Feature Article: Celebrating the Medicine Class of 2018 with Emma Ali

In just a few weeks, Emma Ali, Medicine Class of 2018, will begin her two-year residency in family medicine. And she can’t wait.

“I’m so excited to get back on the ward and start my residency,” she said. “Family medicine is a generalist field and it challenges you to be sharp, stay focused, have all the fundamentals down pat, and to be humble.”

Ali has never shied away from a challenge, whether it is a volunteer or mentorship opportunity, or the pursuit of a university program. She loves to explore, and Schulich Medicine & Dentistry offered the perfect environment to discover new avenues that satisfied her love of learning.

With little acting and performing experience to her credit Ali produced Tachycardia for three years. She started as a junior producer in her second year, and by fourth year was senior producer of the beloved medical school tradition which has been in produced annually since 1951.

“If somebody would have told me when I came to medical school that I would spend four years devoted to a musical in the middle of medical training, I might not have believed them,” Ali said. “I found it amazing that even though I didn't have the same classical theatre training as my friends, they saw my passion and were willing to teach me and help me thrive.”

Claiming it as one of her greatest achievements while at the School, she’s very proud of the annual productions. But perhaps even more so, she’s grateful for the experience of raising funds for the Regional HIV/AIDS Connection in London. Each year the production raises approximately $25,000 for the organization.

During the past few years, Dr. Ali has had the chance to interact with some of the patients on the wards, who are living with HIV/AIDS. She feels quite privileged that many patients shared their personal stories with her.

“It’s wonderful to be part of the legacy of Tachy and to be part of something that is so much bigger than myself and my class,” she said. “It’s very humbling and rewarding to give back in this way.”

Passionate about public service and enriching the lives of others, Ali didn’t limit her community engagement to Tachycardia. She also became involved in a research project that is striving to gain a better understanding of how medical schools are teaching pelvic exams, and the impact that the exams have for those individuals who have experienced sexual violence. Along with her research partner, they are approaching it from the perspective of how to make the delivery of care easier, safer and more comfortable.

From the classroom and extracurricular activities, to the time spent in clinical settings, the past four years have exceeded Ali’s expectations.

She sums up it in a word – amazing.

The aspiring physician credits her peers, the residents she met, her teachers and even some strangers for making it so.  

As a recipient of a four-year continuing Schulich Scholarship, Ali believes the act of generosity from which she benefited was the first important step to her success as a medical student. She clearly remembers the day she received news about the Scholarship, and how it made her feel as though she was now on the same playing field as everyone else.

“It’s astonishing that someone can believe in you so much and that they will be so generous. It really inspires you to greatness because you want them to know that their investment was a good one,” she said.

She is also appreciative of her teachers and grateful for their guidance – many who served as role models. She admits, however, to not expecting that faculty would be so invested in each student’s success.

“The physicians really want to teach you. It doesn’t matter if you are on the ward or in the classroom, there is someone there who cares about you and is ensuring that you are being the best that you can be,” she said.

It was the kindness of strangers that was most unexpected for Ali. She remembers the customer who bought coffee for her and her colleagues at Tim Horton’s one day, and the man at the gas station who rushed in and saved the day when she was struggling with her car.

“People have cared about me, and that has helped every step of the way,” she said.

Now moving onto her residency training, Ali feels well prepared to pay it forward and embrace all the exciting challenges she will encounter as a trainee, mentor and physician.

The Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry congratulates Emma and the entire Medicine Class of 2018 on their incredible achievements during the past four years and on their graduation.