McMaster University student and budding health-care leader Surabhi Sivaratnam is receiving the 2022 Canadian Medical Hall of Fame (CMHF)’s Award for Medical Students.

Sivaratnam, a first-generation Sri Lankan-Canadian immigrant, grew up in a low-income community in which she often saw friends unable to afford health-care expenses not covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan.

Driven by a desire to address such health inequities, Sivaratnam is entering her second year of the MD program at the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine. She previously obtained her bachelor of health sciences at McMaster and completed open global health courses at Yale University.

“The laureates of the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame continue to inspire me to pursue medicine, reminding me of the great privilege it is to be a health care provider as well as the responsibility that comes with it,” said Sivaratnam.

She said her inspiration was veteran McMaster researcher May Cohen, a 2016 CMHF laureate, who pioneered changes to women’s health care and was a strong advocate for reproductive health.

“This award fuels my commitment to use that privilege to facilitate safer spaces in healthcare,” said Sivaratnam.

She pursued her medical education while working part-time as a clinical research assistant at Toronto’s SickKids Hospital. In this role, she worked with researchers at the University of California Irvine to develop a smartphone app for parents and caregivers of children with cancer.

Sivaratnam was also co-director and primary organizer of the Hamilton TEDx Conference, where she created a space for speakers who navigate everyday life in the face of adversity. Thanks to her efforts, the speakers shared their lived experiences with millions of people worldwide.

She joined Ottawa’s delegation to the World Health Assembly (WHA), in which she collaborated with world leaders to finalize a policy on combatting violence against women and children. The policy was approved by 194 WHA member states.

Sivaratnam is one of 16 health sciences students receiving the CMHF’s Award for Medical Students.

The award is offered to second-year medical students with an established track record of community leadership, strong communication skills and demonstrated interest in advancing knowledge.

Each recipient will receive a cash prize of $5,000 and a travel subsidy to attend the 2023 CMHF Induction Ceremony in Halifax, Nova Scotia. There, they will have the opportunity to meet with CMHF laureates and health-care leaders from across Canada.

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