Personal essay: Dreaming of a Doctorate

I am a doctor—that is something I have wanted to say since I was diagnosed with cancer as a kid.

My name is Raphaël Nahar Rivière and I trained as a medical student at the University of Ottawa. I will be starting at the University of Toronto this coming fall, as a resident physician in Anesthesiology. My path to medicine started when I was young. Shortly after we arrived in Canada from Bangladesh, I had recurring bone pains and fevers. After a referral to SickKids, my mom took me to see a rheumatologist, who gave us the devastating news: I had Ewing’s Sarcoma. After that, the chemotherapy, bone transplant and everything else changed my life as a seven year-old boy.


Dr. Raphaël Rivière (MD2019)


My cancer diagnosis was particularly hard on my family. Over the years we became estranged from our father as he failed to cope with the realities of having a sick child in a foreign country. Eventually, he left. My mom was made of tougher stuff. She became a full time caregiver and later worked exhausting retail jobs. This was a starkly different reality from what she had envisaged as an aspiring Anthropology professor back in Bangladesh. Despite these trials and tribulations of being a single mother, her indefatigable optimism inspired me to push myself.

I studied hard and went on to earn the TD scholarship, which helped me through my studies during my bachelor’s at Trinity College, University of Toronto. Following my bachelor’s I was accepted to the University of Ottawa for medical school in the French stream. This was my ideal choice because I had become somewhat of a Francophile during an internship in France and wanted desperately to maintain my proficiency while pursuing a career in medicine. These skills would ultimately open doors for me to go on a medical mission to Bénin, a francophone country in West Africa. In Bénin, our team of Canadian physicians, residents, medical students, nurses and pharmacists served over 1000 patients at an impoverished rural village. During that time, I resuscitated my first neonate born to an eclamptic mother, and had the honour of naming another newborn, on whose mother I performed a spinal. These experiences were transformative and inspired me to ultimately choose Anesthesiology for my future—a specialty which affords unique, life saving skills to its students.

I can still remember playing Pokémon Stadium in my bed on the 8th floor at SickKids Hospital, as if it were yesterday. This journey to become a doctor has been so long, and at many times challenging. I am like any other student. I grumble, cry and laugh about how much there is to learn and wonder if I will ever be good enough to give my patients the best care they could possibly get. However, my experiences have taught me that life is a precious opportunity and that it should not be forsaken. I am so very grateful to my friends, family, mentors and most certainly, all the doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and medical personnel without whom I would not be able to serve as a physician today.

This year my mom plans to finish her PhD at U of T–something she always dreamed of completing before I got sick. I guess it’s somewhat of a coincidence that I’ll be getting my doctorate too, and we will be graduating together.


Links :
CBC, Canada

Once a child cancer patient, now Dr. Rivière

Raphaël Nahar Rivière became fascinated with medical professionals who treated him

Raphaël Nahar Rivière graduated from the University of Ottawa’s medical school on May 17. He was inspired to study medicine after surviving childhood cancer. (Kanita Khaled)

Raphaël Nahar Rivière was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a form of bone and skin cancer, at age seven. He endured an 18-hour bone transplant surgery and rounds of chemotherapy, treatment that lasted months.

It was a dark time for the little boy and his family, but there were also bright spots during his time at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children. Rivière remembers play rooms, clowns, colouring books and visiting dogs.

“At home we didn’t have any video games, but at the hospital there was a Nintendo and I loved playing Pokemon Stadium,” Rivière told host Robyn Bresnahan on CBC Radio’s Ottawa Morning.

Raphaël Nahar Rivière poses with his mother, Pamelia Nahar Khaled, moments after graduating. (Leslie Newell)

Kept up his studies

Rivière kept up with his schoolwork while in hospital, and his oncologist and surgeon encouraged him to keep studying.

He took their advice, motivated to learn more about his disease in particular, and medicine in general, so that he could help others the way he’d been helped as a child.

“This happened to me, but I got out of it relatively unscathed. That’s why I need to …follow this through a career.”

Rivière’s family immigrated to Canada from Bangladesh, seeking a better life for Raphaël and his sister, Kanita, and eventually settling in Toronto.

He was diagnosed three months later.

His father left the family after struggling to adapt to life in Canada while coping with the stress of having a sick child.

‘It was very special’

Rivière said his mother supported the family working a retail job, and never let her son’s illness become his focus. “You’re sick. that’s fine. But you’re going to study,” he recalls her telling him.

She returned to school after Rivière had been cancer-free for 10 years, and is currently working on her PhD at the University of Toronto.

When he crossed the stage at the University of Ottawa to receive his medical degree on May 17, Rivière said he was thinking about how it wasn’t an accomplishment he could have obtained on his own.

When he embraced his mother afterward she told him, “So proud of you. You did it! Congratulations, Dr. Rivière.”

“It was very special,” he said.

With files from CBC Radio’s Ottawa Morning


Links :
CBC, Canada

Japan confers ‘Order of the Rising Sun’ on Jamilur Reza Choudhury

Dear All:

Today I  woke up with a good news our loving Professor Jamilur Reza Choudhury is honoured by Japan. Japan Offered, ‘Order of the Rising Sun’ on him. I am  so proud of our National Professor. I find hope and see light in the tunnel whenever I see him.

Jamilur Reza Choudhury Sir, you are the light, the Seven Star for the nation.

Thank you Sir for make us/ all Bangladeshis honoured and proud with your innovations and noble work.

Kind regards,



Japan confers ‘Order of the Rising Sun’ on Jamilur Reza Choudhury

National Professor Dr Jamilur Reza Chowdhury (File photo)

DHAKA: Japan has honored National Professor Dr Jamilur Reza Chowdhury with ‘The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon’, one of the most prestigious Japanese decorations.

Besides, Mrs Ritsuko Abedin, former employee at the Embassy of Japan in Bangladesh, received “the Order of the Sacred Treasure, Silver Rays”.

Japanese embassy in Dhaka published a notice on their website regarding it Sunday (Nov 4)

The conferral is in recognition of his great contribution to smooth implementation of Japan’s ODA and promotion of friendly relations and mutual understanding between Japan and Bangladesh for more than 30 years, it said.

University of Asia Pacific (UAP) Vice Chancellor Dr Jamilur Reza Choudhury has supported many Japanese development projects from civil engineering point of view, such as “Jamuna Multipurpose Bridge Project”, “Chittagong Airport Development Project”, and “Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit Development Project”. He has introduced Japanese technology and made the difficult engineering works possible in these projects.

In 2013, he received “JICA Recognition Award.” Moreover, he has promoted academic exchange between Japan and Bangladesh and provided the opportunity to study in Japan for Bangladeshi students.

Mrs Ritsuko Abedin received the honor for her longstanding and dedicated contribution to the Embassy since November 1972 until her retirement in June 1998. She played the important role at the Embassy as Bengali speaker.

As one of Japanese people who have lived in Bangladesh since before the independence, she has introduced her experience and the history of Bangladesh in the last 50 years to many Japanese people, added the statement.

NOV 4, 2018

Dear VAB and VAB Canada Patrons:

Professor Jamilur Reza Choudhury confirmed his availability today. Thus, I cordially invite you to join in VAB Fundraising event on 19th January 2018 in Dhaka , Bangladesh. It would be really nice if we all could make this event successful. It’s a long overdue note of thanks and appreciation for your generous donation to VAB at its 2017 Award Event on November 25, 2017. My apology for the delay. And do accept our deepest appreciation.

We have since then heard all of your various tremendous philanthropic support including our rural VAB children’s Education. Our invitation to you is always open. Thanks !

Best regards,
Pamelia Khaled

Kindly send your address for us to write out the receipt of the fund. To know more about us:

A few philanthropists and legends in Education

A few philanthropists and legends in Education: The annual meeting of Volunteers Association for Bangladesh! Prof. Jamilur Reza Choudhury, Prof Jasimuz Zaman, Prof Dara Shamsuddin, Mr. Neaz Ahmed, Mr. Ahmed Farooque; Mr. Abdul Awal; Ms. Pamelia Khaled; Ms. Sushmita Ghani Chaya, Ms. Dilder Haseen Diptee, Ms. Hamida Ali, Mr. M.A. Shahid, Mr. Momtazuddin Bhuiyan; Mr. Syed Tamim; Mr. Munir Hasan; Mr Khandker Swanan Shahriar and Mr. Arijit Kumar Roy.


The Financial Express

Women Chapter


State of secondary education in Bangladesh and inception of VABC




The challenges immigrant women facing in Canada


Aspire event: VAB Canada sponsored this conference.

The Financial Express. (2013)
Secondary education in Bangladesh:
Acknowledging practical needs

The Financial Express.
(2013). Employers’ lack of concern or the government’s apathy?


The Financial Express.(2013).
Pedagogy, multiculturalism and racism: A fine balance

The Independent.(2013).
Violence, state of education, and gender inequality

 Daily Sun.(2012).
State of secondary education in Bangladesh and inception of VABC

Links to articles and videos on VAB

Article on VAB mission and activities by
an Observer,
published in The Independent,
March 2012

Article on narrowing urban-rural divide in education
by VAB,
published in The Independent,
23 June 2012

Article on VAB-Canada
published in The Financial Express,
Dhaka, Bangladesh,
30 June 2012,

Article on VAB Canada
by pamelia khaled

VAB You Tube Video:
Narration in Bangla: 14 minutes

VAB Documentary in You Tube Video:
Narration in English: 9 minutes

 The Financial Express, Bangladesh