Students and residents of Dalhousie Medical School
Q&A with Alexandra Hudson, second-year medical student
Alexandra Hudson is pretty familiar with the title of Academic All-Canadian—she’s actually a four-time winner. It’s one of the highest distinctions a student athlete can achieve; one that Hudson says is only possible with the right supports and balance.
She’s a varsity volleyball player, a second-year medical student, and an avid volunteer in her community. After hearing about her latest Academic All-Canadian award at Dal, we sat down with her to find out the secret to her A-game.
You’re now a four-time Academic All-Canadian. How does that feel?
I’m very thankful for the award. I would have never been able to accomplish any of this without the constant support of my teammates, classmates and everyone around me. If you enjoy what you’re doing – academically and in athletics – it’s something that feels natural and you just want to keep succeeding at it.
You moved to Halifax after an undergrad at the University of Toronto. How was the transition to medical school?
It’s very different. You don’t take five separate courses like you would in a typical undergrad degree. Everything in medical school is combined and it’s a pass or fail system. You’re here to learn with an end goal of becoming a really good physician.
How do you balance academics and athletics?
Being organized and having a schedule laid out ahead of time helped me. You quickly realize that between practices and games every weekend, that it’s going to be a daily commitment. You have to plan around it, especially with the volleyball season running from the end of August to March.
Luckily with the first year of medical school, we had our classes in the morning, which left room for volleyball in the evenings. I just had to stay on top of everything and keep looking ahead.
What motivates you?
As an athlete, it was joining a team of highly motivated, returning players that just won the Atlantic University Sports championship two years in a row. We have a cohesive team which made me want to do well and work hard at winning another championship.
As a medical student, my motivation comes from interactions with patients and physicians, and classmates that really want to be here. In the first and second year of medical school, you’re in the hospitals about once a week. That increases when you get into third year clerkship, but it’s what keeps motivating me.
Is there any crossover between your athletic and academic life?
The biggest thing is teamwork. In volleyball, you can’t win if you only have one or two all-star players. You need a team that’s working well together and a team that constantly communicates. If you stop communicating, the ball will drop and it’s over.
The same thing applies with medicine. Even if a physician has his or her own clinic, they aren’t operating solo. That’s especially true in a teaching hospital. There are so many people that you need on your team and that you have to count on to deliver the best patient care.
Have you had any mentors?
Yes, a few. First and foremost: my parents and grandparents.
As a medical student, through the Research in Medicine program, I’ve been working with Dr. Kim Blake. She’s been an amazing mentor for research and medical education. I’ve been working in her lab that focuses on feeding difficulties and abnormal feeding behaviours in children with CHARGE syndrome, which is a genetic disorder. She has been incredibly supportive and has provided me the opportunity to attend and present our study at the International CHARGE Syndrome Conference in Chicago.
And, obviously, my volleyball coach, Rick Scott. He’s been supportive of me the entire time. He welcomed me to the team and instantly made me feel right at home.
Lastly, I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish any of this without my volleyball coach at the University of Toronto, Kristine Drakich. She constantly pushed me to become a better athlete and student, and she provided so many supports for me to succeed. I can’t thank her enough for all that she has done for me.
What else keeps you busy at Dalhousie?
I really enjoy volunteering with youth. I teach swimming lessons to kids with physical or mental disabilities through Making Waves Halifax. I also take part in the Special Tigers program, where kids with intellectual disabilities partner with varsity athletes and play sports.
I tutor with SHINE Academics, a tutoring program for young students at the North End public library in Halifax. And I’m volunteering with a new program called I Am Potential, an after school program for middle school students. We bring kids to the Tupper Building and teach them medical activities like casting and suturing, to get them interested in a career in health care.