Soccer showdown

Jad and Rawad Serhan

Charity soccer match brings medical and dental students together to raise funds for two local organizations

By Emily Leighton, MA’13

It was a friendly rivalry for a good cause, creating light-hearted competition between Schulich Medicine & Dentistry’s two professional programs.

The first-ever charity soccer match took place in September, supporting Oral Health, Total Health’s Sharing Smiles Day and WAYS Mental Health Support. The game saw dentistry students facing off against their peers in medicine.

For lead organizers and brothers Jad and Rawad Serhan, the situation is a familiar one – Jad, 23, is a second-year medical student, and Rawad, 25, is a third-year dental student.

The brothers grew up playing soccer in London, competing at regional and provincial levels. They say their different paths in pursuing health-related fields is a result of their personalities. “We both like the aspect of helping people,” explained Rawad. “But for me, dentistry was appealing for the very hands-on aspect of care, and the opportunity to build relationships with patients in the community.”

The idea for the charity soccer match initially came from watching the Mighty Dents, Schulich Dentistry’s hockey team, in their annual matchup against the University of Toronto.

“We thought a soccer game was a great way to involve even more students in supporting the charities that we care about,” said Rawad. “There’s quite a few of us that play in intramural soccer leagues at Western, so the charity match combined our love for the game with giving back to the community.”

In addition to supporting local organizations, the charity match also provided an opportunity for students in the two programs to connect outside the walls of academia.

“We recognized that the interaction between our two programs is fairly minimal throughout the year,” Jad explained. “Sports are unifying, so we thought this was a good opportunity for our programs to come together.”

Many of their peers pitched in to help as well. “There were so many people who contributed to make the event what it was,” said Jad. “We’re very appreciative of all the help.”

About 200 spectators came out to support the efforts at Western’s Alumni Field and cheer for their favourite team. “People lost their voices from all the cheering,” said Rawad, reflecting on the big day. “There were back-and-forth chants, people brought drums, painted their faces – it was an exciting, and nerve-wracking, experience.”

Each side played with a 20-person roster, and the teams were given an opportunity to meet and practise in the week leading up to game day.

The high-paced game ended in a narrow victory for medicine, with a final score of 2 – 1.

“Rawad is very competitive, so I was pretty keen on beating him,” Jad said with a laugh. “But I’ll only rub it in a little bit.”

“We won’t make excuses for our performance, but dentistry will win next year for sure,” Rawad responded.

Aside from the bragging rights for medical students, the game raised a total of $1,100 for Sharing Smiles Day, and $550 for WAYS.

As an annual volunteer with Sharing Smiles Day, the organization is significant to Rawad. “Sharing Smiles Day means a lot for everyone involved. I look forward to it each year,” he said.

For Jad, supporting mental health services hits close to home. “There’s still a stigma, and many young people suffer in silence, including medical students and residents,” he said.

With plans to make the sporting event an annual affair, the brothers are hoping they can build on the camaraderie the event encourages. They’re looking at inviting more faculty and staff to participate next year.

“Combining entertainment, charity and program interaction seems to be a winning formula,” said Rawad.