Merna Seliman (BSc ’17) never met Naomi Cermak, but when she learned about the Brock University master’s student and accomplished athlete who passed away at the age of 31 in 2013 from metastatic melanoma, the story resonated with her.
“Naomi Cermak was and continues to be a source of inspiration. She taught me that it’s possible to make a difference in people’s lives, even though you may never know the impact you had on them,” Seliman said. “Naomi’s messages of hope of inspiring others to achieve excellence really motivates me because as a graduate student it can be easy to get caught up in the everyday stresses of life.
“By remembering to look at the bigger picture, I know, I too can have value in changing people’s lives.”
Seliman, from Thorold, is this year’s recipient of the Naomi Cermak Graduate Student Scholarship, which is supported by funds raised by an annual triathlon, held on campus each July.
The fourth annual Naomi Cermak Tri to Inspire takes place Sunday, July 21 and is open to the public.
The scholarship which bears Cermak’s name is presented annually to an enrolled graduate student at Brock who is completing a Master of Science in Applied Health Sciences and who exhibits academic excellence, a high degree of leadership and participation in athletics.
“Being selected for this scholarship is very meaningful to me,” Seliman said. “The funds went towards my tuition, which is very helpful and appreciated, but on a deeper level it puts emphasis on the importance of health research to help people have a better quality of life.”
Seliman’s research focuses on sexual rehabilitation for individuals with spinal cord injury and multiple sclerosis (MS) and specifically, looks at how mindfulness can influence sexual rehabilitation and satisfaction in couples living with these conditions.
“Unfortunately, when people acquire injury, or have MS or physical disability, the approach to rehabilitation is very technical — geared towards walking and daily routines with little focus on psychosocial satisfaction with life,” Seliman explains. “Yet, often when people get an injury, their first question is not will I walk again? It’s will I have sex again?”
Seliman realized this would be a worthy area of study during her fourth year of undergraduate studies while attending a lecture by Kinesiology Professor David Ditor.
“Sexuality continues to be a top priority when it comes to therapeutic needs, but the consequences to sexuality after an injury are under-examined in the literature,” Seliman says. “Professor Ditor’s lecture on physiological consequences and rehabilitation combined with what I had learned previously in the Health Sciences Introduction to Human Sexuality course, got me thinking about the issue from a research perspective.”
The idea led to her master’s case study which tested the effects of an eight-week mindfulness intervention geared towards improving sexual satisfaction in couples living with MS.
Seliman, who is preparing to defend her thesis, will begin a PhD at Western University in the Fall, where she will continue to study sexuality in people with spinal cord injury. She plans to accept her Master of Science degree at Brock’s Spring 2020 Convocation Ceremony.
What: Fourth annual Naomi Cermak Tri to Inspire
When: Sunday, July 21, 11 a.m.
Where: Registration and transition area on Brock’s Alumni Field. Swim location in Eleanor Misener Aquatic Centre
Distances: 100 or 400m swim options, 10km bike ride, 2.5km run
For more information or to register online (there is no day-of registration), visit the Tri to Inspire website.