From student leader to valedictorian: Hailey Guertin's journey of impact and achievement

By Annamaria Leahey

Hailey Guertin’s passion for medicine, dedication to learning, and commitment to the community has shaped her journey throughout medical school.  

Now Guertin is a graduate of the Windsor Meds 2023 Class and was voted by her peers to be her class’s 2023 Valedictorian – the first from the Windsor campus - due to the positive impact she had on their tight-knit community as their class leader for two years. She recently matched to paediatrics at Dalhousie University and was selected as a Canadian Associate for Medical Education (CAME) Rising Star thanks to her deep desire to contribute to the growing emphasis on humanity and empathy in medical education. She tells us more in this Convocation Q&A. 

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What inspired you to pursue a career in medicine, and how has your experience at Schulich Medicine and Dentistry helped you achieve your goals?

 My career was driven by a love of learning and a desire to build a strongly connected community. The role of a physician is so multifaceted - we are perpetual students and teachers, and we are also researchers, advocates, collaborators, listeners, and helpers.  

I was drawn to medicine because of the challenges of balancing each of these roles, and the good that can come from doing so successfully. My time at Schulich Medicine has allowed me to explore each aspect of being a physician, and the agency I’ve been given over my education has made it possible to find the balance that works for me!   

What was the highlight of your experience at Schulich Medicine? 

The highlight would be completing my medical education as a part of the Windsor Campus community. We are a small, tightly knit group with close ties to our faculty and preceptors at the hospital. There are so many more hands-on experiences and opportunities here than I imagined, and being a student here has allowed me to build confidence in my patient management and procedural skills. 

As I wrap up my medical education and celebrate my achievements over the past four years, I do so with the deepest appreciation and gratitude to my Windsor Campus family. 

What advice would you give to someone who is considering a career in medicine? 

I would recommend being open to learning from every new experience and being unrelenting in your desire to succeed. Medical education is so much more than sitting at your desk and studying day in and day out. It is a series of challenges and experiences, all of which will help you grow and learn.  

There were so many times both before and during my medical school journey when I felt I had failed, but I always reminded myself that success could be right around the corner. I think being open, curious, and resilient is vital to finding joy and balance in the practice of medicine, and exploring or starting a career in medicine with that in mind will allow students to get the most out of their medical education. 

What are your future career plans, and how do you hope to make a positive impact in your field?  

I feel so grateful and lucky to have been matched to paediatrics at Dalhousie University during the CaRMS cycle, and I will be headed out to Halifax to start residency on July 1. I chose paediatrics for many of the same reasons that I was initially drawn to medicine - the keen sense of community, the constant learning, and the many opportunities to act as a teacher and advocate for the paediatric population. Alongside my clinical learning, I hope to continue being involved in the medical education community. I love the idea of eventually being part of the group that influences how we teach the next generation of physicians, and I am coming into the Medical Education community at an exciting time where our ideas of the best way to teach and learn are radically changing. 

I hope to contribute to the growing emphasis on humanity and empathy in medical education, and the importance of forging strong relationships and lines of communication with our patients and their families.  

What are some of the most important lessons you learned during your time here? 

I learned so many things about myself and about medicine that it’s hard to choose just a few! Staying true to your own path is one of those important lessons. There are so many ways to tackle medical school, and your attention can be pulled in a million directions between patient care, research, committees, volunteering, friendships, and family. 

Keeping my goals and values at the forefront of my mind helped me to find a balance that allows me to feel fulfilled, even during the tougher days. I have learned the achievements that can be celebrated with my community are always my favorite ones!  

My last important lesson came from my Windsor Campus Associate Dean Dr. Larry Jacobs - always bring an extra pair of socks on-call shifts! That lesson has made the difference between a good and not-so-good night. 

Congratulations on being voted as the class Valedictorian - the first ever from the Windsor Campus! How did you feel when you found out about this achievement and what message do you hope to convey in your valedictory speech? 

Thank you! I was on my post-CaRMS vacation and boarding a plane when the email came through. I was with my closest friends from medical school who have been with me through every obstacle and success, and it was an incredibly special moment to be able to celebrate together. I have had the honour of serving as Class President for the past two years and being nominated for Valedictorian is a sign to me that my classmates feel I advocated on their behalf and represented them well, so I feel incredibly humbled and grateful to them for believing in me.  

The class of 2023 has conquered so many unexpected challenges since beginning our medical school journey, and we have managed to do so with grace and unrelenting enthusiasm. Beyond the challenging nature of medical education itself, I have had classmates who have gotten married, mourned the loss of loved ones, and celebrated bringing life into the world as new parents! I hope that my valedictory speech will be a recognition of my classmates' achievements in the medical sphere as well as a celebration of the humility, empathy, and humanity we bring to our new roles as resident physicians.  

You were recently selected as a Canadian Associate for Medical Education (CAME) Rising Star. Can you tell us more about this recognition and what it means to you?  

Being selected for the CAME Rising Star award was such an unexpected honour! I remember receiving the notification and having the realization that my work and my efforts over the past four years on various committees and groups had an impact on those around me. It was a huge encouragement to keep pushing for change and improvement in medical education.