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Embracing the past and building for the future

By Jennifer Parraga, BA'93

Danielle Soulliere, Medicine Class of 2016, wasn’t sure what to expect when her grandmother logged on to the popular website Ancestry.com to determine their family’s heritage. What she learned left her changed forever and true to her enthusiastic nature, she embraced the new opportunities that lay before her.

It was eight years ago when Soulliere learned of her Métis heritage. Originally from Montreal, the family moved to the Tecumseh area about five generations ago and settled in Southwestern Ontario.  

Soulliere was born and raised in Windsor, with five siblings and a wonderfully large extended family. Growing up, her days were spent enjoying the wonder and benefits of backyard play, sports and community involvement.

Mentorship had always played an important role in Soulliere’s formative years and helped to develop a philosophy she carries with her today. “My capacity in the community is preserved through mentorship, and my role is to be a mentor to those looking for guidance,” she shared.

Throughout her studies, Soulliere worked as a tutor to younger students. And upon learning that she was Métis, she channeled her mentorship philosophy, skills and energy into tutoring at the Can-Am Indian Friendship Centre. “Finding out I was Métis provided me with the opportunity to reach out to my community and use my talents to fulfill a need,” she said.

While completing her undergraduate studies at the University of Windsor, Soulliere also volunteered as a mentor and tutor at the Aboriginal Education Centre. And she expanded her interests, serving as a curriculum developer and implementer in the 4 Winds STEM project, which involved organizing and facilitating weekly worships for Aboriginal youth in topics related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

In 2012, Soulliere was accepted into medical school – achieving one of her life goals. The new learning environment offered more opportunities for her to connect and engage further with her Métis heritage, and she took full advantage. She continued her mentorship and tutoring, served on the Indigenous Admissions Committee and became a general member of the Aboriginal Health Advocacy Group.

Each year of medical school brought with it new opportunities and Soulliere wasn’t shy about becoming involved. A quick glance at her resume shows a long line of volunteer roles including Clerkship Representative on the Windsor Campus Academic Committee and Executive Member of the Family Medicine Interest Group and Operation Green.

She considers her work as the Coordinator for Orientation Week as her greatest volunteer achievement of the past four years. “It was a monstrous task planning two weeks worth of events for the incoming class,” she said. “When I took on the role, I wanted to increase the amount of time London students spent in Windsor, so they could get to know the city and the people on a more intimate level.” In doing so, Soulliere changed the approach now taken.

With four years of medical school coming to an end, Soulliere feels proud of her many accomplishments. What’s has been most unexpected for her is how much confidence she has gained while overcoming that nagging self-doubt that she wasn’t good enough.

“When we started medical school, we were these shy students, unsure of what to expect,” she said. “The expectations were high and there was much responsibility; none of us could fathom how quickly we would develop the confidence to manage situations.”

It’s a confidence that she hopes to model and instill in prospective Indigenous medical students. “I think one of the main barriers Indigenous youth face when considering medical school, or even post-secondary education, is confidence,” she said. “We need role models and mentors for youth to emulate and look up to, so they can know that any dream, even attending medical school, is possible.”  

With her residency in family medicine on the horizon, Soulliere is achieving yet another goal. “Not to sound cheesy, but it’s a dream come true,” she said of her future role as a family physician. Soulliere plans to practice in Essex County and continue to give back to the people and enrich the communities who have given her so much. As mentor, role model and dedicated physician she is sure to continue making an impact.

The Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry congratulates Danielle and the entire Medicine Class of 2016 on their incredible achievements during the past four years and on their graduation.