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Allan Kember

Students and residents of Dalhousie Medical School

Q&A with Allan Kember, third-year medical student

Third-year Dalhousie medical student Allan Kember was recently named among the recipients of the 2016 Canadian Medical Hall of Fame Award. The award recognizes perseverance, collaboration, and entrepreneurialism in medical students, and awarded to those who show promise as future leaders and innovators of health care. With an engineering background, Kember has already been involved in several research projects to address disparities in reproductive, maternal, and newborn health in low- to middle-income countries.

Congratulations on receiving the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame award. What was your reaction to the news?
I was reminded of my acceptance to Dalhousie Medical School; I felt surprise, excitement, and gratefulness all at the same time. I was accepted to Dalhousie on my third time applying—this was something that I worked hard for. Studying medicine at Dalhousie has been a privilege.

I feel the same about this award. I’m very thankful, especially when so many of my peers are exemplary candidates for this award themselves. I’m honored to be have been nominated by Dal, to be selected by the CMHF Board of Directors, and grateful to the donors who sponsor this award.

How has third year been going so far?
Since the term started, I had two opportunities to address the Class of 2020. I’m shocked at how fast the years fly by; it feels like I was in Med 1 just yesterday.

Third year is going well. My class has finished three weeks of PIERs 1 and we’re now into rotations. I started out in family medicine in rural Nova Scotia. My preceptor and resident were excited for me to come on board—it was a great experience! Now, I am in PEI on my psychiatry rotation, and it is going well.

What’s the best advice you can give a student preparing for clerkship?
Transitioning from principles to practice has its challenges. But there’s no better way to learn the practice than immersing yourself in it and embracing it. I give the same advice that was delivered to me by senior clerks, residents, and staff:

  • Show up on time and treat it like a real job
  • Fulfill your role with eagerness—show a cheerful readiness to help out in any way you can
  • Always tell the truth; don't lie. Admit you don't know, that you didn't ask, or that you made a mistake. Humility will always do you good at this stage, and perhaps beyond.

What projects have you been working on in med school?
My main project is called The PrenaBelt Project. It’s an international, multidisciplinary collaboration investigating the effect of maternal sleep position during the third trimester of pregnancy on pregnancy outcomes. Ultimately, we’re trying to prevent low birth weight and stillbirth. During Med 1 and Med 2, my team completed a trial in Australia and another in Ghana. We have a trial ongoing in Halifax that’s scheduled to be completed by the end of 2016. The project is sponsored by Grand Challenges Canada, which is funded by the Government of Canada.

I’m also collaborating with classmates and colleagues around the world on various projects related to reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health. The projects include persistent urinary incontinence following surgical repair of obstetric fistula; preeclampsia sub-typing, prediction, and prevention; early detection of HPV-related cervical and oropharyngeal cancer; and electronic hospital information systems.

Do you have any thoughts on residency yet?
I’ve been leaning toward obstetrics and gynecology for a long time, but I also have an interest in family medicine, and physical medicine and rehabilitation. I don’t want to forget my roots and training as an engineer, so I hope to find a career path where I can continue being a real-world problem solver through collaboration and innovation. I expect my third year of medical school will give me insight into which specialty will allow me to follow my passion.