U of M Scholarship Winner: “It’s OK to Be Who You Are.”
Canadian Medical Hall of Fame awards 17 young leaders
It’s been said good things come to those who wait.
It was an award 14 years in the making.
Back in 2001, Reitmeier was 10-years old and leading a typical pre-adolescent life: playing with friends, learning about life, and not really worrying about anything … until his mom was suddenly diagnosed with cancer.
“It was a confusing time, being such a young age,” he recalls. Compounding the issue, his mom had to travel out east to Hamilton, Ont. to receive treatment. “It was hard being away from her,” he says.
This was a significant moment in Reitmeier’s life, now 24. Admittedly anxious with his mom’s diagnosis and her up-hill journey to recovery, Reitmeier was actually able to find inspiration during this difficult time. He also found his calling.
“The healthcare team our family dealt with while she was there were so phenomenal,” he says. Everyone from the technologists, radiologists, and general hospital staff made sure the whole family knew in detail what his mom’s treatment entailed when they traveled to visit her.
This world of medicine impressed Reitmeier. So much so, by age 13, his mind was set. He knew he wanted to become a doctor.
“From that time I knew I wanted to do something in medicine, so I started improving my grades and it just went from there,” he says.
As for the award, the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame (CMHF) partnered with donors and Canada’s 17 medical schools to identify young leaders who exemplify the qualities of CMHF Laureates.
Students completing their second year of medical school, who demonstrate leadership through community involvement, superior interpersonal and communication skills, academic excellence and an established interest in advancing knowledge, were invited to apply.
Of all the attributes listed above, Reitmeier identifies most with leadership.
He’s taken a leading hand in the development of Bannatyne Campus’ first LGBTTQI* Interest and Mentorship Groups with the goal of ushering awareness to an “underrepresented and generally misunderstood community.”
As someone whom identifies as LGBTTQI*, Reitmeier says coming into medical school he had “a lot of fear” with his sexuality and how it would be perceived by others. A major goal of the mentorship group is to make sure other LGBTTQI* students feel welcome and comfortable with who they are.
“We’ve put up simple posters around campus so a student walking to class can look up at a wall and see a poster that says ‘this is a safe place’ and feel comfortable walking there and knowing that in this facility it’s OK to be who you are,” he explains. “It’s about support and networking with other students and physicians who also identify within the community.”
Reitmeier, along with the other 16 award winners, will receive a travel subsidy to attend The Canadian Medical Hall of Fame 2016 Induction Ceremony on April 14, 2016. Coincidentally, or maybe even fittingly, the ceremony will take place in Hamilton.
“This many years later I’ll get to return to a place where one of the most influential experiences I had on my journey to becoming a doctor took place,” he says. “I’ll be returning as a medical student and a very thankful one for receiving such a generous award.”