March 23, 2021

First recipient of Support A Med Student award inspired by her journey

Checking in with first-year medical student Nabila Bahrami
Nabila Bahrami first-year medical student
Mia Sosiak

Nabila Bahrami, a first-year medical student, is finishing up her end-of-the-year exams. While the COVID-19 pandemic has made it an unusual first year of medical school, she has an alumni family of physicians rooting for her success.  

Last fall, Bahrami was the first recipient of the annual Support a Med Student (SAMS) Award, funded by Cumming School of Medicine (CSM) graduates and designed to help support the next generation of medical leaders.

She says her first year flew by, particularly because it was filled by long days in virtual lectures, trying to absorb the heavy medical curriculum. “It’s going great now … but it was a bit of a stumble starting medical school online. I didn't quite know how to go about things,” she says. “It was a big adjustment for a lot of us. However, with time, my classmates and I have managed to figure things out.”

Educators pull out all the stops

Bahrami admits she misses having in-person social connection with classmates. “We are wrapping up our first year and I am just meeting some of my classmates for the first time," she says. 

She is now part of a valuable study group and she’s formed new friendships with fellow medical students. She says she is also deeply inspired by the passion and dedication of her physician educators, who she says have been pulling out all the stops to ensure their students aren’t missing out.

“Some of my physician (educators) took their laptops into hospital rooms and introduced the patients to us (virtually through video calls) — of course all with the patients’ consent. We got to ask questions and interact with patients. I am so grateful to my preceptors for doing so and ensuring we are getting the best experiences possible during this pandemic learning year.”

How the SAMS award started

Through the SAMS award, Bahrami is receiving $50,000 to help cover her tuition costs for up to three years. The award was shaped with a spark from Dr. Len Chuck, MD'83, PhD, who is an internist, medical director and researcher in Walnut Grove, Calif. 

Chuck believed a grassroots alumni fund would attract strong future physicians to the Cumming School of Medicine. It could help get these well-trained new MDs working in more diverse settings, by easing the heavy tuition debt burden which many face and by providing a supportive network for those just starting out. When several MD alumni reached out to their fellow CSM graduates to share their vision and ask for support, the response was overwhelming.

Nabila Bahrami stands in HSC atrium

Nabila Bahrami says she’s grateful to the MD alumni who are helping her achieve her dream of carving out a career of helping others.

Mia Sosiak

Easing the financial burden

“It took off — alumni came out of the woodwork to donate to this fund, because … it speaks to people, who remember the financial burden of medical school and how they experienced it themselves,” says Dr. Elisabeth Woolner, MD'88, director of alumni engagement with CSM.

Bahrami came to Canada as an Afghani refugee in 2004 with her parents and five younger siblings. She received the award because of her determination to make it into medical school and her inspiring personal story of empowerment. She is now looking forward to upcoming pre-clerkship rotations in surgery and neuro ICU, two areas of medicine which intrigue her.

While this wasn’t the first-year experience she expected, she’s confident she and her class cohort — whom she describes as “brilliant” — will be just fine.

She’s grateful to the MD alumni who are helping her achieve her dream as she creates her own path forward, carving out a career of helping others, adding that she feels very supported.

“I want to genuinely thank all the donors,” she says. “This means a lot to me. Thank you for supporting me and my goals and making my medical school experience much less stressful.”

Bahrami is set to graduate as a physician as part of the CSM Class of 2023.

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