Twin sisters from Edmonton – both with a passion for medicine – have earned the Chancellor’s Medal.
Rozlyn Boutin, 21, and her sister Savanna are graduating with Bachelor of Science honours degrees with high distinction, majoring in biology – Rozlyn with a concentration in health science and Savanna with a concentration in physiology.
Both arrived on campus in the fall of 2010 to try out for the women’s soccer team while still in high school. They were recruited to the team and began their studies the following September. Rozlyn considers her soccer experience at Carleton one of the highlights of her time at the university. She travelled to England for training camp and made it to the Final Four with the team in her third year. When Savanna’s position on the soccer team fell through, she joined the cross-country team, which allowed her to travel to Boston, Montreal and New York State and “meet other amazing students.”
The Boutin sisters were motivated to move away from their home town and to become independent and Ottawa seemed a good fit.
Rozlyn was looking for a “well-rounded undergraduate experience that would provide me with a solid background to apply to and do well in medical or graduate school.”
With an ultimate goal to become a clinician-scientist, Rozlyn began her undergraduate studies in neuroscience, but switched into biology and health sciences for the flexibility the program offers.
“I’m very interested in medicine and the human body, as well as in evolution. During my introduction to biology course, I was introduced to the discipline of Darwinian evolutionary medicine and I became very interested in how I could learn more about it.”
For her honours thesis, Rozlyn conducted an ambitious research project under ecological parasitologist Mark Forbes and neuroscientist Shawn Hayley called The Peanut Project.
“The project will serve as a critical stepping stone towards reaching my ultimate career goals,” says Rozlyn. “It opened up a lot of opportunities for me, allowed me to get involved in crowdfunding, to give a talk at one of Carleton’s Science cafes, and it played an important part in securing me a position in the medical PhD program at the University of British Columbia with a renowned professor.”
Carleton’s strong neuroscience program similarly appealed to Savanna. But she, too, switched out of neuroscience into the honours biology program, with a goal to go into medicine.
Savanna was particularly impressed with Sue Bertram’s biology lab: “Sue and the graduate students in the lab were extremely supportive and Sue offered me some amazing opportunities to travel internationally and to hone my research skills.”
Both Boutins felt at home in Ottawa, attracted to the green spaces, the trail systems, the canal and the healthy lifestyle valued by Ottawans.
This summer, the sisters are travelling together and preparing for continuing studies in the fall. Rozlyn, who plans to eventually work for Doctors Without Borders, starts her microbiology and immunology studies at UBC in August while Savanna, who hopes to become an emergency room doctor, attends medical school at the University of Alberta.
Savanna admits her and her sister have always been competitive in sports and academics. “However,” she adds, “I think it will be exciting to study at different universities in the coming fall.”
Both honoured to receive the Chancellor’s Medal, Rozlyn says, “I am humbled to think of the generosity and kindness of everyone who has helped to get me to where I am today. I see this medal as a symbol that hard work really does pay off, and as a reminder that if you really set your mind to it, anything is possible.
“The medal will serve as a token of the experiences I have had and the memories I have made during my time at Carleton, which has shaped who I am as a person today and will be with me forever.”