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Salma Rehimini: President of the QMA’s Student Committee

ACTION SalmaA second-year medical student at McGill University and the new president of the Québec Medical Association’s Student Committee, Salma Rehimini knew from a very young age that she wanted to take care of others. “I preferred my toy doctor’s kit over my dolls,” she remarked, “and I always liked taking care of my mother or grandmother when they were sick.”

Over the years, her ambitions have crystallized into the belief that everything stems from health. “Our health is the most important thing we can have. Without it, we’re nothing. And that’s why I’ve always made it a priority and guarded it fiercely,” she said. It just so happens that health became her driving force, in school and in her own personal endeavours—something this student has never lacked for.

A recognized leader

In college, she began working with young girls from her community to help them “find their place in society as women.” She was also a co-founder of Exporte Supporte, which collects school supplies for underprivileged children. Her good grades and many achievements earned her a nomination for a Loran Award. Offered in full partnership with 25 Canadian universities, this scholarship is given out annually to 30 students considered to be potential leaders of tomorrow. The winners, who receive $100,000 over four years, are paired with a mentor during their studies and have the opportunity to complete highly formative summer internships. “The money is great, of course,” explained Ms. Rehimini, “but it’s really the relationships you build, even during the selection process, with other student leaders from across Canada and from all backgrounds and walks of life that are priceless.”

One project at a time

Singled out as a leader from a very young age, Ms. Rehimini nevertheless doesn’t believe in the notion of “women leaders.” “Leadership is a universal concept—it’s not specific to one gender or one person.” And while not everyone needs to become a leader, anyone who wants to can. All it takes is “to be a hard-working person with a strong desire to lead a team toward a common goal.”

Born into very politically conscious family and herself interested in politics, Ms. Rehimini was quick to get involved with the QMA after starting medical school. The QMA interviewed her about her dedication to the Student Committee.

QMA-INFO: What made you decide to get involved with the QMA’s Student Committee?

Salma Rehimini: It’s not every day you get the opportunity to develop your political acumen. The QMA is an association that emphasizes the professionalism and the medical and political education of young medical students. When I first started in medicine, the Student Committee told us how much the QMA values these qualities, and how important it is for medical students have a grounding in politics because, as doctors, we’re also leaders with a duty to advocate for and defend our profession.

QMA-INFO: And this resonates with you?

I love this philosophy, because it’s truly what I believe, and when I realized there was actually an organization that operates based on this philosophy and these values, I was completely won over and rushed to sign on. After being an active member last year, this year I wanted to take it to the next level, so I ran for president.

QMA-INFO: What do you hope to contribute?

The QMA’s Student Committee has outstanding values and solid objectives. But we haven’t been around for very long and, in the past few years, the Committee has undergone several major changes in its internal administration, its projects, and its way of working. So, we’re still pondering how fast we need to move things forward, which activities we need to keep, which ones we need to add, etc. During my term this year, I’d like to get the Committee onto solid footing and create a certain structured routine. I want to build a solid foundation. We’re becoming more well-known with each passing year; our reach is expanding, which is nice to see, but to keeping growing, we need a strong foundation. So that’s what I’ll try to build this year—a solid foundation—so we can keep going with our remarkable great expansion, which I would even describe as exponential.

QMA-INFO: Which projects matter most to you?

We support student-led initiatives. Each year, we grant more and more funding for these projects, which we’re very happy about, because this shows our colleagues that we support them and their leadership, which, unfortunately, isn’t a big enough focus in our curriculum. I like this project because we give students a forum where they can demonstrate their leadership, we give them an environment where they can carry out their initiatives.

QMA-INFO: Where do you hope to see the medical profession five years from now?

I’m hoping that we’ll really be able to improve the social contract we have with our patients. It’s very, very disappointing to see that patients today don’t trust us like they used to, or that they think we’re not as compassionate or even as competent as we were before. It’s so disappointing because the patient-doctor relationship is the cornerstone of medicine. To think that we’ve come up short in that area feels like a complete failure to me. But my greatest hope is that we’ll be able to rebuild that bond of trust with the patient.

QMA-INFO: Why is it so important?

That bond of trust is the very foundation of our work. Personally, it’s why I chose to become a doctor—for the relationship with the patient, to be able to talk to patients and help them. But how can I help them if they don’t trust me? So, I truly believe we’ll be able to repair this trust through our dedication, through our desire to be more aware as future doctors about what patients are going through and about the needs of medicine today. We also need to keep looking for other solutions, because even though we’re coming up with some, I’m sure there are lots of others. And I can only hope that we’ll keep working on this aspect, because it’s really central to our profession. You can’t consider yourself a doctor—or at least a good doctor—without it.


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