Celebrating the Medicine Class of 2016 with Arend Strikwerda

By Emily Leighton, MA'13

Standing in the surgical suite of a Tanzanian hospital, Arend Strikwerda was suddenly struck by the fear that he might not be able to stand the sight of blood.

It was not an ideal scenario for the aspiring physician. Observing a routine surgery was putting his future plans to the test.

“The surgeon made the incision and I was relieved that my fear disappeared. Three hours flew by and I left feeling inspired, not afraid.”

Strikwerda has travelled to Tanzania three times in the past six years. He first arrived in the country during his second year of studies at Trinity Western University. After completing his BSc degree, he then spent five months as a lab tech in Tanga. Most recently, he returned for a fourth-year medical elective in Mwanza.

Each experience left a unique impression. But a constant theme during the three trips was the significance of the physician-patient relationship.

“There’s an intimacy that comes with being someone’s doctor, there’s a lot of trust,” explained Strikwerda. “I was able to see that medicine means caring for people at their most vulnerable, in their time of greatest need.”

It’s an outlook he also gained as a student at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry.  And on May 13, Strikwerda will be one of 169 students graduating from the School as the Medicine Class of 2016.

Looking back at his four years, he is reflecting with optimism and a dash of humour.

“It seemed like it wasn’t going to end there for a while,” he said with a laugh, referring to the dog days of second and third year. “It’s hard to believe we’ve arrived at this point of saying goodbye.”

Strikwerda’s contributions to his class and the School stemmed from his artistic abilities.  

He was a member of the class band, The Downtown Hands, as a violinist and occasional vocalist. The band made hit appearances at the Schulichpalooza talent show each year.

Strikwerda’s talents also shone on stage during Tachycardia productions. Memorable characters included the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland, played as an eccentric ER doc, and Shaggy from Scooby Doo, complete with appropriate facial hair.

The 26-year-old was raised on a farm in Oxford County, one of six siblings. He is the first in his immediate family to pursue a health-related career.

And come this July, Strikwerda will be starting a four-year residency in paediatrics at McMaster University. “There’s a lot of hope and possibility in paediatrics,” he explained. “For me, it’s about helping children achieve their aspirations.”

At the conclusion of his well-earned medical degree, Strikwerda is thankful for his time at the School and the people he’s met along the way.

“I’ll definitely miss the community we’ve built as a class during the past four years,” he said. “I also have such appreciation for the doctors and patients I worked with, for letting me participate and take part. People let me into very intimate parts of their lives and I hope I never lose sight of how special and trusting that relationship is.”

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