Oct 28, 2016

Faces of U of T Medicine: Enoch Ng

MD/PhD Student Enoch Ng

Tabitha Chan

MD/PhD Student Enoch Ng
MD/PhD student Enoch Ng completed his five-year PhD in behavioural neuroscience. Currently in his third year of the MD Program, Ng shares what fascinates him about the human mind, and what his experience in the MD Program has been like so far with writer Tabitha Chan.

Year of study in MD Program: 3rd year (8th year in MD/PhD)

Current Position: LInC clerk at North York General Hospital 

What was the focus of your PhD?

In my PhD, I used genetically modified mice to explore how a gene called Neuronal Calcium Sensor-1 affects behaviours and brain states relevant to mental illnesses like schizophrenia. I found that mice lacking this gene are much less motivated to work for food rewards than regular mice. This decrease in motivation was also associated with less dopamine release in certain parts of the brain. These findings may be relevant to humans with schizophrenia, because while hallucinations and delusions may be what comes to mind for most people when they think of this illness, decreased motivation is what impairs functional outcome the most in people with schizophrenia.

I am interested in the human mind because I am curious about what makes people tick, how genetics and environmental factors such as early life relationships shape a person to become the way they are. I find neuroscience a very stimulating field of study because it needs to be so interdisciplinary. The human mind depends on the function of our brains and yet our mental experiences are at once so personal and subjective. A proper study of the mind demands the integration of many fields of study - including the sciences, social sciences, and humanities. 

Longitudinal Integrated Clerkship (LInC) allows students to experience clerkship in an innovative way.  LInC student follow patients through their experiences longitudinally and experience all core clerkship disciplines simultaneously. What has your experience with LInC been like? How has it helped with your career exploration? 

I have enjoyed my experience in LInC so far and am excited for how the year will continue to develop. The integrated nature of our clinics has been rewarding and insightful, as well as the ability to follow our patients longitudinally. For example, I saw one patient in the family doctor’s office, realized they had an urgent illness and sent them to the emergency department. Due to the nature of LInC, I was able to figure out the following day that they had been admitted to the hospital and visited them to follow-up. LInC also allows me to see families from multiple perspectives within one week and notice how patients navigate the system.

I have been able to use the white space in LInC to continue with research and writing during clerkship. I hope to use white space in future to explore areas of medicine we may not be typically exposed to in traditional block clerkship - including adolescent medicine and developmental pediatrics. The faculty, site leads, and administrators have been very helpful and supportive in setting up these experiences for me.

What is one of the most valuable lessons you have learned during your time at U of T?

Do not be afraid to ask for help and ask for help earlier rather than later. Success in research requires a lot of hard work as well as being in the right place at the right time with the right people - so one needs to be humble. 

What is an obstacle you've had to overcome?

As is the case with most graduate students, I went through a phase when none of my experiments were working for a long time and I had to reframe my research questions multiple times. I felt like an imposter at that time and wondered if I was the only one struggling so much with making headway with my experiments. It was with the strong support of family, friends, advisors and peers that I persevered through that difficult period.

What do you hope to accomplish after graduation?

I hope to enter a career where I care for patients, teach, as well as conduct research that helps advance our care for patients. 

What’s been your favourite part so far about the MD/PhD Program?

I enjoy the tight-knit nature of our program and the strong peer support and mentorship we provide each other. Students who are a bit further along in the program are eager to provide mentorship and helpful insights to students earlier on in their training. It’s also been wonderful to see the program slowly evolve and improve over the years in response to student input.

What's your passion?

I am still discerning my passion. However, I am very much interested in identifying and treating mental health concerns earlier on in development. I am also interested in how neuroscience can inform psychiatric treatment - so that psychotherapies, brain modulation therapies, and drug therapies can be combined and lead to synergies based on their complementary effects on brain function.

How do you maintain a healthy work/study life balance?

I have stayed committed to being involved in my local faith community and facilitating the youth programs there as well. I enjoy going on hikes with family, meeting up with friends from high school, and conversing with graduate students from other disciplines at Massey College. Staying connected with these communities helps keep me grounded and helps me remember that there is much more to life than medicine, research and the academy.