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Name Ava Pourtousi
Nationality Canada
Languages English, French, Farsi
Interests Healthcare, biochemistry, cell biology, scientific research
Groups Western University MSc Interdisciplinary Medical Sciences
Western University BMS Honours Specialization in Biochemistry and Cell Biology
Registered 2024
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Ava Pourtousi's journey began in Richmond Hill, Ontario. Graduating from secondary school in 2019 with her OSSD and French immersion credentials, she garnered numerous awards and certificates for her excellence in science, business, and philosophy. Her passion for healthcare and science burgeoned from personal encounters with the system's shortcomings and a desire to understand mechanics of the human body. Embarking on her undergraduate journey, Ava pursued a degree in medical sciences, with an honours specialization in biochemistry and cell biology at Western University. Her academic pursuits honed her scientific skills, delving deep into molecular pathways underpinning physiology, anatomy, and research methodologies. Notably, her honours thesis project, conducted within the department of clinical biochemistry, investigated the utility of exome sequencing to better understand the genetic basis of chronic kidney disease.Beyond her coursework, Ava engaged in research initiatives with institutions like SickKids Hospital and LHSC, co-authoring publications and contributing to the scholarship of teaching and learning under Dr. Eugene Wong's mentorship. Complementing her academic endeavors, she actively promoted healthcare initiatives through leadership roles in the university's Student Council and co-created a podcast exploring nutritional and environmental influences on disease progression.

After earning her Bachelor's degree with distinction, Ava wanted to extend her scientific knowledge and gain a more comprehensive understanding of healthcare systems and research methodologies. Pursuing a Master's Degree in Interdisciplinary Medical Sciences, she immersed herself in such courses, like healthcare policy, research ethics, diversity, equity, and inclusion in healthcare, and commercialization. She also completed basic science, clinical science, and community-engaged rotations in endocrinology and metabolism, as well as a year-long capstone project. This project, a systematic review addressing gaps in care management for patients with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome in Canada, now involves collaboration with experts across disciplines, with the aim of publishing findings and laying the groundwork for a national health charity. Looking ahead, Ava aspires to continue her journey of multifaceted education in scientific research and healthcare. Her vision encompasses creating culturally-competent, evidence-based, innovative patient care approaches and impactful changes to healthcare access and delivery, reflecting her commitment to improving health outcomes for all patients.

Research Projects[edit | edit source]

Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (2020-2022): The culture of undergraduate STEM education[edit | edit source]

After engaging in several enlightening discussions with her first-year physics professor, Dr. Eugene Wong, Ava delved into research within the scholarship of teaching and learning. Her aim was to explore the intricacies of undergraduate STEM education culture, which encapsulates the norms and values shaping the educational landscape and ultimately influencing the development of future professionals within a specific discipline. Inspired by a similar initiative within the medical education program at Western University, which juxtaposed educational cultures across domains such as music and sports, Ava embarked on this project to uncover parallels and distinctions. Throughout her research journey, Ava actively engaged with faculty from medical schools and undergraduate programs, offering insights and perspectives learned from her investigations. Additionally, she participated as a panelist for undergraduate students, fostering dialogue and sharing her findings to enhance the educational experience for her peers. This immersive experience not only enriched Ava's own learning journey but also equipped her with invaluable skills to support and empower her classmates in maximizing their education.

The Hospital for Sick Children (2021-2022): Risk and protective factors associated with brachial plexus birth injuries[edit | edit source]

Ava served as a research volunteer in the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, working under the guidance of Dr. Emily Ho. In this co-authorship, Ava's responsibilities included conducting a comprehensive literature review, collecting data, and editing manuscripts for a scoping review focused on exploring the risk and protective factors associated with brachial plexus birth injuries. Throughout this experience, she not only deepened her understanding of the physiological aspects of congenital limb differences but also gained insight into the intricate interplay between mental health factors and patient outcomes. Moreover, her involvement provided valuable lessons in professional scientific collaboration and the process of crafting a scoping review.

You can access the article here:

London Health Sciences Centre and Robarts Research Institute (2022-2023): Monogenic Causation of Pediatric Nephrolithiasis[edit | edit source]

Ava volunteered alongside her undergraduate thesis supervisor, Dr. Dervla Connaughton, within the Department of Genetics and Nephrology at London Health Sciences Centre and Robarts Research Institute. Together, the lab collaborated on a review paper delving into the monogenic causation of pediatric nephrolithiasis. In this capacity, Ava conducted extensive literature searches and reviews, contributed to the development of intellectual content and figures, and editing/final approval processes of the manuscript. This project provided Ava with insights into genetic contributions to nephrolithiasis and offered a firsthand understanding of the steps involved in crafting a systematic review.

You can access the article here:,for%20approximately%2030%25%20of%20cases.

Honours Thesis Project (2022-2023): The utility of exome sequencing to better understand the genetic basis of chronic kidney disease[edit | edit source]

Honours Thesis Project.pdf

For her undergraduate thesis project, Ava explored the potential of exome sequencing in elucidating the genetic causes of chronic kidney disease. Analyzing exome data from 94 Canadian families suspected of harboring a genetic component to their condition, but remaining undiagnosed through conventional genetic testing methods, Ava's research yielded compelling results. Her findings revealed a remarkable 20% increase in the rate of genetic diagnoses when employing exome sequencing, along with clinical impacts in all diagnosed families, demonstrating its significance in routine clinical practice within Canada. Notably, Ava's study marked a new effort in the Canadian context, as such investigations had not been previously conducted in the country. In conjunction with her thesis project, Ava also undertook observerships at the genetic kidney disease clinic, working closely with her supervisor to gain firsthand insight into patient recruitment, processing, and genetic counseling procedures. These experiences not only improved Ava's proficiency in biochemistry but also deepened her understanding of the transformative impact of translating bench research into bedside applications. Moreover, they provided Ava with invaluable lessons in counseling patients and their families on proactive measures in personalized medicine approaches facilitated by genetic insights.

You can read this project here:

Graduate Basic Science Rotation with Dr. Van Lu (2023): Optimizing and standardizing calcium imaging and organoid workshop creation[edit | edit source]

During her master's degree, Ava undertook a basic sciences rotation with Dr. Van Lu and her lab, which specializes in studying how the gastrointestinal (GI) tract responds to nutrients and metabolites from gut bacteria using organoid models. In addition to shadowing, Ava's team worked on optimizing and standardizing a calcium imaging template, streamlining the review process for calcium imaging data to better understand cellular reactions to external stimuli.

Graduate Clinical Science Rotation with Dr. Tisha Joy (2024): Researching and creating EDID initiatives for the Department of Medicine at Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry[edit | edit source]

During her master's degree, Ava participated in a clinical science rotation under the guidance of Dr. Tisha Joy, an endocrinologist, diabetes specialist, and contributor to the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) department at the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry. Throughout this rotation, Ava and her team engaged in numerous shadowing sessions alongside multidisciplinary specialists caring for patients with endocrinological disorders. These sessions provided invaluable insights into the comprehensive care required for patients and highlighted existing gaps in care provision. Subsequently, they conducted a thorough review of hospitals and health centers across Canada, evaluating how these institutions address the EDI needs of patients through their online platforms. Armed with this knowledge, they developed resources tailored for patients, physicians, and learners within the Department of Medicine at Schulich, aimed at improving accessibility and inclusivity in healthcare delivery.

Graduate Community-Engaged Rotation with Crohn's and Colitis Canada (2023-2024): Researching and creating educational content for patients with IBD[edit | edit source]

During her community-engaged learning rotation, Ava collaborated with Crohn's and Colitis Canada, a national health charity dedicated to enhancing patient access to knowledge and healthcare for individuals living with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). In this capacity, Ava conducted thorough qualitative coding processes to gather insights into the gaps in care experienced by IBD patients. Additionally, she contributed to researching and creating educational content tailored to the needs of individuals affected by IBD, furthering the organization's mission of supporting and empowering patients through accessible information and resources.

Graduate Capstone Project (2023-2024): Gaps in knowledge in the care management for patients with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome in Canada[edit | edit source]

For her year-long capstone project in her master's degree, Ava and her team embarked on writing a systematic review focused on assessing and illuminating current gaps in the management of care for patients with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in Canada. This groundbreaking effort represents the first comprehensive attempt to compile literature addressing this issue specifically within the Canadian context. Through their review, Ava and her colleagues identified significant areas lacking adequate care provision for PCOS patients and formulated corresponding recommendations to address these deficiencies. Subsequently, they have been collaborating with professionals across various disciplines involved in PCOS patient care and research to develop a publication highlighting these identified gaps. Building upon their recommendations, Ava's team is also in the process of devising a framework for establishing a national health charity dedicated to PCOS. Inspired by their prior experience with Crohn's and Colitis Canada, they recognize the pivotal impact such charities can have in advocating for and supporting individuals affected by PCOS, particularly considering the scarcity of similar networks and organizations both nationally and internationally.

Healthcare Initiatives[edit | edit source]

HealthRedefined Podcast Co-Creator (2021-Present)[edit | edit source]

Witnessing the pervasive sense of helplessness amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Ava was motivated to launch a podcast aimed at empowering individuals to take control of their health. Drawing on her background in scientific research, she delved into literature to explore how nutritional and environmental habits intersect with genetics to influence the onset and progression of disease. Through her podcast, Ava sought to convey to listeners that they possess considerable agency over their health outcomes. Her goal was to bridge the gap between scientific knowledge and public understanding, presenting complex concepts in a digestible format accessible to all, with the ultimate aim of providing actionable insights to enhance well-being.

USC Health Promotions (2021-2022)[edit | edit source]

As a member of the health promotions portfolio within the university's student council team, Ava played a pivotal role in researching, planning, and implementing events and initiatives geared toward fostering wellness among the student body. These endeavors encompassed various dimensions of well-being, including physical, mental, sexual, financial, academic, and more. One notable project involved organizing a workshop that facilitated dialogue among scientists, students, and experts to delve into the health implications of marijuana use. Through this platform, Ava and her team aimed to educate students about the potential health outcomes associated with marijuana consumption, providing them with valuable insights to make informed decisions regarding their health and well-being.

Hospital and Centre Volunteer and Observer (2018-Present)[edit | edit source]

Since high school, Ava has dedicated her time as a volunteer and observer in numerous hospital and health center settings, where she has assisted physicians and healthcare providers in delivering essential healthcare services to patients. Through these experiences, Ava has gained invaluable insights into the intricacies of providing adequate, culturally competent, and accessible healthcare to individuals from diverse backgrounds. Moreover, her role has equipped her with the ability to identify and critique existing gaps in healthcare processes, enabling her to contribute meaningfully to discussions surrounding healthcare reform and improvement initiatives.

Education[edit | edit source]

Western University: Master's in Interdisciplinary Medical Sciences (2023-2024)[edit | edit source]


Western University: Master's in Medical Sciences with Honours Specialization in Biochemistry and Cell Biology (2019-2023)[edit | edit source]

GPA: 3.9

Langstaff Secondary School: OSSD with French Immersion (2015-2019)[edit | edit source]

GPA: 93%

Harvard University Pre-College Program: Why haven't we cured cancer yet? Insights from evolution, ecology, and biology (2018)[edit | edit source]

Grade: PASS

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