Whether it's volunteering at her children's school or planting trees in the community, Jennifer Kays Sommer says a key part of her identity is defined by giving back to the Waterloo region.
Born and raised in the town of Wellesley, Kays Sommer said the Kitchener-Waterloo area has always felt like home. However, becoming a physician was not always part of her plan.
Before attending McMaster University's Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine Waterloo Regional Campus, Kays Sommer practiced as a veterinarian for 13 years. Although she thoroughly enjoyed being a vet and had built a family and home within the Waterloo region, she was aware of an increasing demand in her community for physicians.
"I looked around and noticed growing needs, specifically around mental health, addiction and geriatric care, and I wanted to help," said Kays Sommer.
That's when she discovered McMaster's Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine Waterloo Regional Campus. After careful thought, she started the application process. With three kids, the location of the medical school in Waterloo was the ideal location for her education and as such, the only place she applied.
Kays Sommer said she thrived in the school's small class sizes and tutorial-based learning.
"Being a mature student, a lecture-based program would have been a learning curve," she said. "However, the hands-on and small-group setting has allowed me the flexibility to still be active in my family life, as well as in my community."
Kays Sommer said she is thankful for her family's support on her journey and is excited for what's next.
After graduation, Kays Sommer will be completing a two-year family health residency with Andrew St. Family Health Centre in Kitchener.
Kays Sommer said her long-term goal is to work in mental health and addiction, but ultimately, she is open to going wherever the community needs her.
Kays Sommer will be one of 28 medical students graduating from Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine Waterloo Regional Campus on May 25, 2017.