For Ala El Baba, Medicine Class of 2019, volunteering in the Windsor community is a way of life.
“This community has given me so much,” she said. “For me, it’s important to give back and make a difference at the local level.”
Born in Saudi Arabia, El Baba immigrated to Canada with her family in 2005. They settled in the Windsor area, and El Baba developed a strong connection to the region.
She completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Windsor, majoring in biochemistry with a minor in political science.
Volunteer experiences throughout her undergrad studies helped shape her career direction. In particular, her work with the Welcome Centre Shelter for Women encouraged the energetic student to consider practising medicine.
“The experience exposed me to different life circumstances, illnesses and psychologies,” she explained. “I was focused on research at the time, but the personal connections I made at the shelter had a big impact.”
Most recently, the second-year student has been involved in the Teddy Bear Hospital, a student-led initiative at Schulich Medicine that brings medical students together with local kindergarten classes to help build their comfort level when visiting the doctor. The initiative was brought to Windsor by two of El Baba's classmates, Sudha Ayalsomayajula and Evan Brydges.
“The curiosity kids have is so admirable,” she said. “And they instinctively just want to help and make others feel better.”
The children are each asked to bring a special stuffed animal for the activity, so they can play the role of doctor and learn how health professionals help make people feel better.
The volunteer medical students set up a series of stations that each deal with a standard aspect of medical care. From checking heartbeats to learning about x-rays to casting broken bones, the kids rotate through these fun-filled stations, looking after their ‘patients’.
“A lot of the teddies end up looking like more like mummies after the casting station,” said El Baba with a laugh. “But the kids have a great time and it really increases their comfort and familiarity.”
El Baba has also volunteered her time in the intensive care and emergency wards at a local hospital, and currently participates in peer mentorship for first-year undergraduate students who are considering medicine through the Altitude program.
She plans to continue helping others in the Windsor community as she moves toward residency and beyond.
“My long-term goal is to practise in Windsor,” she said. “It’s a growing medical hub, and I want to offer my support and skills to the community.”