Presidential Scholars Award-Winner Emily Lam: An empathetic advocate for health equity

January 17, 2023

Emily Lam, a first-year medical student from Port Moody, is the fourth recipient of Doctors of BC’s Presidential Scholars Award in Medicine. The scholarship establishes an endowment covering student and tuition fees, and textbooks for one medical student on an annual basis, for the full four years of their medical education.

An intensive selection process evaluates potential recipients based on a broad range of criteria, including volunteer and community-based work, athletic and artistic pursuits, and more. Emily joins three previous Presidential Scholars Award-winners as the fourth recipient of the scholarship, which began in 2019. Her commitment to equity and social justice, as well her extensive volunteer work, made Emily stand out among the applicants.

Emily began her post-secondary studies in the rigorous Health Sciences program at SFU, during which she supported her peers by working as a Teaching Assistant and a Writing and Learning Peer Educator. Emily views a medical education as an “immense privilege” and credits the award from Doctors of BC for playing a significant role in making it possible.

Emily Lam

“Coming from a disadvantaged background, receiving this award has relieved such a huge burden from my family and I, and I am immensely grateful for an opportunity to bring my story and lived experience to medicine. This award has helped me appreciate how hard I have worked to get here and also excites me for my future medical journey ahead collaborating and learning from my colleagues, mentors, and patients. I also hope that by sharing my story, I am able to empower others with similar experiences and backgrounds to diversify and strengthen the medical field.”

Emily has a strong, lifelong commitment to help others, which stems from a deep sense of empathy. Her work so far includes an initiative to support children’s health in her community, working with SFU’s UNICEF chapter, volunteering at her local hospital, and running a social enterprise to reduce local food waste and food insecurity. Emily’s drive to help others has been recognized in many ways, including recognitions at WE Day Vancouver in 2017, and the Terry Fox Humanitarian Award in 2018. The latter award recognizes students that persist in overcoming life adversities and demonstrate excellence in their academic, athletic, and civic lives. She credits her upbringing as the motivation to help others.

Her personal experiences have significantly influenced  her current interest in equitable, community-focused medicine, where she hopes to one day integrate the care she provides with existing social supports. “Growing up in a low-income, single-parent family as a second-generation immigrant, I have been acutely aware of health disparities and inequities in our community from a very young age. While these challenges have paved the road I walk with extra bumps, they have also shaped the intense compassion I have for others and fueled my passion for creating healthier communities for all. From helping my father navigate various health challenges and disabilities, to experiencing the physical and mental health impacts of housing precarity and poverty, I bring a nuanced compassion to those who struggle to thrive in a system that was not built for them.”

Emily’s primary ambition is a career in pediatrics, where she hopes to promote the health and well-being of children in her community.

“I believe that supporting the growth and development of young people creates the foundation for leading happier, healthier, and more meaningful lives. I also see myself as a passionate advocate for health equity and would like to use my voice to create change with my community.”