For their perseverance in the face of adversity and dedicated efforts to help marginalized communities, four McGill students have received the Lieutenant Governor of Quebec’s Youth Medal.
Presented by the Honourable J. Michel Doyon, Lieutenant Governor of Quebec, at a ceremony on June 4, the medals recognize students from secondary level onwards who have demonstrated a sustained commitment to performing volunteer community service work while continuing to meet the objectives of their academic studies.
The McGill Reporter spoke to McGill’s four medal winners.
Owen Luo: helping people disproportionately impacted by climate change
In 2019, McGill medical student Owen Luo met a patient who had been hospitalized with numerous health complications resulting from a heatwave. It was a striking example of the potentially devastating public health consequences of climate change, and the experience marked a turning point for Luo, setting him on a journey to advocate for sustainable practices in healthcare and planetary health.
When Luo discovered that the effects of climate change were disproportionately felt by structurally marginalized groups, he decided to do something to tackle the problem. He became co-chair of the Canadian Federation of Medical Students Health and Environment Adaptive Response Taskforce (CFMS HEART), developing planetary health medical education guidelines to better equip physicians to treat people affected by the climate crisis across Canada. He also founded and is co-director of Project Green Healthcare/Projet Vert la Santé, an initiative to assist medical students in creating sustainable quality improvement projects across Canada.
“I am humbled to be recognized as a student change-maker by receiving the Lieutenant Governor of Québec’s Youth Medal, and I am thankful for McGill University’s support in reaching my objectives,” said Luo, who recently graduated from the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.
“This medal motivates me to continue providing low-carbon, and high-value care. And to continue to advocate for sustainable healthcare systems to promote patient and community health in a climate crisis throughout my career as a physician.”
Owen will continue on his mission to advocate for public and planetary health when he returns to McGill as an internal medicine resident this fall.
Maddy Shred: advocating for LGBTQ2S+ inclusion in STEM
For Maddy Shred, a fourth-year PhD candidate in biology, coming out as nonbinary was a particularly nerve-racking experience because they didn’t have any points of reference or know any other nonbinary or trans people to look to for guidance or inspiration.
Shred decided to take action and has spent the past few years advocating for LGBTQ2S+ causes at McGill, particularly relating to their community’s visibility within and contributions to academia and in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in general.
In 2020, Shred became president of the Queer Grad Club. As a member of the Joint Board-Senate Subcommittee on Queer People, they have advocated for queer issues like name changes and health care. They have also been involved in Tea4T, a community initiative for trans and nonbinary students, staff and faculty at McGill, as well as contributing to the Out Loud Symposium, an interdisciplinary showcase of research taking place at McGill by members of the queer community.
“Receiving the Lieutenant-Governor’s medal for my involvement in the LGBTQ2S+ community at McGill has meant a lot to me because it affirms that queer community pride and community organizing are important and valued,” Shred said.
“I see this medal as recognition of the impact of the fantastic groups I’ve been a part of and am proud to represent, like Tea4T, the Queer Grad Club, and the Out Loud Symposium. It was really meaningful for me to have my chosen name and correct pronouns used at the official ceremony with the Lieutenant-Governor, as an out and proud nonbinary person.”
Shred plans on continuing their work in queer community building, contributing to scientific writing, and making sure the LGBTQ2S+ community is well represented in academia and beyond.
Andrew Salem: perseverance in the face of adversity
For Andrew Salem, the road to completing a degree in bioengineering in the Faculty of Engineering was more challenging than for most. Salem faced numerous life challenges that made it very difficult for him to focus on his studies.
But he hung in there, not only graduating, but also notching up several outstanding academic and research achievements along the way, including getting involved in cancer research and contributing to peer-reviewed publications. His tireless work did not go unnoticed, earning him several awards and scholarships. Yet he still managed to find time to be part of the Bioengineering Undergraduate Student Society, contribute to the Engineering Undergraduate Society’s publication, The Plumber’s Ledger, and volunteer at Hope & Cope, a cancer support center.
“Getting this award after a series of less desirable personal news has rekindled my spirit. I am motivated to work harder and make those around me proud. Being recognized for my achievements has brought me joy beyond words.” Salem said, thanking the Lieutenant Governor, his family and friends, and his colleagues in the Faculty of Engineering for their support.
In the fall, Salem will head to Switzerland to start his Masters in Life Sciences Engineering at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). He hopes to one day return to McGill and pass on the support and generosity he felt he was given.
Amelia Souffrant: tackling issues faced by BIPOC communities
Amelia Souffrant has always had a desire to give back to the Haitian and Black communities of Quebec and decided studying law would be her way of doing it. Amelia sees the law as a tool for social change, and a way of tackling systemic racism and other issues faced by Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) communities.
During her time at McGill, the recent BCL/JD law graduate with a minor in sociology says she got to really connect and get involved with the Black community at the University, in Montreal, and in Quebec as a whole. She served as co-president of the Black Law Students’ Association of McGill and as a volunteer member of the racial profiling committee of the Clinique juridique de Saint-Michel. These two roles allowed her to advocate for greater diversity within the law profession in Quebec while applying some of the theoretical knowledge she had gained from her studies. She credits her degree for not only teaching her about the law but also encouraging her to take a critical approach to it, giving her tools to not only understand the law but also challenge it.
“I felt honoured to be awarded the Lieutenant Governor’s Youth Medal in recognition of my community involvement throughout law school,” Souffrant said. “It reminds me of the importance of the causes I advocate for, and it motivates me to continue to find ways to be involved and give back as I enter the legal field.”
Souffrant is currently working in the Montreal office of the law firm McCarthy Tétrault and will take the Quebec bar exam this August. In 2024-2025, she will undertake a clerkship with Justice Nicholas McHaffie at the Federal Court of Canada.