourary Doctorate of Science and a McGill t-shirt with signatures from students and staff. Marymount teacher Mike Bunn called Abi “one of the most motivated students I have ever met.”
Last April Abi held a Cancer Prevention Symposium at Marymount. The successful evening session was open to the public and invited individuals to acquire the knowledge to prevent cancer development in their families, with the ultimate goal being the increase in awareness of various types of cancer formations and how to avoid its negative consequences in the future.
Throughout his tenure at Marymount, Abi was one of the school’s and the English Montreal School Board’s most celebrated students. From a very young age he knew that he wanted to work in health sciences. As he progressed in his education, he was able to narrow that desire down to working specifically with neuroscience; the final goal being to become a neurosurgeon. With this goal in mind, Abi embarked on a series of projects to both develop his skills and increase his understanding. While attending Coronation Elementary School in Côte des Neiges, Abi travelled to Germany and Japan, where he competed with in various Robotics Competitions. In 2009, his entry for the Bell Science Fair was a project that examined cellular dynamics in relation to breast cancer. Specifically, he was able to isolate a proteomic cluster that reduced the metastatic potential for tumour growth. This discovery was validated and recognized by the McGill Oncology Institution and his findings were published in the winter 2010 edition of the McGill Journal of Medicine. Being published in the medical community has increased Abi’s ability to work with doctors and specialists to further cancer research. His 2011 Science Fair entry, his last as a high school student, involved developing a drug solution that when injected into a tumor, inhibits the growth and spread of cancer in the breast, prostate and eye. Further research and testing is being conducted.
“Abi is extremely bright and curious about science,” emphasize Drs. Nicole Beauchemin and Anne-Laure Nouvion, teachers in the Faculty of Medicine at McGill. “He clearly has skipped a few years in his training and is certainly at the levels of some of our best graduate students already. He is excited about discovery and novelty and needs to know how everything works. His intense curiosity is very refreshing for a professor whereas most students now are more worried about the ‘career’aspect of their studies, Abi has a very positive outlook on life. He will clearly make a mark in the future."
Diane Wood, Abi’s principal when he attended Coronation Elementary School in Côte des Neiges, has never lost touch with him. “Abi is part of my powerpoints as I speak about engagement of students across the province,” said Ms. Wood, now working with the Ministry of Education, Leisure and Sports (MELS). “ All of our schools have Abi's in them, but some of our brightest end up dropping out due to boredom and not having their needs met. Our robotics, and a physical education teacher at Coronation covered the first year university anatomy course with him during recess and lunch. Abi was in Grade 4 at the time. Abi is truly an example of ‘It takes a village to raise a child. I am incredibly proud of my former staff and how each one of them helped him find his gift and his voice.”
Dr. Gold said he knew Abi was special when he first met him four years ago. “Having worked with him closely I knew that this was a student who could handle the jump directly to university,” he said. “ABi is a remarkable young man whom we will see great things from.”
Craig Olenik, the principal of Marymount, points to Abi’s success as prime example of far someone can go in the public education system.
As for Abi, he is very happy with his lot. “The experiences at Coronation and Marymount were invaluable and the environment I was in is what enabled me to pursue further studies into the sciences at the university level. I was given the opportunity thanks to Dr. Phil Gold's mentorship and now I am one step closer to where I do my cancer research projects- McGill. With the support of my parents and the community, this is easily manageable and enjoyable Even though, material wise the content/science I am learning at the university level is extraordinary, the ideas I've acquired to do my cancer research, the inspirations and aspirations all come from my high school journey. The key here is to have fun and enjoy life and embrace complexity at the same time.”
Marymount Academy will have its 2011 open house on Wednesday, October 19 (6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.) at 5100 Côte St. Luc Road. The entrance exam for their International Baccalaurete Middle Years Program will take place on Saturday, October 15.