2020 undergraduate winner
Kacper Niburski is a third year McGill medical student with a keen interest in social change. He founded the Community Health and Social Medicine (CHASM) Incubator at McGill to help students build projects that address the needs of the most vulnerable in their communities. With mentorship, a curriculum, and funding, CHASM provides sustainable project development for those who need it most in Montreal.
Winning both national and provincial awards, CHASM is one part of Kacper’s larger deeply held principles regarding the social aspects of medicine. To make lasting change, Kacper believes one needs to first carefully, slowly acquire the skills to ensure lasting impact. In clinical practice, this has meant founding Sonoist, an ultrasound initiative that teaches pathological ultrasound; ddxed, a differential diagnosis tool to improve clinical acumen; and McGill’s first narrative medicine workshop, which is focused on developing the softer, more slippery parts of medical empathy and written communication.
Kacper is thankful for the Sandra Banner Student Award for Leadership, which will be funneled back entirely into CHASM, and ultimately, help equalize health disparities in Montreal and beyond.
2020 postgraduate winner
Dr. Anees Bahji
Dr. Anees Bahji is a fifth year psychiatry resident at Queen’s University. Before relocating to Kingston for residency, Anees completed an undergraduate degree in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at Simon Fraser University and later, medical school at the University of British Columbia. During medical school, he developed an interest in infectious diseases, addictions, and mental health as a result of living and working in Vancouver—particularly the Downtown Eastside community. These early experiences led Anees toward further training in psychiatry as it seemed like the best way to explore his various interests.
Since starting residency, Anees has enjoyed learning about all areas within psychiatry. His main areas of focus are General and Addictions Psychiatry, with a special interest in chronic pain, personality disorders, and trauma—particularly Borderline Personality Disorder. Recently, Anees has been exploring his skills in individual and group psychotherapy.
Over the past few years, Anees has been developing his ability as a teacher by working with the Queen’s University School of Medicine as a clinical skills instructor in both psychiatry as well as more generally. He has also developed a passion for research and for developing online educational materials. This has led to collaborations with the TED-Ed organization to create short, animated videos on a variety of topics.
In July, Anees will be starting a fellowship in Addictions Psychiatry at the University of Calgary, which will supplement his psychiatric training with specific skills and competencies. He is excited to see how the next part of his journey will unfold.
I would like to start by thanking you. It is an unbelievable honour and privilege to be recognized with the 2020 Sandra Banner Student Award for Leadership.
I have to start by thanking God for bestowing upon me the blessings of this life. To be here on Earth, to enjoy this moment, to be breathing—these are truly beautiful things.
I would like to share this award with the extraordinary resident physicians who I have worked with in the past—and who I hope to work with in the future. The fearless work that they do every second of every day to sustain the life force of Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic is truly immeasurable.
Thirty-five of them, who I have grown deeply fond of, are my colleagues and friends in the Department of Psychiatry at Queen’s University. They are a truly exquisite group, and they inspire me beyond words.
Within this group, I would like to honour my fellow co-chief resident, Dr. Josie Altomare. Her friendship and loyalty means the world to me, while her ‘charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent’ exemplify the type of person I hope to become one day.
I consider myself very lucky to have not one, but two incredible program directors. Through their tutelage, it has become clear to me that meaningful connection to other people is as essential to health as the air we breathe.
I’d like to thank my family for giving me the chance to live this life and to live my truth. I want them to know that everything that I value most in this life are there because of them.
And finally, I’d like to share what leadership means to me. Leadership is ‘truth’, but in a different way. Like a poem, it doesn’t have to be factually true, but you can appreciate it for its beauty, and its truth. The truth is beautiful. Beauty will enter our lives in so many different ways and in so many different places. And even when beauty enters your life cloaked in darkness and despair, the leader within us tells us that there is still beauty there because there is beauty in everything.
2019 undergraduate winners
Mohammad is a first year MD/PhD candidate at the University of Toronto. Mohammad has been constantly moving around the world: born in Iran, spending around 7 years of his childhood in the UK, his teenage years back in Tehran, and settled in Canada in 2013, where he completed school, followed by undergraduate studies in physiology at UBC.
His fascination for science and innovation started to blossom when he was in grade 9, back in his Iranian high school’s chemistry lab, and thanks to some incredible teacher-mentors. Since then, he’s explored (and published) in nano chemistry, cancer immunology, neurosurgery and neuroscience.
Four years ago, Mohammad co-founded STEM Fellowship – a national student network that creates opportunities for fellow students in big data education and scholarly communication. SF is now one of Canada’s largest and most well-known grass-roots STEM initiatives, with 300+ volunteers and a presence on 20 campuses in almost every province.
Mohammad has led and/or advised initiatives within the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, the Canadian Red Cross, CIHR and multiple start-ups within the health and education spaces. He’s a Board Director at Apathy is Boring, Pre-Health Science Curriculum director at NextGenU.org, VP Global Health jr. at U of T’s Medical Society, and World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Shapers community member.
Mohammad is a TEDx speaker, and recipient of a 3M National Student Fellow, UBC Faces of Today Leadership awardee, Society for Scholarly Publishing fellow, 2018 RBC Top 75 Immigrant and recipient of the Governor General and Science Olympiad medals.
Charles Yin is a fifth-year MD/PhD student at Western University where he is currently completing his PhD in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. His graduate thesis work has focused on unraveling the complex role of macrophages in the development of atherosclerosis and heart disease. Prior to his time at Western, Charles completed a BSc in Integrated Science at McMaster University.
Throughout his medical studies, Charles has had a special interest in the social determinants of health and how healthcare providers can address the systematic injustices in our society that lead to disparities in health status. To this end, Charles help found the Alliance of Students Providing Interprofessional Resources and Education (ASPIRE), an organization that seeks to build a student-led primary care clinic in London, Ontario that would provide health services to marginalized populations who lack access to care. Working with the dedicated board of directors and the passionate student volunteers that make up ASPIRE has been a highlight of Charles’s medical school experience.
Charles has also been heavily involved in youth science outreach as a site coordinate for Let’s Talk Science and as a board member of the Thames Valley Science and Engineering Fair. He has also been involved in health and science policy work through the Canadian Federation of Medical Students and the Clinician-Investigator Trainee Association of Canada.
Charles has been fortunate to be supported in his studies by several scholarships and awards, including the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship, CIHR MD/PhD Studentship and the Department of Microbiology and Immunology John A. Thomas Award.
2019 postgraduate winner
Dr. Yassen Tcholakov
Yassen Tcholakov is a fourth-year Public Health resident at McGill University. He has completed medical training at the University of Montreal, he holds master’s degrees from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine as well as from the University of Copenhagen.
Yassen currently serves as the deputy chair of the Junior Doctors’ Network (JDN) of the World Medical Association (WMA). He has previously served on the board of several international organizations including as Chair of the Trainee Advisory Committee of the Consortium of Universities for Global Health (CUGH) and as council member of the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA).
Global health diplomacy, the interface of international trade and health, and environmental protection are among his many interests. He has varied advocacy experience in representing organizations like the World Health Organization, the World Medical Association, and the International Federation of Medical Students Associations in front of the United Nations.
Yassen’s dedication to education has been constant alongside his effort to translate personal experiences into opportunities to share with colleagues. As a medical student he was involved in peer education on medical ethics and pre-departure training for students doing electives abroad. He also contributed to the creation of a global health course at the University of Montreal which he is still delivering to this day. As a resident, he pursued involvement in capacity building by organising local and international training events students and young professionals.
2018 undergraduate winner
Olivia Monton is a second-year medical student at McGill University. Prior to pursuing medicine, she completed a B.Sc. and B.Ag.Env.Sc. at McGill University.
Olivia’s experiences fundraising and volunteering led to the creation of her foundation, Live for the Cause (LFTC), in 2014, which supports local and grassroots charitable organizations in Montreal. As a community-oriented foundation, LFTC’s mission is to engage, empower, and educate people of all ages on the important and rewarding aspects of becoming involved in philanthropy, with the ultimate goal of enhancing the Montreal community at large. Olivia aims to encourage Montrealers to deepen their understanding and appreciation of philanthropy through participation in initiatives that strengthen the local community and help support those in need.
Olivia is also involved in several student-led committees, which allow her to contribute to the improvement of medical education and simulation-based training for medical students, in addition to promoting interdisciplinary collaboration between various healthcare professions.
Olivia’s philanthropic achievements have been recognized by her country. She was recently awarded The Senate of Canada 150 Medal by the Honourable Judith Seidman and is the recipient of the Governor General of Canada’s Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers. She was also awarded the Dr. Dave Williams Leadership Award by the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University.
2018 postgraduate winner
Dr. Kimberly Williams
Dr. Kimberly Williams is currently the Past President of the Resident Doctors of Canada, the national organization representing over 9,000 Canadian resident physicians.
Kimberly is a PGY4 resident doctor in psychiatry at the University of Calgary and was a co-chief resident this past year. She has been a member of the Canadian Medical Association Board of Directors and was the Social Medical Affairs Officer of the Junior Doctors Network of the World Medical Association. Previously, she was the Vice-President Global Health for the Canadian Federation of Medical Students. She also has an BSc in pharmacology and an MSc in Global Health.
Kimberly (with Dr. Watterson, a fellow resident) created Kolabo, an organization associated with the University of Calgary that works collaboratively with the Catholic University of Allied Health Sciences in Tanzania to create collaborative, broad-based mental health education for trainees. Since 2014, Kolabo has taught over 600 medical and graduate students and funded the training of the second psychiatrist for a population of over 10 million people in Tanzania. She is a global health enthusiast, which includes writing about key topics in this area including a chapter author in Millennials Speak: Essays on the 21st Century, in Upstream Medicine: Doctors for a Healthy Society, and in Essentials of Global Health.
One of the most exciting parts of her medical career thus far has been witnessing the amazing work done by peers and colleges who are leading the way collaboratively to improve the health of the population both within Canada and abroad.
2017 undergraduate winner
Dr. Kristen Barton
Dr. Kristen Barton previously completed the Integrated 4+1 BSc/MSc Program the Faculty in Kinesiology at the University of Calgary, where she completed both degrees within five years. Currently, as a combined MD/PhD student the University of Calgary, she is in the “Leaders in Medicine” program. Dr. Barton successfully defended her PhD thesis in 2016 in joint injury and arthritis research and plans to pursue a career in orthopedic surgery after medical school. Her career goal is to continue to promote health outcomes to improve the lives of Canadians who suffer from chronic conditions, such as osteoarthritis. She has found a passion in educating youth and adults involved with high-level sport on sports injuries and post-traumatic osteoarthritis.
Dr. Barton has been heavily involved with on-campus student programs including the Leaders in Medicine Executive, the Cumming School of Medicine Faculty Council, the Council of Foothills Departmental Graduate Association, and the Graduate Students’ Association Senior Leadership Team. Further to this, she is the Assistant Coach of the University of Calgary Dinos Women’s Soccer Team and an exercise physiologist for both the University of Calgary Active Living Joint Effort Program and Sport Injury Prevention Centre. Currently, she serves on the Undergraduate Medical Education Student Appeals Committee and the Student Academic Review Committee.
Dr. Barton has been honoured several times for her outstanding academic and leadership skills, most notably the Vanier Canada Gradate Scholarship, the Alberta Innovates Health Solutions MD/PhD Graduate Studentship, the Alberta Graduate Citizenship Award (five times consecutively), and the Dr. Lydia Sikora Memorial Award.
2017 postgraduate winner
Dr. Hasan Merali
Dr. Hasan Merali is a second-year academic fellow at the Centre for Global Child Health, The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), where he also practices paediatric emergency medicine. He obtained his undergraduate degree in Middle Eastern Studies from Columbia University and his medical degree from Harvard Medical School. He completed his residency in paediatrics at Massachusetts General Hospital and his fellowship in paediatric emergency medicine at SickKids. In 2015, he was awarded the highest scholarship at Johns Hopkins University, the Sommer Scholarship, to complete his Master’s in Public Health. He is a co-author on 11 peer-reviewed articles and two book chapters, and was awarded a three-year grant from the American Academy of Pediatrics to implement the Helping Babies Breathe program in rural Cambodia.
Most recently, he co-developed a three-week Specialized Newborn Care Education (SNCE) program at the SickKids Centre for Global Child Health aimed at reducing neonatal mortality in Malawi, Ethiopia and Tanzania. He has delivered the education in Malawi and will be teaching it in June in Tanzania. A total of 135 frontline health workers will be trained in SNCE through nine rounds of courses, as part of The Canada-Africa Initiative to Address Maternal, Newborn and Child Mortality (CAIA-MNCM). This is a program implemented by a consortium of Canadian organizations funded by Global Affairs Canada.
Dr. Merali also holds an Associate title at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, where he works with the Johns Hopkins International Injury Research Unit. His current research focus is examining factors associated with child passenger helmet use in Cambodia. In addition, he holds research funding to utilize novel methods to estimate helmet use in Bangkok, Thailand.
2016 undergraduate winner
Christopher Charles, PhD is an epidemiologist with extensive experience in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of large public health nutrition projects aimed at improving the lives of disadvantaged rural women and children in Asia. Christopher has a PhD in Biomedical Science and Population Medicine from the University of Guelph, Canada and is currently completing a medical degree at the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, McMaster University, Canada.
Christopher is the inventor of the Lucky Iron Fish™, a novel, in-home iron fortification technique currently in use in over 75,000 households around the world. He has worked as a public health and nutrition consultant for various NGOs and UN agencies in the region, and advises the Cambodian Ministry of Health in the development of national nutrition policy. His research interests are related to healthy equity and social justice, food-based approaches to improving nutrition, maternal and child health, and innovative methods of improving food security. Christopher will begin his residency training in Anesthesiology at the University of Toronto this summer.
2016 postgraduate winner
Ashley Miller is a fourth year resident in General Internal Medicine at Memorial University of Newfoundland, where she completed her core internal medicine residency training. She is a graduate of the MD program at the University of Ottawa, where she was selected as an inaugural participant in the leadership curriculum. Her clinical interests include complex chronic disease and end of life care, and she aspires to cultivate a career that will combine generalist practice with health policy leadership and administration.
Ashley’s journey through medical school and residency has been defined by her multiple contributions to the Canadian medical education and health policy environments. As Vice President of Advocacy for the Canadian Federation of Medical Students, she lobbied for enhanced socioeconomic diversity through medical school admissions. In her various roles on the board of Resident Doctors of Canada, most recently as Vice President, Ashley has been a strong advocate for socially accountable physician resource planning. She is a longstanding member of the Canadian Doctors for Medicare board, where she has been privileged to learn from inspiring champions for evidence based health care reform. She is an active contributor at the local level, as resident board member for the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association and key contributor in the development of her newly accredited subspecialty training program.
2015 undergraduate winner
Eve Purdy is a graduating fourth-year medical student, soon to be emergency medicine resident, at Queen’s University with a passion for education delivery, scholarship and leadership. Throughout her time at Queen’s she has advocated for her peers on a number of school committees. These efforts have precipitated a focused curriculum on resiliency and she continues to champion an evaluation of the medical student learning environment.
Eve’s inquisitive and collaborative nature contextualize her significant involvement in the world of Free Open Access Medical Education. Online, she has emerged as a leader through her blog manuetcorde.org, as an advisor to medskl.com, as a social media coordinator for the CFMS, as a student organizer of the international Social Media and Critical Care Conference, and as an editor for BoringEM.org and the ALIEM.com MedICs case series. She consistently uses skills and knowledge gained in these roles to shape the educational milieu at her home institution, finding and creating ways to contribute as a lecturer, facilitator, curriculum developer, and mentor. Eve deliberately fosters a positive online space for Queen’s students and faculty to interact. A scholar at heart, she is dedicated to investigating how online resources and environments affect learning and the most important downstream outcome, patient care. To strengthen her ability to perform high-quality research and continue innovating in the domain of education, she intends to complete a Masters in Medical Education to which this award will be applied.
2015 postgraduate winner
Jesse Kancir is a resident physician at the University of British Columbia in Public Health and Preventive Medicine and a 2014-2015 Chevening Scholar at the University of Cambridge where he is a Masters of Philosophy candidate in Public Policy focusing on innovation and system integration in healthcare. He is a 2014-2015 Action Canada Fellow and also currently serves as a public member on the Board of the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada.
Jesse’s background blends experiences from the public, private, academic, and not-for-profit sectors to shape his interests in health and medicine. His interests in medical education and health policy have their roots in his undergraduate work at the University of Waterloo and his graduate training at the London School of Economics where he was awarded the Brian Abel-Smith Prize for best performance in the International Health Policy (Health Economics) program.
While completing his medical training at the University of Toronto, Jesse was involved with several efforts that increased the presence of medical humanities in undergraduate medical teaching. He also maintained active involvement in student leadership activities at the local, provincial, and national level. He served as the President of the Canadian Federation of Medical Students and as Board Director of the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Resident Matching Service.
Sarah is a strong advocate for innovation in healthcare education and continues to work towards fostering an environment of cooperative, collaboration and leadership amongst medical students, residents and staff alike. Sarah graduated with honours from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland in 2010.
During her medical undergraduate career in Ireland her leadership skills and interest in education expanded through activities such as Sports Union Captain and peer led lecturer. Returning to Canada for her residency training, Sarah is indebted to the mentorship of her program directors Dr. Desiree Persaud and Dr. Rob Anderson. Through a collaborative team approach, Sarah worked on the creation, design and implementation of an innovative e-learning platform for postgraduate anesthesiology trainees at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine.
In addition, Sarah took on many leadership roles during her residency training. She is the current assistant chief resident of the University of Ottawa/NOSM Anesthesiology program. She also takes an active role in provincial leadership and is the current resident representative on the OMA Section of Anesthesiology executive committee.
Paxton has a strong interest in global health and health advocacy. He filled various local, national and international leadership positions during his time as a medical student at Queen’s University, including serving as the 2011-12 Vice President Global Health of the Canadian Federation of Medical Students, as well as the President of CFMS-Canada to the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations.
In these roles, he helped support student-run programs, steer advocacy initiatives and foster improved global health opportunities for medical students across the country.