The CFMS–MD Financial Management Leadership Awards recognize passionate, dedicated and caring medical student leaders throughout Canada who have made innovative contributions to their schools and communities.
Medicine occupies a unique place at the intersection of the sciences and humanities—and that’s precisely what drew Linda Lam to med school. Currently a third-year medical student at the University of Manitoba, Linda is particularly interested in how physicians can use their influence to affect larger systems and improve health outcomes for all. “When I started medical school,” she says, “it was important to me to be grounded in the world outside of it.” To this end, she became involved with the Student Advocacy Committee in her first year of med school, and served as a Government Affairs and Advocacy Committee representative for the last two years. Currently she works with the CFMS government affairs portfolio as the National Officer of Political Action leading the development of the CFMS National Day of Action 2019 campaign.
In the first year of her undergraduate science degree, Linda spent five weeks on a service-learning trip in rural Bangladesh. While there, she spoke with community members about the grassroots impact of RDRS Bangladesh, her host NGO, and learned about the need for systemic change to support the organization’s messages of empowerment and self-determination. For Linda, this discovery highlighted the importance of politics and health policy in the lives of individuals.
At the core of her motivation for political action is the desire to strengthen communities and amplify their voices. Over the past two years, with Linda’s involvement, the Student Advocacy Committee at the Max Rady College of Medicine has improved their efforts to align their advocacy with the needs of the community. In 2017, they devoted their Provincial Lobby Day to amplifying the community’s demand for fairer rates for therapeutic diet supplements within the Employment and Income Assistance program. The following year, the committee collaborated with community organizations to develop policy recommendations on mental health.
“Connecting with community organizations has become a central part of the Provincial Lobby Day process,” Linda says. “It has really encouraged us as medical students to work with the community—even early in our training, and for us to use our influence to promote the messages of the community to improve the health of individuals.”
Throughout her time with the advocacy committee, Linda also learned that leaders don’t always get it right. Last year, she was involved in the selection of University of Manitoba medical students to attend the National Day of Action on Indigenous Mental Wellness as advocates—and it soon came to her attention that the way they were selecting delegates wasn’t resulting in the right kind of representation. With the guidance of Ongomiizwin Indigenous Institute for Health and Healing, the importance of relationships and face-to-face interactions was emphasized over a more rubric-oriented approach. “Through this experience I was reminded that good intentions are not enough—and that in the face of a challenge, good leaders proceed with an open mind, appreciate their own weaknesses and seeks guidance.”
Her experience as an advocate has challenged Linda to think about health through a policy lens—all while trying to stay grounded in the needs of the community. “It has been incredibly humbling to learn about all the factors that affect health beyond the clinical aspects and also very rewarding to work with peers in the development of advocacy campaigns that can have a positive influence on health equity.”
Linda would like to acknowledge the 2017-2018 Student Advocacy Committee for their incredible work this past year and for learning together how we can be better advocates for healthy communities. 2017-2018 Student Advocacy Committee: Achieng Tago (Global health Advocate, Student Advocacy Committee co-lead), Dominic Chung (Community Outreach Representative), Helen Teklemariam (MLA Representative), Julia Weins (Communications Representative), Joe Asaminew (Government Affairs and Advocacy Representative), Fatemeh Bakhtiari (Global Health Advocate Representative), Nicholas Czehryn (Community Outreach Representative), Lourens Jacobs (MLA Representative), Cole Kubay (Communications Representative).
Linda Lam is a third-year medical student at the Max Rady College of Medicine, University of Manitoba, born and raised in Winnipeg by immigrant parents. She completed a Bachelor of Science in Genetics (honours) at the University of Manitoba. When she is isn’t studying you can find her chasing a plastic disc in a game called ultimate frisbee or hiking through forests.
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