Award: Jelena Poleksic, Medicine Class of 2022, receives international scholarship to study abroad

Jelena Poleksic, Medicine Class of 2022, seized a unique opportunity to combine her passion for medicine and humanities by pursuing a concurrent master’s degree in History at University College London, thanks to a Chevening Scholarship.

The Chevening Scholar program is funded by the government of the United Kingdom, providing exceptional international graduate students with a full funding package to study in the UK for one year.

As part of the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry's new MD+ track, Poleksic will complete advanced training in history and medical humanities while still enrolled in the Doctor of Medicine program.

Her passion for medical humanities began as an undergraduate student in the Arts & Sciences program at McMaster University, which linked the two disciplines throughout its curricula. Poleksic further developed these interests as a researcher and a leader throughout her medical studies, as part of the School’s Osler Society.

She conducted research on compassion education within health care settings, considering the impact of digital technologies and virtual learning on teaching compassionate care. Thanks to an OMSA Medical Student Education Research Grant, she further examined this area of concern by analyzing discourse pertaining to mental health and substance use stigma within the medical community. 

“This research revealed the myriad ways in which medical curricula can undermine compassion not only toward patients, but also toward ourselves and our peers,” she shared. “I became even more motivated to find avenues in which to protect the medical profession’s humanism, and I shifted my attention to the history of science and medicine.”

Poleksic’s research projects have also focused on the history of pandemic response planning and the treatment of puerperal insanity in Victorian Canada. She received a Poster Presentation Award at the History of Medicine Days conference and a Rowntree Prize in Medical History, respectively, for this work.

At University College London, she hopes to delve further into the histories of global health, psychiatry and women in medicine.

“In addition to gaining skills in archival research and historiographical methods, my hope is that graduate training will help me better contextualize patient experiences, while also improving my ability to reflect and act upon challenges in clinical practice,” Poleksic said, adding that she would one day like to engage her future expertise as a medical educator.

“Winning the Chevening Scholarship, combined with the support of the MD+ program, has helped me achieve my dream of a truly interdisciplinary medical education. There is support for pursuits that fall outside of the scope of traditional medical curricula, and students should be encouraged undertake those opportunities that have the potential to complement and enhance their medical practice.”