New beginnings for the Medicine Class of 2027

By Emily Leighton

Schulich Medicine & Dentistry is welcoming 190 first-year medical students to the community, the largest class in the School’s history.

Meet four members of the Class of 2027 at the start of their journey in medicine.

Wessam Al JawhriWessam Al Jawhri
Hometown: From Syria; born and raised in United Arab Emirates

“Being part of the Schulich Medicine & Dentistry community signifies more than just an academic pursuit. It represents a journey of growth, collaboration and transformation.”

As a future clinician-scientist, Wessam Al Jawhri believes in the power of translational research. Entering his first year of the MD/PhD program, his goal is to bridge the gap between clinical practice and basic science research.

“By highlighting the direct impact research has on patient care, I hope to inspire a deeper appreciation for the critical role that translational research plays in advancing medicine.”

Al Jawhri is also passionate about addressing health disparities, with plans to participate in outreach initiatives at the School focused on underserved communities. He is looking forward to further exploring the socio-cultural factors that lead to these disparities in care and contribute to cultural competency training at the School.

“We can collectively contribute to a more inclusive health-care system by cultivating an environment that values and respects different backgrounds.”

Melissa CoteMelissa Côté
Hometown: Ottawa, Ontario

“Community is a give and take – I want to share my experiences and learn from others. I’m looking forward to understanding the varied perspectives my classmates bring to the table because diversity is what adds to the richness of a community.”  

Serving as a research scientist for the Canadian Armed Forces, Melissa Côté applies her expertise in thermal regulation to evaluate heat exposure limits and test military equipment. It’s a unique background for someone entering medicine, but both professions offer highly skilled team environments and a focus on helping people in need.

Côté joined the military as a naval scuba diver in 2019 and plans to serve as a medical officer after completing her residency training.

“The military needs doctors and I want to continuing serving my country,” she said. “I also want to be a positive representative for women in the military, to show our strength and contributions.”

Côté’s other passion is sustainable farming, with a special interest in the relationship between food and health. She worked on farms throughout her studies and spent a year learning about traditional farming practices in Switzerland. She continues to spend many weekends working at local farms.

“I’m passionate about promoting preventative medicine through nutrition and healthy lifestyle,” she said.

An avid hiker and backpacker, Côté has completed more than 700 kilometres of the Pacific Crest Trail that runs through California, Oregon and Washington. She’s keen to join student clubs focused on her passion for the outdoors and sustainability.

Maggie ParkinsonMaggie Parkinson
Hometown: Corunna, Ontario

“Being a part of this community means having a support system and family to rely on throughout my education. It is going to enable me to form important relationships with my peers and future colleagues, as we work together to achieve great things.”

Maggie Parkinson’s desire to become a doctor began at a young age. After experiencing health issues as a small child, she grew to appreciate the significant and valuable role health-care providers play in people’s lives.

A member of Aamjiwnaang First Nation, she currently serves as a youth representative on the Aamjiwnaang Health Committee and finds inspiration in the community-led, interprofessional approach to health. 

“Oftentimes when people think of health, they think of physical health. But health is multidimensional incorporating mental, social and spiritual elements as well.”  

As an aspiring physician, Parkinson is committed to advancing Indigenous health and plans to join the student-led Indigenous Health Advocacy Group to connect with her peers. And with family medicine in her sights, she hopes to eventually return to her community as a primary care provider.

“I’m excited for a career in medicine because of the opportunities for life-long learning and being involved in the changing practice, and also because of my desire to contribute to my community, and other Indigenous communities, by providing culturally appropriate health care.”

Kyla PiresKyla Pires
Hometown: Vancouver, British Columbia

“I am taken by the close-knit feel of the Schulich Medicine & Dentistry community. I’m excited to meet my classmates and hope to make life-long friends and professional connections.”

After her father passed away suddenly, Kyla Pires developed a greater appreciation of the fragility of life and how quickly it can change.

“Health crises can feel isolating,” she said. “There’s the emotional distress, but also the more practical challenges around decision-making, planning and supporting family members.”

The experience motivated her to explore a career in medicine and strive to be a physician who patients trust when navigating hardships in life, as well as health emergencies.

“It’s important for physicians to understand the nuances of these experiences. My goal as a future physician is to attend to the medical issue, while also considering the broader impact on the patient and their quality of life.”

For the past seven years, Pires has also volunteered to diversify the stem cell donor registry in Canada, including publishing on the topic. The current registry contains an overrepresentation of Caucasian donors, meaning finding a match for members of ethnic minorities is difficult. Pires is helping recruit more ethnically diverse donors to the registry.

“People of all ethnicities deserve an equal chance at fighting blood disorders,” she said.

She plans to continue this work on a local level by getting involved with the School’s chapter of the National Stem Cell Club.