Profile: Elizabeth Sarma

Exceeding BOLD Expectations

By Ashlan Potts

elizabeth-sarma-portraitIn my first year of university, I recall participating in a research study directed by fourth-year student Elizabeth Sarma about the effect of breast cancer information on exercise intention and behaviour. I was very interested in the study and wondered how it had developed. As it turns out, Elizabeth has continued with her breast cancer research while she completes graduate school at Stony Brook University in Long Island, New York.

Elizabeth graduated from Brescia in 2010 with an Honours Specialization in Psychology. She enjoyed her studies at Brescia, appreciating the combination of a community-focused environment and quality education. She recognized faculty member Dr. Jennifer Sutton for being encouraging and supportive during her first few years of university. In fact, as Elizabeth explains it, “The whole (Psychology) Department at Brescia was a power team. Everyone was always open and available. It was so much nicer when you could have an expert in the field give you direct feedback on the work you were producing. It made the process of education more valuable to me.”

After graduation, Elizabeth worked for a year in a psycholinguistics lab on main campus, while she researched and applied to graduate schools. She accepted an offer to Stony Brook University and was optimistic that the program would have similar research opportunities. In August of 2011, Elizabeth made the move to New York.

In her first few years of graduate school, Elizabeth wrote a paper titled, “Barriers to screening mammography.” Through the process, she became very passionate about the topic of screening mammography and early breast cancer detection. In her paper, she developed categories of barriers that hinder women’s adherence to having regular mammograms. The result was a paper so exemplary that her professor suggested she submit it for publication. She just recently received the news that it has been accepted for publication in the journal Health Psychology Review. As she says, “I didn’t think anyone would take my paper seriously since I only have my BA. The fact that senior people in my field think my work is worthy of publication legitimizes a lot of the struggles I’ve endured.”

Elizabeth is now almost two years into her graduate program, under the supervision of Dr. Anne Moyer, who also studies psycho-oncology. The working relationship between Elizabeth and Dr. Moyer has developed into one that allows Elizabeth to be independent, to take initiative, and to excel professionally.

As a graduating student, I asked for her advice about transitioning into the ‘real world’. Elizabeth replied as only a true Brescia alumna could: “Don’t be afraid to take chances. There was a moment in my life where I had a lot of hesitancy about pursuing my graduate degree. Making big decisions can be hard and may mean taking on a role you’ve never embraced before. But the only way to make progress is by taking chances. Make mistakes! You learn from them and become a better person. Going forward, being audacious and being bold make all the difference.”