COVID-19 Summer Studentship Grants

NOTE: This award was a temporary offering and will not be offered in the 2021-22 school year.

OMSA recognizes that 2020-2021 has been an unusual school year for everyone, and that as a result of the pandemic, summer employment may be even more challenging than usual to obtain. We also recognize that medical school is extremely expensive and that many students rely on their summer earnings to minimize their debt. In an effort to support Ontario medical students, we have created this one-time-only grant to fund student projects for Summer 2021. 

There will be a total of $15,000 of funding available and students may apply for either of the following grant options:

Part time funding: valued at $2,500, appropriate for projects that will require at least 12 hours of work per week for a minimum of 10 weeks
Full time funding: valued at $5,000, appropriate for projects that will require at least 25 hours of work per week for a minimum of 10 weeks

The purpose of the funding is to compensate students for their otherwise unpaid labour, not for the purchase of materials or supplies. The funding will be distributed as a lump sum at the beginning of the summer. 

Inclusion Criteria
Any project that is being completed under the supervision of a University or Hospital staff
Any project that is related to the field of medicine, including primary research, medical education, ethics, history of medicine, etc. 

Examples of projects that would be considered: 
A history of medicine literature review with the end goal of producing a poster presentation 
A quality improvement research project with the end goal of producing a paper for publication 
A comprehensive review of your schools curriculum with the deliverable being a proposal on how to improve the hidden curriculum.

Exclusion Criteria
Projects that are receiving funding via another source (i.e. school studentships, paid by supervisor) 
Projects that will not have a reasonable deliverable paper, poster, proposal, etc. for end of summer 2021
Projects that will not require a minimum of 12 hours of work per week for the medical student applying. 
Projects or work that falls within the purview of a defined volunteer role (e.g.. your Med Soc position) 
Projects that are a part of the student’s graduate studies 

Examples of projects that would not be considered: 
I want to learn French this summer and will be taking a course (no reasonable deliverable or concrete end point)
I am starting the PhD portion of my MD/ PhD studies and am looking for additional funding (already receiving funding, work is part of graduate studies)

How to Apply
Complete this Google form with your demographic information and upload your letter of intent and a letter of support from your supervisor. The application deadline will be Monday, April 12, 2021 at 11:59 pm

The letter of intent should include a detailed description of the project that you will undertake this summer including the deliverables that you will have completed by the end of the summer. You should also detail how many hours a week you will be working on this project over the summer and what skills you hope to develop as a part of this project. You may also wish to include how this work will benefit you personally or professionally. 

The letter of support from your supervisor should include a description of their qualifications, a brief overview of the project, a description of your role in the project, and an attestation that you are not being funded by other means for this project. The letter should be signed and dated by them. 

Before applying to this grant, please review the other OMSA grants that are available to ensure that your project is not better encompassed within other grants offered  (notably the Medical Student Education Research Grants or the Innovator Grant). 

Grant Distribution 

The applications will be reviewed by the OMSA Grants committee based on the standard rubric. The top 25% of applications based on the average of two evaluator’s markings will then be put into a randomized draw to decide the final grant winners. Applicants should expect to hear back from OMSA regarding their application status no later than April 26th, 2021 regardless of outcome. 

The grant will be awarded in two equal installments. The first installment will be made at the start of the summer. The second installment will be released to the awardee after the submission of a midterm report outlining the project’s progress to date and accompanied by a letter from the student’s supervision indicating satisfaction with the progress. Successful applicants will sign a contract confirming that they will return the awarded funding if the project does not come to fruition and/or there is no deliverable by the end of September 2021. 

Successful applicants will be asked to provide a summary of their project outline and a brief personal statement for publication on the OMSA website. 

Please note that this is our first and likely only time delivering this grant. We appreciate your patience and understanding as we navigate this new process.


Please submit any questions or concerns to VP Finance Rae at

COVID-19 Summer Studentship Winners:

Physical activity and screen time in children during the pandemic: do COVID-19 impacts on healthy lifestyle behaviours depend on socioeconomic factors?

Awardee: Anna Jiang - University of Toronto

Project Description:

Recent studies highlight the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on healthy lifestyle behaviours in children. At ‘baseline’ (i.e., prior to COVID-19), children from low socioeconomic backgrounds are more likely to have less physical activity and more screen time, which contributes to increased risk of obesity. However, the association between socioeconomic status and healthy lifestyle behaviours in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic has not been established. The objectives of this study are to: (1) determine whether children have experienced significant changes in physical activity and screen time over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic; and (2) assess whether impacts on physical activity and screen time over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic are associated with socioeconomic status. Understanding whether socioeconomic status is associated with non-infectious COVID-19 impacts in children is important in targeting child health initiatives, particularly during the pandemic recovery period.

Personal Bio:

Anna is a second-year medical student at the University of Toronto. Prior to starting medical school, she completed a BSc in Medical Sciences at Dalhousie University. She has an interest in clinical research related to child health outcomes. She is looking forward to working on the project described above – thank you to the OMSA for making this possible.


Queering the Curriculum: A review of 2SLGBTQ+ health education at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine

Awardees: Danica Desjardins and Aidan Goertzen - NOSM

Project Description:

The topic of 2SLGBTQ+ health has been consistently identified as a gap in undergraduate medical education (UME) in Canada and the United States over the past several years. Anecdotally, this holds true at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM). The Queering the Curriculum project aims to revise and update the current curriculum at NOSM, to gain input from students in order to identify opportunities for education on 2SLGBTQ+ health, as well as to ensure that existing content on this topic is relevant and appropriate. The overall goal of this project is to provide innovative and evidence-based recommendations to the curriculum design team at NOSM to further support UME students in their learning about queer and trans health.

The first phase of this project will involve a comprehensive needs assessment, including a survey of all undergraduate NOSM students, examination of existing curriculum materials for content related to 2SLGBTQ+ health, and comparison of NOSM learning objectives related to 2SLBTQ+ health to those identified by the Medical Council of Canada. Themes will then be identified based on this data and gaps will be aligned as much as possible with best practices in medical education relating to queer and trans health. New strategies to improve this curriculum at NOSM will also be explored.

It is critical that NOSM graduates are equipped with the knowledge and skills that they need to provide the highest quality of healthcare to this unique population. Additionally, it is important that students who identify as queer and transgender themselves see the health needs of their community reflected in their studies. In keeping with NOSM’s social accountability mandate, Queering the Curriculum will help to train future physicians who prioritize the health needs identified by the communities that they serve.

Personal Bios:

Danica Desjardins

Danica Desjardins (she/her) is a second year medical student at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine. She completed a Bachelor of Health Sciences at the University of Ottawa, followed by a master’s degree in public health at Queen's University, where she focused on public health programming in Arviat, Nunavut. She then took a brief hiatus from being a professional student to work at the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada. Danica enjoys studying medicine because of the connections it allows her to make with people from all walks of life, as well as the new perspectives it provides her on the intersections of health, society, and public policy. In her spare time, Danica likes to try new recipes, work on her latest embroidery project, and explore Ontario and Quebec with her girlfriend.

Aidan Goertzen

Aidan Goertzen (she/her) is a second-year medical student at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine. Aidan completed an undergraduate degree in Science, Sustainability, and Society at McGill University followed by a master’s degree in Environmental Science with a collaborative specialization in Environment and Health at the University of Toronto. Her studies focused on systems thinking and interdisciplinary teams, which are two concepts she enjoys applying to medicine as a way to improve patient experiences within the medical system. On the weekends she likes to bake sourdough, check out the closest farmer’s market, and go for a run or cross-country ski depending on the season.


Assessing barriers and challenges in the uptake of language interpretation services at Michael Garron Hospital

Awardees: Sheila Yu, Shamir Malik, Jae Lee, Tiffany Ni – University of Toronto

Project Description:

As Toronto's cultural and linguistic diversity grows, so too does the number of patients with limited English proficiency (LEP). Currently, medical interpretation services are available in many hospitals; however, their usage remains limited. Language barriers in the healthcare setting are associated with poorer quality of care and decreased patient safety. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically altered the delivery of care in the clinic setting, adding additional barriers to adequate care. Despite the need for additional support for patients with LEP, there is currently a lack of literature assessing challenges faced by patients and providers in Toronto regarding the uptake and efficacy of the existing interpretation services.

This project aims to elucidate the challenges with the usage and uptake of currently available interpretation services. We will conduct a single-centre study at Michael Garron Hospital (MGH) that will compare and contrast the usage of translation services over the three years before the onset of COVID-19 and during the COVID-19 pandemic. The study will consist of a retrospective chart review to determine the demographic of patients who used translation services, usage by department, translated language, and interpretation services available. To assess user feedback, we will subsequently conduct interviews with patients and physicians who used interpretation services at MGH during the same time period.

The project’s primary outcome is to assess the uptake of interpretation services at MGH by investigating the ratio of LEP patients that used a formal interpretation service to patients who identified as LEP. Secondary outcomes include a review of patient and healthcare provider experience, as well as barriers and facilitators of interpretation service use. Ultimately, our project aims to elucidate the impact of COVID-19 on the usage and uptake of interpretation services and clarify existing barriers to medical interpretation in a hospital setting.

Personal Bios:

Tiffany Ni

Tiffany is a first year medical student at the University of Toronto. She completed her Masters in laboratory medicine and pathobiology at the University of Toronto. She has a strong passion in the integration of novel technologies in improving public health. She previously served as the crew scientist at the Mars Desert Research Station where she 3D-printed low-cost labware items to provide affordable STEM learning opportunities for individuals in low-income countries. Outside of school, she loves caring for her many houseplants and her cat!

Jae Lee

Jae is a first year medical student at University of Toronto. After his volunteer experiences with EAL communities in BC and Hamilton, he developed an interest in working with language interpretation services to increase accessibility for immigrant populations. Apart from school, he is interested in martial arts, football, and music!

Shamir Malik

Shamir is a first-year medical student at the University of Toronto. He completed his Bachelors of Health Sciences at McMaster University and is currently completing a Graduate Diploma in Health Research at the University of Toronto. He has a strong interest in design thinking and exploring the intersection between technology and healthcare. In his spare time, he enjoys playing tennis, writing short stories and poems, and has picked up pottery as a hobby during quarantine.

Sheila Yu

Sheila is a second-year medical student at the University of Toronto. She is keen to learn more about patient experiences in healthcare in order to build more empathetic, inclusive and supportive healthcare environments. Fun fact: her middle school, high school, and university were all on the same street!


Retrospective analysis of ophthalmic referrals from community hospital emergency departments

Awardees: Lily Xu and Amirthan Sothivannan - McMaster

Project Description:

Delivery of care for acute ophthalmic conditions starts with triage from the Emergency Department. As ophthalmic concerns are common and ophthalmology is one of the highest referred services by the ED, efficient triage is imperative for timely diagnosis and treatment initiation for prevention of vision loss. Gaps in the flow of patient care from the emergent setting to an ophthalmology consult are not completely clear. This is a retrospective chart review that aims to characterize referrals, diagnostic imaging, and patient wait times from the ED to ophthalmology at a community practice in Kitchener-Waterloo, Canada in order to identify overall areas of ophthalmic care that can potentially be enhanced with the addition of a teleophthalmology platform.

Personal Bios:

Lily Xu

Hello! My name is Lily Xu and I’m a second year medical student at McMaster.  I’m interested in research furthering patient care, which is an especially dynamic field in these pandemic times. Outside of medicine, I am part of the McMaster Cheerleading team and I love to dance.

Amirthan Sothivannan

Hi! My name is Amirthan Sothivannan and I’m a medical student (Class of 2022) at McMaster University. My research interests include patient interventions, technological innovation, and health research methodology in ophthalmology. Outside of the wards, I am an avid singer and writer.