Purple and proud

“There’s a famous quote,” said Mike Pignanelli in a cheeky tone, “If you want to make God laugh tell him your plans.”

A proud member of the Medicine Class of 2018, he isn’t hindered by a little superstition. He confidently shares how his plan to study at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry and return to the Windsor area came together, and how he plans to make Southwestern Ontario a big part of his future.

Born and raised in Lasalle, Ontario, just 10 minutes from Windsor, Pignanelli grew up in a family of health care professionals; his father is a physician and his mother is an occupational therapist.

For Pignanelli, studying medicine has always been the end-goal, something he says happened naturally. “My parents never pushed me to pursue medicine, I just came by it honestly,” he said.

He took the first step in his plan by completing a bachelor of medical sciences degree at Schulich School of Medicine of Medicine & Dentistry, Western University, coincidentally his parents’ alma mater. And when it came time to choosing a medical school – for him, all signs pointed to the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and returning to his home-town.

Pignanelli recalls how impressed he was when he toured the facilities in Windsor with a fourth year medical student, prior to making the final decision to apply. “We shared similar backgrounds,” said Pignanelli. “We were both from the area, and prior to entering medical school we both wondered about the impact of the distributed program.”

During the tour, Pignanelli heard about the strengths of the overall program, about the fact that students in London and Windsor feel like one class, and how much the Windsor community has embraced the Program. “The Windsor area is so excited about having medical students, and it’s a positive aura all around. It’s new and really exciting to be here.”

Pignanelli believes he made the right decision in choosing Schulich Medicine, pointing out that faculty leadership is definitely a key to the success of the Undergraduate Medical Education program. “Dr. Strong, Dr. Tithecott and Dr. Cooper are all visible, they have an open door policy and we know they are here for us,” he said.

It’s an attitude he says trickles down and is reflected in a caring culture at the School, where faculty mentors are generous with their time, where there are no egos, and where everyone is committed to the mission. “It would be hard to imagine a better environment to begin my medical career,” said Pignanelli.

In addition to maintaining his course load, Pignanelli is the President for the Class of 2018. In doing so, he has made history as the first class president located at the Windsor campus. The role has given him the opportunity to be the voice for his class and weigh in on organizational and academic aspects of the UME program.

He’s humbled by the role and opportunity. “For me it’s an honour to represent my class. I have never been part of such an amazing group of people, and to have their confidence, it’s great,” said Pignanelli.

Moving forward Pignanelli and his classmates have a number of ideas they want to put forward for consideration, including improved communication and increased integration with medical and dental students.

They are also looking at new new opportunities to integrate with the nursing program at the University of Windsor. “My classmates and I are trying to build more of an interprofessional culture, by including non-medical school, health care students in extracurricular and fundraising events. Ideally, we would like to identify the opportunity for more interprofessional experiences into our pre-clerk curriculum in our first and second years,” Pignanelli said.

Although he has only completed his first year, Pignanelli is planning for the future and how his community, and Southwestern Ontario more broadly, can be part of that future. “I’m excited about being able to build my foundation here because it’s the people of Southwestern Ontario who I want to help,” said Pignanelli. “If I could align my stars, I would like to end up here.”