Student leader with passion for equity wins Hall of Fame award
Mirha Zohair is the 2023 UM recipient of the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame Award for Medical Students.
The honour goes to one second-year student at each Canadian medical school who demonstrates community leadership, superior communication skills and an interest in advancing knowledge.
“I’m incredibly grateful to the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame,” said Zohair, who received a prize of $5,000 and a travel subsidy to attend the 2024 Canadian Medical Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Vancouver in April.
Zohair, a first-generation Pakistani immigrant, completed her bachelor of science at UM in 2021. Now in her third year at the Max Rady College of Medicine (having applied for the award in the previous academic year), she has excelled as a student leader focused on creating a more equitable environment for learners.
“I think the work I do comes from a place of passion,” she said. “Everything that I’ve done comes from a deeply personal place.”
Zohair said she has faced Islamophobia and discrimination, and these experiences have led to her advocacy work in an effort to mitigate Islamophobia in the future.
She has served as the equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) representative for the Manitoba Medical Students’ Association and now holds the position of vice-stick EDI senior.
In her current role, she provides a student perspective as a voting member on the medical school’s admissions committee, assists in developing anti-racism polices on the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences’ EDI committee and serves as a member of the Doctors Manitoba Speaker Series planning committee.
She also helped establish Islamophobia training at the Rady Faculty and worked with a team to organize UM’s first EDI and global health conference earlier this year.
As a co-executive of the Muslim Medical Association of Canada’s UM chapter, Zohair helped create a prayer space for Muslim students on the Bannatyne campus and organized an iftar meal for Muslim medical learners and professionals during Ramadan.
“I got involved in the Muslim Medical Association of Canada to help ensure that Muslim students feel represented and accepted on campus,” she said.
This past summer, Zohair took part in the Med Summer Research Program. As part of her research study, she interviewed young adults and adolescents from diverse backgrounds who had experienced cancer.
“I was hoping to work on a study in a field that was personal to me,” she said. “As someone who is racially diverse themselves, I’ve had the experience of being a hijabi within the health-care system. That was something deeply personal to me but also happened to fit into my medical research.”
Zohair said the EDI work she’s involved in is important because every medical student at UM deserves a good experience.
“I don’t think I came into medical school thinking, ‘I’m going to have all these positions; I’m going to do all these roles.’ But I experienced things that made me think, ‘This isn’t right,’” Zohair said. “So, it was ‘If I don’t do this, who will?’ So I took it on myself.”