Malaspina takes student from Adult Basic Education to medical school

August 3, 2007 - 7:40am

Jason Devlin knows all about overcoming life's challenges.

Several years ago, he was addicted to drugs and living on the streets of Vancouver. Today, he's a confident and successful graduate of Malaspina University-College now destined for medical school.

“I’m excited and glad things have worked out for me,” said Devlin, who's been courted by numerous graduate and medical schools across the country with scholarships and entrance awards. “A career in medicine has been my goal for quite some time.”

Devlin earned a Bachelor of Science degree (major in Biology) from Malaspina in June, and received the Governor General's Academic Silver Medal for outstanding achievement in a four-year degree program. He scored a 9.7 Grade Point Average out of a possible 10.

Devlin also received a prestigious Canada Graduate scholarship worth $17,500, and during his studies at Malaspina, he was a three-time winner of the Undergraduate Summer Research Award from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC).

Devlin's personal and academic success is miraculous when you consider that at age 15, as a rebellious teenager, he left home and got addicted to heroine in Vancouver.

His life on the streets was a far cry from the small Doukobor village in BC’s interior where he was born and lived with his family until he was seven. The family relocated to Powell River where Devlin completed four years in the public school system. He was home schooled the rest of the time.

“Life got really bad," he said, speaking about his drug problem in downtown Vancouver. “After two years, I knew I couldn’t live like that anymore. The only way to survive was to remove myself from that situation.”

Devlin returned to Powell River at age 18 and sought the help he needed. During his withdrawal from drugs, various therapists, counsellors and psychiatrists with Family Services recommended he find something positive to occupy his time.  

“I figured school was better than working, so I enrolled in Adult Basic Education (ABE) at Malaspina,” Devlin explained  “I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do more than ABE at the time, but I thought it was an appropriate first step for anything, and wouldn’t be a waste of time.” 

Devlin completed English 12, computer science 11/12, math 11/12, biology 12, chemistry 11/12 and physics 11.

“I never liked sciences as a kid, but loved ABE,” he said. “Only English had formal classes. The rest of my courses were at appointed times where you could study on your own. You took the tests at your own pace and never really had deadlines. The instructors were super-friendly people who wouldn't push you, but were always there if you needed help.”  

With encouragement from his instructors, Devlin moved to Malaspina’s Nanaimo campus in 2003 and enrolled in the Bachelor of Science program. He excelled in his studies, and was hired to work for three consecutive summers in Malaspina's multi-million dollar Applied Environmental Research Lab (AERL).

Chemistry professor Dr. Chris Gill said Devlin “has been a valuable member of the AERL team. His contributions to research have resulted in presentations at several international conferences and a pending peer reviewed publication.

“Jason has a great work ethic and is admired by his fellow students, as well as internal and external research collaborators," added Gill. “I'm proud to have been directly involved in his growth as a student and researcher. He's a great example of the excellence possible here at Malaspina."

Devlin said working in the AERL and completing a major undergraduate research project through a course called Biology 491 gave him a solid foundation into research, scientific thinking and the importance of asking the right questions.

Devlin credits a long list of mentors, instructors and professors at Malaspina's Powell River and Nanaimo campuses for turning him onto science and now medicine.

“Rita Alton (biology and chemistry teacher from ABE) inspired and influenced me," he said. “She had worked in the chemistry industry and travelled the world and was great to talk to both as a person and an instructor. We still keep in touch occasionally, and I think she’s the one that I credit most for my movement towards science.” 

Devlin’s advice to other students or mature adults who have struggled in school is this - do what you want, but be mindful of the consequences. "Keep in mind that any choices you make will stick with you," he added. “Certain options will be closed off. Look as far into the future as you can, because the more options you have open, the better chance you’ll have of living the life you want.”

Editor's note: Malaspina's Adult Basic Education program is offered in Nanaimo, Duncan, Powell River, and Parksville-Qualicum, and applications for the fall semester are now being accepted. Courses are $50 each (not including books and supplies) and some financial assistance is available. For information, call (250) 740-6425 in Nanaimo, (250) 248-2096 in Parksville, (250) 746-3500 in Duncan, or (604) 485-2878 in Powell River.

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