Linda Furlini turns the experience of her parents’ illness into a career in science
Linda Furlini was in her 20s when both her parents were hit by Alzheimer’s disease. Recalling the challenge, she says, “There was a point where I was just trying to survive and put out one fire at a time.”
Transformed by her family’s almost two-decades long struggle, the Montrealer found a new life path: “It started with volunteer work, and then I wanted to understand more.” Eventually, in her forties, she earned a master’s degree in psychology, then a doctorate in education.
In 2006, part way through post-doctoral studies in epidemiology at McGill University’s Faculty of Medicine, Furlini’s work was recognised by a $20,000 fellowship in celebration of women in science from the L’Oréal Canada For Women In Science program with the support of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO. It enabled her to further her research into ethical and legal issues involved in a national long-term study on aging.
What were the ramifications for the study, she asked, if its participants became mentally incapacitated?
This month the L’Oréal Canada For Women In Science program with the support of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO fetes its 10th anniversary by uniting past and present award recipients. “It is my absolute honour to celebrate a decade’s worth of Canadian eminent women scientists,” says Javier San Juan, President and CEO of L’Oréal Canada.
Six years later, Furlini is still grateful: “The award was extremely validating for me personally, considering I went back to school in my forties.”
Now working at McGill University Health Centre, where she oversees the quality assurance and education program in the research ethics office, Furlini says the award opened her eyes to the achievements of women and the fact that science can be approached from a variety of backgrounds: “Look at me,” she says, “I did my undergrad in geography.”