McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

No matter of science

Millennium Excellence scholars thrive in McMaster's Health Sciences program

by Amanda Ferguson
Published: February 23, 2006
Diana Choi and Carol King
Diana Choi, left and Carol King, right listen intently to a speaker at the Think Again conference in Ottawa.

It is no matter of science that three of McMaster's Millennium Excellence scholars are all students in the bachelor of health sciences program. Rather, it is a matter of dedication and caring for the community.

Diana Choi, Randy Ai, and Carol King have all perfected the formula for the foundation's standards of leadership, innovation, community involvement and high grades in order to achieve the top-level award from the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation.

For Choi, 21, the challenge is finding enough time to balance her two jobs, schoolwork and still find enough time to volunteer.

Working as an anatomy and physiology teaching assistant, Choi is most interested in research dealing with childhood obesity. She has been working with children since she was the age of 14, beginning with tutoring sick children in local hospitals.

"I have good time-management skills," laughs Choi, who wants to be a paediatrician once she graduates.

Choi says the foundation has given her a reason to push even harder in her school and extra-curricular activities. She has continued her volunteer work as the president of McMaster's Red Cross youth council and volunteering with Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Canada.

"It makes me feel good for what I do," explains Choi. "It is a way for us to develop as human beings in the future. This is a great gift from the foundation."

The renewable $5,000 award is only one of the advantages of this excellence award. Winners are also invited to participate at the annual Think Again conference organized by the foundation. The conference gives the winners a chance to network and discuss some of the vital social issues that face Canadians, all alongside some of the leading experts from a wide variety of fields.

McMaster Millennium scholar, Randy Ai
McMaster Millennium scholar, Randy Ai.

Like Choi, Randy Ai explains how the scholarship goes beyond just helping to pay for school.

"It inspires me to work harder," says Ai. "I really feel a strong sense of duty."

Ai's sense of duty comes from working with others in the community. The 21-year-old third-year student wants to be a politician when he graduates from McMaster.

"I love contact with people and trying to get their story," says Ai. "Eventually I want to help solve their problems with public policy."

For now, Ai is attempting to solve the problems associated with teaching and learning, as he is part of McMaster's research group called Inquiry. The group is studying a form of self-directed learning with McMaster's own professors. Ai says it focuses on self-development and building a platform for life-long learning.

"Current teaching methods do not commonly cater to the individual," he says. "They focus on defined results. They don't care what you've learned in the process, they don't care what self-development occurs. In Inquiry, we care."

Born in Beijing, Ai says his background really shaped how he thinks about school because his parents moved from China in order to give him a good education.

"I really have an appreciation for people and their stories," he says. "Science is a great way to study that systematically."

While Ai is happy talking to all kinds of people, Carol King has a specific soft spot for senior citizens.

"I have this thing for helping the elderly," laughs King. "I just love people."

The 20 year-old also has been deeply involved in many volunteer programs, like participating in a two-week program to Brazil that deeply impacted her life. King was part of a small group of students who travelled to Northern Brazil in 2005 to shadow doctors in the area's poorest regions.

"It was a learning experience for us; it was a learning experience for them," says King. "It was such a different culture."

She explains that one of the biggest lessons her group was able to impart on the medical staff was that of prevention. The Toronto-native hopes to graduate with a bachelor in health sciences and go into medicine.

"I really want to join Doctors without Borders or any third-world volunteer program needing help," she says.

For King, receiving the award from the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation has been a great motivational tool. "It's really nice to be acknowledged for the things I've done," she says. "That's why I like volunteering; it makes me feel good."

Between January 2000 and the completion of its mandate in 2009, the foundation will have distributed approximately one million awards to students across Canada. Ai, Choi and King are only three out of 100 McMaster students to receive a Millennium Excellence Award this year, in recognition of both extracurricular involvement and academic success. Within this group of outstanding students, 22 were in-course award winners and 32 were entrance award winners (in Sept. 2005) with another 46 renewals for students who demonstrated excellence in their McMaster studies and met retention terms.

Amanda Ferguson is a journalism student writing on behalf of the Millennium Scholarship Foundation.

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