U of A medical student honoured for community involvement

Debraj Das awarded top honour from Students' Union

8 April 2013

Debraj Das says he knows his own limits.

It might seem like an unusual comment from a graduating medical student who has just won the U of A Students' Union's highest honour for excellence in curricular and extracurricular activities. But Das says knowing his limits is key to maintaining some semblance of balance in his life.

The Students' Union Award for Excellence is awarded to one graduating student at the U of A with outstanding achievements in academics and extracurricular activities, in particular, demonstrating a commitment to the university community.

Das's list of extracurricular commitments is extensive. While in medical school he was the VP external of the annual Alberta Medical Students' Conference and Retreat for students from the U of A and U of C; has served as co-leader for medical student interviews; and has acted as senior program director for the Butt Out campaign aimed to educate grade 6 students about the risks associated with smoking. He is currently one of the student representatives on the accreditation committee.

In the broader community, Das helped develop a joint initiative with Big Brothers Big Sisters called "Soccer Superstars" to help at-risk kids in northeast Edmonton. "We did all the fundraising, got equipment recruited volunteers, booked fields and ran a 6-week summer soccer camp," says Das. Since the program's inception in 2008, 150 kids have participated and Soccer Superstars has expanded to Vancouver.

Das also did some volunteer work in Nepal while there for an international elective in internal medicine and general surgery. He spent his evenings volunteering in an orphanage, organizing dance and painting competitions. "It makes you appreciate what you have living in this country and it's great to give back to those who need it the most elsewhere.

"My volunteer commitments have helped shape my own sense of responsibility and have taught me to multi-task successfully," says Das, acknowledging that balance was not something he excelled at when he started medical school. "Over the years I have learned a few strategies: prioritizing, delegating, and knowing your own limits are the three big things for me in terms of taking on multiple responsibilities and doing a good job at all of them. You need to have a good grasp of what's going on but that doesn't mean you have to micro-manage."

Das started volunteering when he was in grade 10 reading stories to elementary school kids. "You appreciate the value the kids get out of it. It became a part of who I was and it was a strong component of why I continued to volunteer in university and medical school."

He cites the mentorship of Lorne Tyrrell, Gary Eitzen, Mel Lewis, Sumit Majumdar and Paul Armstrong as key to his success. "I've been fortunate to have a lot of really, really strong role models and mentors in the Faculty."

Das will finish school in a few weeks and will begin his residency in general internal medicine at the U of A starting July 1. "I'm looking forward to getting out and working in the real world."

Debraj Das was one of eight U of A medical students to win 2013 Students' Union awards.

  • Debraj Das - class of 2013 - SU Award for Excellence
  • Irfan Nizarali Kherani - class of 2015 - Executive of the Year
  • Rabia Bana - class of 2015 - Coca Cola Student Achievement Award
  • Mitchell Wilson - class of 2014 - Reginald Charles Lister Memorial Scholarship
  • Bailey Adams - class of 2014 - Taco Time Outstanding Initiative Award
  • Angela Han - class of 2016 - CIBC Community Investment Award
  • Cian Hackett - class of 2016 - Tom Lancaster Memorial Award
  • Shivani Upadhyaya - class of 2016 - Tom Lancaster Memorial Award