A Chat With Our Co-Chairs


You may know that as a Ontario medical student you are already a member of OMSA. However, did you know that OMSA is organized by fellow Ontario medical students as well? …Yeah, maybe you do, it’s on our website after all. But how much do you really know about the OMSA Exec, particularly the two Co-Chairs?


To start off, both are students from Queen’s University Medical School: Soniya Sharma (Class of 2015) and Marianne Stroz (Class of 2016). We had a little sit down with them for a quick Q & A to see if they could shed some more light on medical school, OMSA, and themselves.


What is your vision for OMSA this year?

Soniya: Student advocacy. We are in the unique position to advocate for medical students at COFM, the CPSO, and OMA board. These are opportunities we are increasingly taking advantage of. Our goal is to target a few areas that we can research, create policy/position papers on and advocate for at this level. 

Medical Education. Our priority is to introduce more education specific programming consolidated through an education committee and formalization of a Director of Education role.

Marianne: Sustainability and Governance. As an organization, we have grown tremendously in the last few years but our growth needs to be sustainable. We will ensure that we balance our budgets, improve institutional memory, create a strategic plan for each year, re-evaluate our constitution, and maintain stronger policies and procedures. 

Greater student involvement. It should be our aim that every medical student in Ontario knows what OMSA is and how we are able to make an impact in their medical education. We can do this through social media, greater visibility at each medical school, and further opportunities for external involvement. 


What are your new ideas for this year?

Soniya: OMA Medical Student Ambassador program – We are eager to engage students with little experience by inviting one student from each Ontario school to attend as an observer at the Ontario Medical Association General Council. Students will attend at no cost to themselves and will have mentorship from physician leaders at the OMA. 

Marianne: The Director of Education – as we are prioritizing medical education, we will be introducing a new Executive Council position, Director of Education, at our May elections in 2015.


What has been your favourite experience so far with OMSA? Medical school?

Soniya: Attending CMA General Council as an Ontario delegate. It was a great experience to participate in the parliament of medicine in action, and particularly special because this year’s CMA President is a cardiologist in Kingston. I also had the chance to develop an appreciation for physicians advocating for their patients at the systems level and participating in heated discussion on current topics. Last but not least, everyone was so eager to listen to what students has to say and it emphasized that our student organizations are given a strong voice. 

Marianne: OMSA leadership and lobby day weekends. Medical leadership is a strong interest of mine and there are few opportunities in undergraduate medicine to develop these skills. This 3 day conference allows you to learn about leadership, advocacy and network with other physicians in leaderships and medical students from across the province. Additionally, in my first year it was through this event I was introduced to OMSA and realized the value this organization offer’s medical.


What is your advice to first year students starting out?

Marianne: Get involved, but only if your passionate about it. This isn’t undergrad where you need to pad your resume with 48 items. Medical school is the start of our careers so pursue activities you’d be interested in long term. Be deliberate, take your time, and don’t be afraid to go for a position you’re interested in but never thought you’d get.

Soniya: Find mentors who you look up to. Mentorship is so important student and physician development. Seek out people whom you wish to emulate. Most of the time, they will be very happy to offer you advice and encouragement. 


What is your advice to third years starting off in clerkship?

Soniya: Two thoughts: 

  1. Don’t lose sight of your own personal wellness. Being happy and healthy will go a long way when you’re on a 26-hour CTU or gen surg call. 
  2. Keep an open mind. Many of you will know what you want to do before you start but some of you will be pleasantly surprised at how much you like a specialty you hadn’t considered (I certainly was!). 


If you could be any type of medical equipment/device what would you be and why?

Soniya: A defibrillator – You’re basically a superhero – there to save the day. 

Marianne: A needle driver. Suturing is fun, you’d get to work with a bunch of different people, and you’d never be bored with the different wound presentations you’d see, from closing a knife wound in the ER to a repairing an aorta in the OR.


What would you say to students interested in getting more involved in OMSA that have not been involved with the organization before (please draw on your own experiences here)?

Marianne: You can be involved in OMSA from the committee level to the Executive committee level. Interested? Talk to people on the council. We are very open people and would be happy to answer your questions. Second, just go for it. I went to one OMSA event, loved it, and thought I would run for a position. I was terrified but I spoke at length with the council and knew I would do a good job. I got the position and haven’t looked back. I’d offer the same advice for a student wanting to pursue any activity they’re interested in.


If a medical student asks you, how can OMSA help me, what would you say?

Soniya: In so many ways! We’re the only student organization that exclusively represents Ontario’s medical students. We offer services specific to students, such as our CaRMS flight discounts. We have events that are only for medical students, like our wellness retreat, leadership and lobby day, and OMSW. Ultimately, we’re here to listen to your thoughts and ideas and make them a reality, so just reach out!


Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to provide such thoughtful answers!