A Health student’s transition from working at home to in-person

Photo of Mahmoud smiling with his arms crossedMahmoud Noweir, a second-year Health Sciences student, shares his experience working remotely as a Research Assistant, and tells us all about how his very first in-person co-op is going!

Mahmoud worked from home as a Research Assistant at Waterloo for the Faculty of Arts for his first co-op. During this co-op term, his main task was to work on a First Nations reconciliation virtual reality project, where they created a picture and education tool through virtual reality. Some of his other responsibilities included data entry, researching different resources and helping to create the code directory for different components of the virtual reality experience. But for Mahmoud, working remotely had its challenges. 

“Honestly, sure it was a work experience, but sitting at home didn't allow for much environment interaction, and as a result, I didn't get all the interaction and learning I wanted, considering I had to work online," says Mahmoud. “But, it was a comfortable and flexible job with flexible tasks.”

For his current co-op, he is working as an Ophthalmology Clinical Assistant for iCare Surgical & Optical Centre located in Ottawa, Ontario. This term, Mahmoud is experiencing his very first co-op in an office! While working at the ophthalmology clinic, he has been very busy working on various projects.

“I’ve been involved in a lot of stuff. At the beginning, I was trained on imaging, so I can do it for patients, and also the different types of imaging instruments and technologies. For instance, if you ever went to an optometrist, you'll see the “hot air balloon” machine, that’s one of them. Other machines, such as “optos”, which takes a picture of the back of your eye, and many more. [...] I enjoy doing imaging because I also see new stuff from my perspective.”

“I didn’t think I would ever get exposed to the medical technician or nursing side, since I was always being the patient. Additionally, I've been involved in a lot of patient education. I’ve been creating a lot of booklets for the clinic and doing a lot of research so that physicians can give them to patients who have various eye diseases. [...] I’ve also been working on updating the website with authentic information and communicating with patients who come in or email us questions.”

“Another thing, I get to shadow the physicians. I go in with them, I write what they tell me, and take notes.” Being in such a dynamic work environment has made this co-op one of Mahmoud's favourites!

What is your technique for staying organized during your work terms? 

“Honestly, once I found this work term, I wanted to make major changes. I wanted to mature up a little bit more, get my life even more organized. So, I made the decision in my mind, I'm like “listen these four months is like rehab for me, I’m gonna try and prove myself.” One technique for me that has been working is dividing up my days, getting a big board and writing, “today I’m going to do this”, “this week I’m going to do this”, “I am just going to give myself a break here”, and so on. So just organizing my tasks.”

“Also, using reminders to remind me of my tasks pre-hand. Let’s say I have something due in three days, I’ll set a reminder two days before it so I even have extra time in case something happens. What also helped me stay organized was just the will. I want to change myself, I want to be a better person by the end of this, not just the experience, but I want to devote myself overall.”

“What also helped me stay organized was just some tips from the doctor, from my supervisor as well, he’s like create a list, so you know what you did. Then I just started using this technique throughout my day.”

Mahmoud standing beside the physician who owns the ophthalmology clinicMahmoud taking a photo with Dr. Adil Bhatti, the physician who owns the ophthalmology clinic and who is also a Waterloo alum!


Mahmoud posing for a picture against the wall with his arms crossed

How does your current co-op position differ from your last co-op experience?

“Working at an ophthalmology clinic really helped me get back into talking with people, getting to know people, and develop my communication skills, develop my interpersonal skills, all of that. Also, developing my professional judgment, for instance. It helped me develop tons of skills that I feel were a bit buried or underdeveloped, due to the fact that I've been just sitting at home. It helped me get back into the world, it helped me just be my true self again.”

“It helped me really find my goal, find my passion. I wanted to see what would happen. Let me see if I really want to be a physician or not. Let me go in and experience it. I found the answer, I want to do this. I went to go see a surgery and thought I want to do this one day, hopefully. It was such a rewarding experience, in terms of finding my path and developing skills on the way.”


Do you have any advice for students going into their first co-op?

“My advice for people who are just starting co-op, I know it's intimidating. I know it could be your first job ever. But this will never be like something you've ever had. Because, even if the title is the same, even if you're doing the same things, you'll never get the same experiences. That's why as you go to a new experience or a new opportunity, you should always absorb 100% of it and utilize it. You shouldn't treat it as another opportunity that is going to come and go as just get [your] co-op credits done. No, actually sit down and take in what you're doing. Do you want to spend four months and all you get is money? Or do you want to spend four months and get money and skills you can use later? And not just skills you can use later, but a good reference and making memories. I understand some people may struggle to make memories, friends, and stuff like that. Use this to break out of your comfort zone.”

What’s next for Mahmoud?

After this co-op, Mahmoud will be heading into his 3A study term and will be returning to school. In terms of what he wants to do for his next co-op, he says, “I think I would look for a new and different experience. Something that, if I go there, is going to be different then whatever other experiences that are on the table here, something I can actually benefit from. Then, maybe medicine afterward. [...] I think for me, I want to go into pediatrics.”

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