Feature: Celebrating the Medicine Class of 2019 with Cindos Barakat

By Jennifer Parraga, BA'93

Family - it means the world to Cindos Barakat.

The second eldest of five children, she relishes every moment she spends with her parents, siblings and relatives. They are her foundation, her joy, and when needed, her support system.

In late August 2015, Barakat had the good fortune to become part of a second family as a member of the Medicine Class of 2019.

“From day one, my classmates have been so supportive, kind and compassionate, and they have helped to create such a positive culture. I really can’t imagine life before or without them,” she said.

Apart from a few years when Barakat felt she was destined to make it to the WNBA, she always knew medicine would be part of her life.

Throughout high school, she enjoyed learning about the mechanics of the human body and spent hours working with community organizations, youth groups, and supporting mentorship programs. She was determined to find a career that would always challenge her and also allow her to help people.

“I love people, talking to them and spending time with them, and I wanted to make sure that whatever I did with my life that there was always a place for working with people in a positive way.

As a medical student, Barakat channeled her passion for the human condition into community engagement and she began volunteering at the London Intercommunity Health Centre. Fluent in Arabic, she was able to work closely with new Londoners, to help them adjust to a new city and culture, as well as help them navigate the health care system.

The experience was so fulfilling that she decided to attend a Summer Institute for Refugee Health following her first year of medical school. Upon her return, she became an executive of the Newcomer Health Project, a student-led group at the School. She organized lecture series, workshops and coordinated students’ participation in medical clinics locally. The group was also able to host fundraising activities and raise money for a church group in Thunder Bay who was sponsoring a refugee family.

In 2016, Barakat became a director at H.appi, a non-profit organization whose aim is to destigmatize mental health in the Middle East. Through H.appi they were able to run a month-long summer camp for refugee children in London. 85 newcomer children enjoyed fun-filled days of art, music, sports, science and math while developing their English language skills.

Barakat recalls the pride she felt during those warm summer days as she watched the young campers running around, enthusiastically chatting with one another and enjoying their lives.

“I’m so grateful that my medical school experience guided me to participating in H.appi,” she said. “It really was one of the most fulfilling parts of the past four years.

As her medical school studies shifted from pre-clinical to clinical, Barakat began exploring global health and travelled to Jordan and Rwanda for electives. She came away from each of the international learning opportunities with a greater understanding and appreciation of the value relationships play in the provision of health care, and the tremendous resiliency of physicians who work in lower resource medical environments.

“I learned a lot about what it is like in low resource hospitals. It’s hard and taxing, outcomes are often poor, and what is a rare day here is every-day life there,” she said. “We can learn from their versatility and from the resiliency of the physicians there.”

Shortly after Barakat returned from Rwanda, she learned about her residency match. In July, she will begin her five-year training experience with the Department of Anesthesia & Perioperative Medicine at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry. She’s grateful to three mentors, who took her through her paces as she prepared for her interviews. She met her mentors, Drs. Dalal Dahrouj, Mary Lu and Aisha Ghare, during her first year and was immediately inspired by their passion, drive and strength.

“They are just awesome, strong and powerful women and they have been there for me throughout my entire medical school experience,” said Barakat. 

Reflecting on the past four years, Barakat has a hard time believing it will soon be over.

“My first two years were so fun,” she said. “Third year is rigorous and I really got a taste of what my life could be like as a doctor. It was such an amazing human experience to get to work with people in such a beautiful way. And then fourth year comes like a thunderbolt and goes in a flash. I’ve just really enjoyed it all.”

On May 17, Barakat will cross the stage for her graduation and become a member of yet another family – the Schulich Medicine & Dentistry, Western University alumni family.

The Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry congratulates Cindos and the entire Medicine Class of 2019 on their incredible achievements during the past four years and on their graduation.