November 15 is National Philanthropy Day, a special day that recognizes the impact that charitable giving and volunteerism have on our communities and the amazing things that can happen when we work together for the greater good.

At Waterloo, the generosity of our donors reaches far beyond the individuals they help through scholarships and awards. Meet three talented students who are transforming donor support into ideas that could help us all lead healthier lives.

Mackenzie: Combining engineering and medicine to improve health care

Growing up in small-town Newfoundland, Mackenzie Collins (BASc ’21) sometimes felt that she didn’t fit in. But when she was awarded a prestigious Schulich Leader Scholarship, everything changed.

“Receiving the scholarship gave me confidence and taught me that my dreams had value in the world. This scholarship gave me the courage I needed to leave my hometown and thrive at the University of Waterloo, where I was surrounded by researchers, classmates and professors who inspired me daily to be the best version of myself.”

Mackenzie stands on a balcony overlooking the red roofs of Prague
Mackenzie's scholarship allowed her to travel to Europe (here she is in Prague) and Peru, where she volunteered in a health clinic and gained insight into the challenges of underfunded healthcare systems.

“At Waterloo, I realized I have a keen interest in combining the fields of engineering and medicine, both of which come with unique toolboxes and perspectives that I think I can combine to make positive change in healthcare.”

Now a Schulich Graduate, Mackenzie is beginning a joint MD and PhD program in collaborative biomedical engineering at Queens University. Her goal is to work as a physician scientist, seeing patients but also operating her own research lab.

I hope one day to design devices that will have a meaningful impact on patients around the world.

MACKENZIE COLLINS, Schulich Leader Scholarship recipient

“I am forever grateful for the opportunities I have received, and continue to receive, thanks to my scholarship program.”

Amanda: Protecting vulnerable patients through better communication

A desire to learn how science could be applied in the real world led Amanda Nova (BSc ’18, MSc ’20) to Waterloo’s Health Studies program. Although she considered going on to medical school, a third-year course in geriatric medicine — coupled with volunteer experiences in several local health organizations — led her to approach health care from a different angle.

“Seeing the health system up close and connecting with patients inspired me to stay at Waterloo and do research. I wanted to use the knowledge I gained to make real change and Waterloo was the best place to do that.”

Amanda Nova
With support provided through the J. Alan George Student Leadership Award, Amanda Nova hopes to create a tool to improve communication in health care.

Amanda is now enrolled in a double PhD program offered jointly by Waterloo and KU Leuven in Belgium. She recently received the J. Alan George Student Leadership Award, which will allow her to focus on her studies, volunteering, and research.

“Communication between health care providers is inadequate in Canada,” she says. “This wastes money in the health care system, slows down health care providers, and leaves vulnerable individuals at risk for health decline.”

I wanted to use the knowledge I gained to make real change and Waterloo was the best place to do that.

AMANDA NOVA, J. Alan George Student Leadership Award recipient

Through her research, Amanda hopes to create a tool to measure the quality of communication between home care and primary care in real-time — and help guide the decisions of policymakers, health care leaders and future researchers.

“I truly believe that this work matters, and I know that receiving the J. Alan George Student Leadership Award has pushed me that much further towards a successful PhD.”

Edwin: Finding health care inspiration across disciplines

Edwin YangWhile Mackenzie and Amanda are well into their academic careers, Edwin Yang is just beginning his. But the second-year computer science student has no shortage of ideas for life-changing innovation.

Edwin received the Traquair Family Award in Mathematics, created by alumni Brian and Janis Traquair. Now, thanks to this financial support, he can devote more hours to these ideas, including one inspired by his grandmother’s hospital stay.

“Patients in intensive care experience muscle atrophy and pressure sores which can be very painful. I’m wondering if there is a way to use electrical stimulation of the muscles in patients that isn’t painful but mimics the movement of stretching and compressing muscles to help reduce those effects.”

I look forward to gaining the knowledge required to invent something that will help those around the world.

EDWIN YANG, Traquair Family Award in Mathematics recipient

Although some might say that developing such technology falls outside his specific area of study, Edwin is fascinated by the thought of combining “knowledge from all fields, including science, engineering, arts and mathematics to create intricate products.”

“Many of these ideas require much more knowledge and experience than I have now, and I look forward to gaining the knowledge required to invent something that will help those around the world. I can’t express how much the Traquair family’s gift has impacted my life.”