In memory of Abeera Shahid
It is with great sadness that OMSA remembers and honours our colleague, peer, and dear friend Abeera Shahid, who passed away unexpectedly on December 19th, 2022. Abeera was a 3rd year medical student at the University of Ottawa and OMSA’s Vice President of Advocacy.
Prior to medical school, Abeera completed her Bachelor of Health Sciences degree at McMaster University, specializing in Global Health. She was the recipient of a Loran scholarship, a prestigious award provided to Canada’s next generation of leaders who demonstrate integrity, courage, compassion, determination and a high level of personal autonomy. She was also a Queen Elizabeth Scholar, which took her to the University of Sydney in Australia to study how their Health Information Management System supported large-scale delivery of health promotion interventions. In her various volunteer roles throughout university, Abeera showed a passion and gift for leadership, inclusivity, and social justice.
As a future physician, she believed that caring for our communities involved addressing the social and political determinants of health. In her first year of medical school, Abeera joined our organization and co-led the Advocacy Partnerships Committee. She managed to quickly find her footing and excel in this role, while navigating a new city, a new school, and in the midst of a global pandemic. During her term, she used her public health and policy background to complete environmental scans, identify advocacy priorities, and create resources to address the long-term care and opioid crisis racking our province.
In her second year of medical school, Abeera worked as a co-chair for the Policy and Response Team of OMSA’s Advocacy Portfolio. During this time, she led a group of peers to respond to emerging health issues in our communities, through writing position papers and op-eds on various topics ranging from improving long-term care homes and increasing nursing wages, to affordable housing and paid sick leave for workers. She was a dedicated member of the larger portfolio as well, rich with new ideas to improve the organization, and often going out of her way to support teammates in their own projects.
This past year, Abeera was elected by her peers as OMSA’s Vice President of Advocacy, where she oversaw the work of over 40 bright medical students who looked up to and were inspired by her vision and passion. Abeera believed in the potential of the OMSA Advocacy portfolio, and each student involved. We saw this through her constant words of encouragement, her attendance and contribution during meetings, but also in her meticulous planning of how the work of four committees working under the umbrella of the advocacy portfolio could integrate and coalesce working seamlessly towards common goals. For Abeera, being OMSA VP Advocacy was more than a title, it was a commitment to each hired co-chair and committee member and more importantly a commitment to communities and issues she cared deeply about. She thought deeply about how to maximize the impact of our teams, and about how we can contribute to bringing about real change in the province of Ontario that can improve health and well-being for all.
Abeera touched many lives and was the epitome of medical student excellence. She was trustworthy, empathetic, hard-working, sincere, and dedicated. She was an incredible leader, mentor, listener, and friend. Her friends will remember her as an adventurous spirit, who saw the good in all people and circumstances.
The following are messages shared from current OMSA members who worked with Abeera over the past 3 years:
“It’s difficult to put into words the impact she has had on so many people, including myself. I was inspired by the way she led each team meeting with care, empathy and fearlessness in advocating for the needs of her community. I was also struck by her passion for storytelling and infusing more humanity into the practice of medicine. What is remarkable about her is the way she cared about the lives of each team member beyond their work in the portfolio. As a co-lead, I was touched by the way she checked in with me, supporting me not just as a colleague but a friend. I hope to forever honour her optimism, care for her community and her belief in advocating for health equity, within and beyond our borders. Thank you for everything, Abeera.” - Divya Santhanam, Policy and Response Co-Chair (2021-2022)
“Abeera was an inspiring colleague - not one to shy away from asking the hard questions and frequently the first to offer new ideas. There was never any doubt she was the right person to lead our advocacy team because her passion was so steadfast. She will be missed by our entire team at OMSA.” - Winnie Situ, VP of Student Affairs (2022-2023)
“I had the privilege of working with Abeera on various OMSA advocacy initiatives, since the Fall of 2020. Throughout these two and half years we became good friends. During our many meetings and conversations, it always stood out how Abeera was able to inspire those around her. Her ambition was often contagious. She genuinely believed a better world was possible, and was dedicated to create structural change that could improve health particularly for systemically marginalized populations. Her enthusiasm and vision for better health for all will surely live on through many whom she inspired.” - Hisham Shokr, Chair of Advocacy Partnerships (2022-2023)
“Abeera was an inspiration to many: her dedication for the causes she believed in was evident in any interaction, and her passion to help those in her community was contagious. She was not only an excellent leader, an advocate, a student, but also a wonderful friend. Her loss is profound, but her kindness and compassion leaves behind a legacy which serves as a reminder of all the things she cared and lived for, one that I hope continues to encourage other students in the future.” - Sabreena Moosa, Chair of Longitudinal Governance (2022-2023)
“Abeera has always been a kind and thoughtful person. We went to high school together and I remember thinking in the first day that I met her, that she was going to change the world. And she has. Her passion, drive, and kind nature left its mark wherever she went and inspired others to do better and be better.” - Anonymous
“ Abeera was selfless, hardworking, caring - the type of person anyone would be lucky to have as their physician, colleague, or friend. The world is so much worse off without her. May she rest in peace.” - Jeeventh Kaur, President-Elect (2022-2023)
“I worked with Abeera as part of the OMSA, where we worked on a project to raise awareness for the opioid epidemic in Ontario. She was not only one of the most caring and kind individuals I have met in medicine, but also a great leader and person. It greatly saddens me to learn of her passing, and my condolences go out to her family and friends.” - Peter Lee, Advocacy Partnerships (2021-2022)
“Abeera was an extraordinary person. She cared deeply about so many of our world's injustices, and worked tirelessly to fight them. She cared just as deeply about her friends and peers. She was curious, patient, and fiercely independent. Abeera could be trusted, without question, to develop a vision and a plan for any of her endeavours, and was committed to their success. I will hold Abeera's spirit and energy with me in my work for the rest of my life.” - Angie Salomon, President (2022-2023)
In Abeera’s honour, OMSA has renamed the annual Student Recognition Award to the Abeera Shahid Student Recognition Award, which recognizes medical student contributions to their peers and their community. OMSA Council will also be donating to her family’s Sadaqah Jariyah, a gift that not only benefits others in this life but also benefits us and our loved ones in the next. If you would like to make a donation in Abeera’s honour, please visit: https://www.gofundme.com/f/sadaqah-jariyah-for-abeera-shahid
Whether you knew her personally or not, the death of a peer can be a very difficult thing to process. Reach out to your school's support services should you find yourself in need of help.
You can also review OMSA's listed mental health resources.
For grief-specific resources, check out:
- It's Okay That You're Not Okay - Megan Devine
- Welcome to the Grief Club - Janine Kwoh
- Bearing the Unbearable - Joanne Cacciatore