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Gunjan Mhapankar shares her passion for advocacy with the world


Gunjan Mhapankar

By Crystal Mackay, MA'05

She has a message to send to young people around the world who want to make a difference: “While the problems that young people are facing globally are complex, we are not alone in our efforts and don’t have to do this alone if we start thinking beyond our local networks.”

This week, Gunjan Mhapankar, Medicine Class of 2020, will have a chance to spread that message to young people from 192 countries at the One Young World Summit in Ottawa. As the Canadian recipient of the Queen’s Young Leader Award, she will be sitting on a panel speaking to 1,200 delegates about the importance of global collaborations.

An advocate for underserviced populations, Mhapankar was recognized with the Award and travelled to London, England to meet the Queen, along with 60 others from commonwealth countries around the world. It provided an opportunity to become part of a network of young people who are all working toward a common goal: making the world a better place.

Mhapankar received the Queen's Young Leader Award in JuneMhapankar was recognized with this honour because of her work with the not-for-profit organization, BC211, helping to connect vulnerable populations with resources and services for things like mental health and addiction, employment guidance and residential rehabilitation. While completing her undergraduate degree in Vancouver, she was involved in the Digital Storytelling Project, which took to the streets with cameras to give a voice to service providers, as well as giving those in the community an opportunity to express what they needed to feel supported.

“This project transformed the way I perceive the world. What I really valued was how people were willing to share and open up and tell profound stories and learnings with someone that they just met,” she said. “It really opened my eyes to the power of communication.”

That’s part of the reason why she feels it is so important to continue to tell her story and share her experiences with others. She plans to use the opportunity at the One Young World Summit to not only motivate others but also to make her own connections as part of this new family of young leaders from around the world.

Having only just settled in London, Ontario and at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, she is already looking for opportunities to contribute to the community here, and feels strongly that her medical training at Schulich Medicine will prepare her well for this next chapter in her life.

“I expected in the first few weeks of medical school to learn about treatment and diagnosis and all of the different procedures and routines,” she said. “But I love the fact that there is also a focus on what kind of person you want to be, and what kind of doctor you want to be.”

She tells the story of a professor in one of her first classes putting up a slide that asked, ‘Who are you? Where are you from? Where are you going?’ “Here we were at 8:30 in the morning expecting to just learn about anatomy, and instead it really made us sit back and question why we are here and where we want to go from here,” she said. “And that was really profound.”

Read Mhapankar's One Young World blog post, "How digital storytelling can improve the lives of at-risk communities".