Building a stronger community

Long days spent in a lab waiting for results. Nights hunched at a computer working on a thesis. For a graduate student, finding the time to fit anything into the day aside from research can be a challenge.

The students who make up the Strong Bones, Strong Minds, Strong Muscles (SBSMSM) committee at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry work hard to make volunteering a priority.

The group was founded to provide graduate students an opportunity to volunteer and give back to the School and London community. It offered the students from the 17 diverse program offerings under the Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs umbrella the opportunity to get to know one another.

In its early days, SBSMSM was run by a dedicated group of about five students. Now, in its fourth year, the SBSMSM committee has more than 15 members representing a number of departments in graduate studies.

To encourage interaction between graduate students from all programs, many of the fundraising activities are social events – volleyball tournaments, trivia nights, open mic nights, and euchre tournaments.

Proceeds from ticket sales from all events throughout the year go to one charity, decided upon by the group at the beginning of each year. This year, proceeds are going to Children’s Health Foundation.

As one of the founding members, Hilary Brown, PhD Candidate, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and Coordinator for SBSMSM, has watched the group grow from its humble beginnings to the organization it is today.

She decided to join the group as a way to grow professionally and altruistically. “I see [my participation] as a way to gain skills in leadership and communications. I also think it is important for students to give back to the community. We are living in the community, using resources and programs, so it is nice to give back,” Brown said.

Aside from monetary donations to the community, the group also gives back through three volunteer programs; Retiring with Strong Minds, Be Al U Ca-N B, and the Children’s Hospital Committee. Each volunteer program is run by a chair and committee members, ensuring that each member of SBSMSM has a role to play and has a chance to give back.

With the "Retiring with Strong Minds" program graduate students present their research to residents at Windermere on the Mount, a residential home in London. “Our overall goal is to connect researchers with the public. It provides students with the opportunity of learning to present their research to a lay-audience,” Brown noted.

The initiative, co-chaired by SBSMSM members Kyla Naylor and Lynn Zhu, runs once a month with presentation topics ranging from research happening at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry to graduate research being conducted in the faculties of music, humanities and science.

Be Al U Ca-N B, co-chaired by Baraa Al-Khazraji and Katherine Lee, brings interesting and fun science presentations to children in elementary school. Presentations include dissections and other more advanced presentations most students aren’t exposed to until high school.

The Children’s Hospital Foundation group, co-chaired by Mahabba Smoka and Yiwen Xu, is working to bring similar fun and interesting presentations to patients at Children’s Hospital.

Along with Brown and each of the committee co-chairs, the group also includes students Johnathan Snir, Tara Wang, Jake Bedore, Mouhamaed Dakroub, Patrick Stockwell, Matthew Tsang, Jenny Wang and Stacey Xu.

For Brown, watching the group grow and expand has been a rewarding experience, “I’ve just been really impressed with the level of enthusiasm and dedication from everyone on the committee. Everyone really does take a big chunk of the workload, and we all work well together.”