Convocation, Class of 2021!

Leaders in Medicine program helped joint-degree earner Liam Kronlund choose rural medicine
Liam Kronlund
Liam Kronlund

It could have gone so many ways.

More specifically, he could have gone so many ways. Professional horseback rider — a decade ago, he competed internationally at what was dubbed the Young Rider Championships. Veterinarian — he grew up on a farm and loves horses, science and medicine. Scientific researcher — he worked in Dr. Nicole Culos-Reed’s lab in kinesiology, investigating links between cancer care and exercise. Pediatrician — logical extension of his Master of Science research.

That’s the thing about exemplars — the world is a fascinating, complex ball of possibilities and opportunities, so much so that it’s often tough to decide on one singular path.

Liam Kronlund

A graduate of the Leaders in Medicine joint-degree program, Liam Kronlund likens this past year to feeling like he had a role in The Hunger Games. “Covid has placed a constant baseline of heightened stress on everyone in health care.”

Next month, however, when Liam Kronlund holds up that valuable piece of parchment, it may read Dr. Liam James Kronlund, MD, but, if there was room for fine print, it might also add, “rural family medicine.” Bound for Lethbridge, where Kronlund will spend two years as a resident, this multi-talented, highly curious human is ready to gallop down a trail that combines so many of his loves.

“I am sooooo excited,” says the extrovert. “With rural medicine, you get to connect to a large patient population, create relationships, live in the country ... what could be better?”

Before Liam chose to study biological sciences which was followed by medicine, he was on the international equestrian circuit.

Before Liam chose to study biological sciences, followed by medicine, he was on the international equestrian circuit.

Of course, Kronlund didn’t know that in 2012 when, as a 20-year-old, he decided to leave professional riding to focus exclusively on biological sciences as a first step toward veterinary medicine. Quickly, he realized his love for horses belonged in a competitive equestrian environment, so he shifted direction toward human medicine. Being an academic athlete, Kronlund was curious about kinesiology, cancer, children, chronic disease management ... “I admit it, I was interested in a lot of areas before I focused my master’s on physical rehabilitation and pediatric oncology,” says Kronlund, who received his Bachelor of Science in 2014.

In other words, he was the perfect candidate for the Leaders in Medicine program — the University of Calgary’s elite joint-degree program that offers graduate students the chance to combine both the clinical and research part of medicine. Working under Culos-Reed, PhD, Kronlund wound up researching the impact physical activity has on children with cancer, before he graduated with a Master of Science in 2018, a mere four days before he began studying medicine in 2018.

“When I began medicine, I still remember thinking pediatrics was where I wanted to be,” recalls Kronlund. “I had loved working at the [Alberta] Children’s Hospital throughout my master’s degree, but then in my last year of med school, I had a chance to work with some rural populations and that’s when I realized that this was the population, from children through to seniors, that I wanted to work with for the rest of my life.”

Adds Culos-Reed: “Liam will have a positive impact wherever he ends up. His strengths are absolutely his ability to authentically connect with others, and his passion for wellness.”

Ditto says one of his kinesiology professors, Dr. Larry Katz, BSc’75, MSc’79, PhD’84, who remembers Kronlund “as an amazingly talented individual who was exceptionally helpful to the students [Kronlund was a lab instructor for Katz’s class], showing great empathy for their concerns and needs. Incredibly enthusiastic with exceptional energy and persistence, Liam worked very hard, giving lectures, marking assignments and providing tutorials for students.”

Skip to other top influencers in his life, such as Sarah Simpson, owner of Simpson’s Equine Activities, where Kronlund has coached equestrian riders since he was 19. Having extensively travelled to equestrian events with Kronlund, she describes him as a “talented rider,” “Mr. Overachiever,” an “all round great guy” and “enormously patient.” She also points out, somewhat coyly, another helpful attribute for any doctor: “Liam can sleep anywhere ... I have seen him get on a plane and be zonked out before it even leaves the ground.”

For seven years, Liam has taught spin classes at One Cycle Studios, where one of his favourite songs to play is Can’t Hold Us by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.

As for fears, Kronlund isn’t admitting to any but fans, from Simpson to Elmira Barry, owner of One Cycle Spin Studios where Kronlund has taught spin classes for seven years, agree that his fear of birds is legendary. Simpson is convinced Kronlund perpetually orders chicken burgers because he secretly hopes to deplete the planet of all winged creatures, while Barry says Kronlund’s few vices are split between chicken burgers, chocolate chip cookies and a Starbucks London Fog.

As for his spin-class style, Barry describes Kronlund as “incredibly fit, disciplined and works hard and yet he always seems to be able to motivate students with his joie de vie that lifts people up.”

One of Kronlund’s others enviable traits — actually more so a possession — adds Barry, is “his diverse playlist from Top 40 anthems to the odd country tune, but even more impressive is Liam’s inventory of inspiring quotes. Here’s one of his favourites: ‘Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.’

“Liam told me once that this quote of Gandhi’s serves as a good reminder of how he wants to live his life. I’d say balance is very important to Liam . . . balance between family, friends, fitness, horses and the outdoors.”

If one area of medicine can fulfil all those paths and passions, it might just be rural.