It was while caring for his younger brother that Sheetij Ricky Ghoshal realized he wanted to help take medical discovery from the bench to the bedside.
Ghoshal was a second-year student in biochemistry at McMaster with hopes of becoming a doctor when his brother, Gaurav, became critically ill. The then Grade 12 student was diagnosed with a rare, life-altering condition called subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE), caused by the measles virus.
Ghoshal took a leave of absence from McMaster so he could move home to Mississauga and help his close-knit family care for Gaurav.
"After spending a lot of time in hospitals with my brother, I realized that doctors and health-care professionals are limited in the ways they can help people by what's available to them, whether it is medication or medical devices, and they can only use what's approved and on the market," he said. "I started to realize that is where I would be better suited."
Ghoshal, 27, was born in India, raised in Dubai and moved to Canada and Mississauga as a teenager.
He chose McMaster because of its reputation for life and health sciences, and that it was close enough to see his family regularly.
Following his three-year absence to help care for his brother and support his family, Ghoshal returned to McMaster in 2014.
When he learned about the new program called Biomedical Discovery and Commercialization starting at the university in January 2015, he knew he had to apply.
Sheetij Ricky Ghoshal is graduating from the first cohort of the master's in Biomedical Discovery and Commercialization program at McMaster's convocation on Thursday, Nov. 16.
Today, he is one of first eight graduates of the master's portion of the program at McMaster University's fall convocation which will see 480 from the Faculty of Health Sciences among 1,550 graduates crossing the stage at Hamilton Place.
The innovative four-plus-one year bachelor-master multidisciplinary training program is concentrated in the biomedical sciences and equips graduates with strong discovery research skills, business acumen and an experiential connection to the health sciences sector.
"I wanted to be in a role where I was helping commercialize new research to bring about new products that can help doctors help patients," said Ghoshal. "As luck would have it, I heard about this new program, applied for it and fortunately, got in. Since then, I've loved this program."
His class of eight is a familiar group, as seven of the students also completed a bachelor degree in the program.
All eight have landed jobs in their field of study. Five of the students transitioned into full-time employment at the company where they did their internship.
"I am thrilled that our first cohort of master's graduates have all secured employment in their field of study, which is a direct testament of the valuable skills and knowledge they acquired throughout the program," said Eric Brown, program director and a professor of the Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences. "It is an exciting time for the program and I look forward to the journey ahead and seeing our students become leaders in their chosen field."
After serving as an intern at Glysantis, a subsidiary of Mirexus Biotechnologies Inc. in Guelph, Ghoshal was hired this fall as a senior business development associate at the company. Among his responsibilities are conducting market research to understand unmet needs, managing external scientific collaborations and identifying potential investors.
"Ricky's role is an interface between our scientific research and the marketplace," said Phil Whiting, CEO of Mirexus Biotechnologies, who noted Ghoshal is the first of what he expected will be many interns from the program.
"Ricky has all the right skills for his role, with a deep knowledge of the science of biotechnology, a strong understanding of business, and enthusiasm. If you made a list of everything you would want in an employee, he embodies it all."
As he reflected on his time at McMaster, Ghoshal said a key piece of wisdom he has for others is to find a mentor and grow that relationship.
He noted the significant impact of his mentor, Karen Mossman, who is now associate vice-president of research at McMaster.
"From the very first interview to get into the program, we had a strong connection," he said. "Karen has a reputation for being an incredible supervisor, which she is despite her busy schedule. Even through my master's, she helped guide me and assisted me in making the right decisions, and I expect we will continue to connect regularly moving forward."
Mossman said she has been blessed to mentor many outstanding students over the years. She added she is proud of Ghoshal.
"When I first met Ricky during interviews for the inaugural cohort of the program, I was struck by the singular focus of his future career aspirations," said Mossman.
"Ricky never wavered from this focus, and showed passion, determination and tenacity during his undergraduate and graduate studies. I believe that these are the qualities that will enable him to be successful and will carry him through his career."
Ghoshal said convocation will be an emotional day. He will be thinking of his journey and of those who helped him get to this moment, including his brother, Gaurav, who is currently stable, but has severe cognitive deficits and is blind from his illness.
"I love McMaster, and it will be bittersweet to move on as a McMaster student after all these years, but it is the time in my life when I need to move on and make things happen," he said. "Being there with my parents and my peers will be a great feeling."