Abdullah Malik, Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology

Abdullah Malik

I vividly remember the right dress being called during the annual parade for the 778 Banshee Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Cadets. The command to organize would immediately result in the unified stomping of boots, swinging of arms, and shuffling of steps. Although I do not practice this drill today, the discipline and teamwork required would stay with me throughout my academic and professional development. During my undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto, I have also come to appreciate the importance of a leader as an empathetic listener, a compassionate role model, and a dedicated advocate.

I learned how to become an empathetic listener by volunteering on and off campus. From my student mentor in first year, I learned that meaningful dialogue requires taking the perspective of another’s first. Therefore, once I became a peer mentor in the Medical Sciences Student Union at the University of Toronto, I reserved any bias when listening to the challenges brought up by first-­‐year students. In this way, I provided effective guidance that addressed the students’ immediate concerns.  Moreover,  I learned to be an attentive listener from my experience as a day-­‐surgery clinic volunteer at Women’s College Hospital. Surgery can make some patients nervous, which is why I would frequently circulate in the waiting room to ask if patients needed anything or relay any of their concerns to the senior administrators.

Over the last four years I have come to appreciate the importance of being a compassionate role model. My university orientation was made memorable by a student leader who took a positive approach when responding to concerns raised by incoming students. I incorporated this type of encouragement when I became an orientation leader at University College. In response to criticisms of instructors, I always encouraged students to evaluate themselves first to overcome challenges. Similarly, as a team lead for the research group I work with at Toronto General Hospital, I maintain a positive attitude to motivate my colleagues. For example, in  the third consecutive year  on  a systematic review I have encouraged each group of new students working on the project to do their best. I accommodate students’ needs by conducting tutorials outside of lab hours and by making myself available to answer questions in the lab.

Working and going to school in Toronto has afforded me with the opportunity to become a dedicated advocate for causes that I support. As a student, I am always trying to contribute to an equitable environment for learning within the university. This was the reason why I ran for and was elected as an Undergraduate Representative to the Academic Appeals Board. Providing a student perspective  has allowed me to present alternative views to faculty members when deciding on a student appeal. I also have this passion for equity in my role as a member of the Multi-­‐Organ Transplant Student Insight Outreach and Networking Society at the University of Toronto. Through this organization I have had the opportunity to visit various religious groups to promote and speak on organ donation in Canada. Becoming an advocate has allowed me to embrace different perspectives on  causes  I am  passionate about and generate meaningful dialogue within my community.

Being an empathetic listener, a compassionate role model, and a dedicated advocate are all essential components of an effective leader. Opportunities on and off campus have shown me why a leader must be able to listen before guiding. Similarly, becoming a role model requires selflessness and an aptitude towards team objectives. A leader will also find that their dedication to advocacy will inform their perspective of the world. These experiences will continue to define the style of leadership in my future academic and professional pursuits.