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My name is Milos Popovic. I am a senior scientist at UHN at Toronto Rehab Institute and associate director at Toronto Rehabilitation Institute.
The city is extremely safe – you will see kids running around till 11 o'clock at night with zero supervision, not because people don't care about them but because it's very a very safe environment for them. People party all the time, so if you want to go to disco club it's fine to do it on Monday. In Toronto, this may not happen, but in Belgrade this is a normal situation. One of the hallmarks of Belgrade is thousands of restaurants on the river, Danube and Sava floating where people get together, have dinners, listen to music and just have fun.
My situation was a little bit nuts because I essentially received the phone call from my supervisor – I think it was a Monday morning – telling me that my student visa is in the embassy and I should go and take it and come to Toronto in the next 24 hours or 48 hours. So literally I went, got my visa, bought a suitcase, filled my luggage, bought a ticket and flew the day after.
When I landed in Toronto, my biggest concern when I was flying here was where I'm going to sleep at night. So the challenge was how to get my footing in the country which I don't know anything about and how I'm going to manage to find where to sleep.
I came in '91, I finished my masters and PhD by the end of 1995.
Somewhere in '97, I went back to Europe – I went to Switzerland. So I lived in Switzerland for four or five years. Then when I was looking for my next job opportunity, University of Toronto was offering an assistant professor level position and I got a position then came back in 2001. Since 2001, I have a joint appointment at the University of Toronto and UHN.
I have a laboratory at Lyndhurst Centre, which is one of the hospitals within Toronto Rehab. I'm actually designing new prosthetic systems, systems which enable paralyzed people to move their hands, arms, legs, get them to walk, get them to reach and grasp objects. And I use this technology as a tool to re-train spinal cord injury, stroke, traumatic brain injury patients to re-learn how to grasp, walk, sit.
UHN is an extraordinary resource for me personally.
I have all these people available to guide me, to educate me, to tell me when I'm doing something wrong – which I do more often than the right thing. Having that wealth of intellect and committed people to help their patients really makes me better, makes my lab better, makes my research better, and at the end of the day whatever we produce as a part of research at UHN makes it that much more exciting, that much more relevant, and we all take pride in that.
One of the key elements about Canada and Toronto is that really, people are valued based on what they're able to do. What I really like is the fact that it doesn't matter where you come from, it doesn't matter what kind of accent you have, it doesn't matter how funny you look like – I'm a good example. People essentially endorse you based on what you're able to do and how you can contribute to society. That's tremendous value. That is not a typical thing.
I like that sense of belonging and that sense of being able to make a difference, and that effort and energy and passion that we're putting into it is really valued, and it's valued on all levels, and I think that's what's exciting about Canada.
Home means Mississauga, it means Toronto Rehab and UHN and University of Toronto – this is my home.
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