Faces of U of T Medicine: Melanie Bechard
Melanie Bechard started her political career at a young age. She was only 15-years-old when she met with her local Member of Parliament to get career advice and discuss youth homelessness. It’s no surprise that she now is Vice President, Government Affairs for the Canadian Federation of Medical Students. We spoke to her about student leadership, music and the thrill of trying new things.
Name: Melanie Bechard
Program/year: Fourth-year MD student
Role/Position: Vice President Government Affairs, Canadian Federation of Medical Students (CFMS)
Tell us about your work with the CFMS and involvement in other extracurricular activities.
As Vice President of Government Affairs, I represent medical students across Canada to the federal government and I lead a national student committee that plans advocacy events throughout the country. This role also involved organizing Lobby Day, an annual event that connects Canadian medical students with policymakers on Parliament Hill.
Outside of the CFMS, I thoroughly enjoy music, sports and creative writing. I am an amateur— but enthusiastic — trumpet player and taught a youth marching band throughout undergrad and the first year of medical school. I endeavour to keep fit through half marathons, karate, and occasionally boxing. In an effort to exercise the right side of my brain, I co-wrote Daffydil in 2013 and am currently pursuing improvisational acting training. I am chronically addicted to a challenge!
What inspires you to take on so many activities along with being a full-time med student?
Variety is the spice of life. Most of us have a bucket list of activities we wish to pursue. I put off several of these activities during high school and undergrad to focus on academics, but I have since realized learning is a life-long venture. I now accept no excuses and make time to pursue these enriching activities. For example, I’ve had a long standing interest in governance and policy. My passion was re-ignited when I attended Lobby Day in my first year of medical school. I got involved with the CFMS the next year as U of T’s political advocacy committee representative and progressed to run for the CFMS executive—a decision that tests and grows my leadership abilities each day.
The arts have always brought joy and meaning to my life. I learned trumpet through the Royal Canadian Air Cadets program and have shared this passion with hundreds of youth in my work as an instructor. Writing and humour have always served as positive coping mechanisms for me, so I jumped at the opportunity to co-write Daffydil in 2013. The feeling of seeing your imagination manifest on stage is absolutely surreal.
I love to try new things, and I feel like putting myself out there and tackling new challenges keeps me interested and excited in life.
What do you find most exciting about the activities you participate in?
I’m someone who is drawn to challenges — musically, athletically and academically.
You are constantly challenged in medicine. If you aren’t in a situation where you’re a bit nervous, then you're not learning. Med students tend to be self-directed learners, and as such we need to put ourselves out there to learn in safe environments. The confidence that has come from mastering new skills, such as a karate kata or a solo in musical theatre class, has motivated me to challenge myself in clinical settings.
What do you hope to accomplish in the near future?
I am working on a play about the disparate roles of physicians — it is fascinating to see physicians shift between empathy and detachment, vulnerability and infallibility each day as we navigate the world of health care. I also want to run a full marathon before I complete my residency, even if it’s a slow one. Then there’s martial arts. I want to maintain my progress and improve.
How do you think your extracurricular activities will impact your career as a physician?
I think it’s really important for physicians to maintain a life outside of medicine. Not only does this contribute to our own wellness, but it also helps us empathize better with our patients.
Interacting regularly with people outside of medicine has given me an alternative perspective. It’s easy to get drawn into the wonderful world of medicine, but being exposed to different values and priorities can be very refreshing.
My activities help keep me grounded because they illustrate beautifully that one's career is not the only path to life satisfaction and happiness.
What’s your favourite thing about the Faculty of Medicine?
The Faculty’s teachers, students, colleagues and administrators all come from diverse backgrounds, but share the common quality of commitment to excellence. I think the students are truly happy and feel privileged to be here. This enthusiasm makes for a fantastic environment in which to learn and grow.
Faces of U of T Medicine introduces you to some of the interesting men and women studying in the Faculty of Medicine. From advising political leaders to providing care to Toronto’s most vulnerable populations, our students are making an impact on communities at home and around the world.
Do you have an interesting story to share? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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