Standing up for what’s right

November 7, 2014


Alberta physician Dr. Rithesh Ram’s political advocacy helped keep medical school accessible for all.

It was a lot of work, but if you want to make a difference, you find a way to make time for it.

When most students enter medical school, they understand the skills they will develop as they work towards becoming physicians.

But often circumstances demand they take on unexpected challenges — including standing up when they see things that are unjust.

In 2010, when the provincial government unveiled plans to raise tuition fees for some post-secondary programs by up to 60%, Dr. Rithesh Ram helped lead the charge to advocate on behalf of medical students.

“What they were proposing was a huge increase,” recalls Dr. Ram, who was then the president of the Calgary Medical Students’ Association.

“It would have seen tuition rise to about $20,000 a year, and that would have been out of reach for many students from lower socio-economic backgrounds.”

He helped to organize a petition and letter-writing campaign, with the letters being presented in the Alberta Legislature.

“I also met with politicians one on one and participated in a series of public forums with students from the U of C and University of Alberta. In the end, we heard that the hike was squashed because government was swayed by our passion.”

His experience taught him that it’s important to take a stand on the things that you feel passionately about, even when you’re already busy.

“It was a lot of work, but if you want to make a difference, you find a way to make time for it,” he explains. He shared his advice on managing the demands of medical school in a letter to the most recent incoming medical class at the U of C.

Since graduating in May 2013 with a joint MD-PhD degree from the Leaders in Medicine – Epidemiology program, he received the CMA’s 2013 Award for Young Leaders and has begun his residency in family medicine in Calgary.

And he’s not ruling out the possibility of more advocacy work in the future. “I think once you’ve see the difference it can make, you see the value in getting involved.”

More about this outstanding physician leader

  • CMA recognizes outstanding young physician leaders >>

Alberta Medical Association Mission: Advocate for and support Alberta physicians. Strengthen their leadership in the provision of sustainable quality care.