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Dr. Sara Folkins receives C. B. Stewart Medal recognizing academic excellence

Posted by Kate Rogers on June 6, 2024 in News
Dr. Sara Folkins was presented with the C.B. Stewart Medal at convocation on May 28, 2024. (Photo: Calnen Photography)
Dr. Sara Folkins was presented with the C.B. Stewart Medal at convocation on May 28, 2024. (Photo: Calnen Photography)

When Sara Folkins walked across the stage at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium on May 28, 2024, and became Dr. Folkins, she did so having earned the highest academic standing in her medical school graduating class. 

The native of Halifax received the Dalhousie Class of 2024 C.B. Stewart Gold Medal in Medicine award, recognizing her exceptional academic achievements, and her demonstration of the highest level of excellence throughout her medical education. 

Dr. Folkins’ journey into medicine was less of an "aha" moment and more of a gradual realization fueled by a desire for meaningful impact. Growing up, her fascination with science was rivaled only by her passion for connecting with others.

“I always knew I wanted to be in a career that felt very meaningful and had a big impact on people,” says Dr. Folkins. “And I love working one-on-one with people and learning about their stories, which was the big reason that drew me to healthcare.”

Finding balance

Beginning medical school during the throes of a global pandemic was not easy for the Class of 2024. Finding ways to overcome the challenges and remain focused was incredibly important, especially for Dr. Folkins, who had always been driven towards a high level of academic achievement. 

“I think just knowing that the end goal was being in a career that would make a difference and be impactful was very motivating for me,” she says. “A high level of academic achievement has always been a personal goal, and my family has had a high level of academic success as well. So, I was inspired to make them proud, make myself proud, and by the realization that the end goal is something that will be very rewarding.”

Outside the walls of the medical school, Dr. Folkins’ passions lay in physical activities like running, boxing, hiking, and skiing. She was a member of the Dal Med Run Club, which provided an opportunity for the medical students to connect when the pandemic prevented other means of socializing. Extending beyond personal pursuits, she co-led the Exercise in Medicine Interest Group at Dalhousie and was a volunteer swim instructor with the SWAM Program

Throughout her academic journey, Dr. Folkins’ outstanding performance was a testament to her unwavering commitment and balanced approach to life. Drawing from her experiences in team sports, she honed valuable skills in time management and prioritization. Yet, it was her ability to maintain balance across various facets of life—academic, social, and physical and mental health—along with her strong support system, that provided the basis for her success.

Impacting communities 

Dr. Folkins will be heading to the University of Toronto later this month to begin her residency in family medicine, a specialty she hopes provides her with the opportunity to forge deep connections with patients and address their needs on both individual and community levels. Her interest in preventive medicine and understanding the social determinants of health further fueled her passion for this field.

“Finding a career that allowed for the intersection between having a meaningful impact on people and communities, and my big interest in physical health and preventive medicine, was really important and exciting for me,” she says. “Being able to provide education, motivational interviewing, and other activities to help prevent health conditions and long-term complications is a real passion of mine.”

As she looks toward the future, Dr. Folkins envisions herself in a collaborative care practice, embracing the full scope of family medicine with a potential focus on women's health. Extending beyond the clinic walls, she aims to engage with the community to foster personal connections and share her knowledge. 

And though she is unsure where her career will take her, Halifax is home, and she hopes to someday return to practice in the city and school that shaped her. 

“I’m really grateful to Dalhousie and the environment that they created through medical school,” says Dr. Folkins. “I think my classmates and I are all graduating as very well-rounded new doctors because of it.”

Receiving the C.B. Stewart Medal serves as both a recognition of Dr. Folkins’ past achievements and a source of motivation for the journey ahead—a journey marked by compassion, dedication, and the continued pursuit of excellence in medicine.