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Hi. My name is Slater. I live in Canada. My teacher wanted us to find a Canadian Hero for The MY HERO Project we were doing in our computer class. Everyone was doing someone involved with sports or who was a writer but nobody was doing someone involved with science, so I thought that I would choose that. I surfed the Internet on Google and then I found a Web site with lots of Canadian women scientists. So, I flipped through the site and Irene Ayako Uchida caught my attention because not many people would sacrifice their time to study something that was so mysterious, at that time.

I might go into science, but I have a long time to think about that choice.

The best part about doing The MY HERO Project for me was doing the research and getting it up onto the Web.

"Do your best no matter what you do, even if it's a menial job." -Irene Ayako Uchida

by Slater

Photo from www.science.ca

IRENE AYAKO UCHIDA is my hero because she was one of the first Canadian scientists to work in the study of Down Syndrome. Dr. Uchida's study of Down Sydrome in the 1960s helped discover the connection between radiation (X-rays) and birth problems. She has won national and international awards for her work.

Dr. Uchida was born on April 8, 1917, in Vancouver, B.C., Canada. "Ayako" means "splendid" in Japanese, but her piano teacher couldn't pronounce it so she called her Irene. Her parents, Shizuko and Sentaro, were Japanese, and during World War 2, the Uchida family was taken away from their comfortable home in Vancouver and placed into an internment camp. There, Dr.Uchida became the principal in one of the largest camps. In 1944, The United Church of Canada supported her while she earned her degree from The University of Toronto. Irene wanted to be a social worker, but one of her professors said she was better off in genetics. Man, that was sure lucky for Canada.

Irene Ayako Uchida has influenced my community because if it wasn't for her, there might be thousands of other babies born with Down Syndrome because their mother innocently had an X-ray. Now that doesn't happen. She has shared her knowledge with many other scientists in many countries. Now there are new learning and training camps for helping Down Syndrome people live happy, successful lives.

If I could talk to her, I would say, "I think that you were brave in fighting for the prevention of Down Syndrome and for helping people who have the disease live better lives."

Irene Ayako Uchida is retired and lives in Burlington, Ontario, Canada. She enjoys playing the violin and piano and is interested in art and photography. Thank you for reading my story.

Written by Slater
Photos courtesy of National Library of Canada and Science.ca
Last changed on: 8/26/2009 3:37:22 PM

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