Convocation Spotlight - Jack Underschultz, ‘21 MD

MD graduate sets sights on equitable health care at home and abroad.

25 June 2021

As your med school journey comes to a close, what advice do you have for new students?

Don’t wait to pursue your passions. Whether it’s academic, athletic, travel, humanitarian, or anything that makes you buzz with excitement, make sure you are not putting them off until you have more time. These are the things you care the most about and pursuing them will always shape your life for the better. It’ll help prioritize what’s truly important to you, within medicine and your everyday life, which is priceless when it comes to making important career decisions.  

How did you engage with student life on campus?

Starting medical school and being surrounded by like-minded and extraordinary people was life-changing for me. I made sure to go to all the events I could because it was inspirational to get to know all my classmates and the incredible things they do. They really become your family (med school is hard and you need them!) and I know I’ve got many lifetime friendships that I’m excited to continue. Also, whatever your interests are, you’re guaranteed to find a lot of people with the same ones, which is really cool. 

What was your most memorable University of Alberta experience?

Going to the U.S. Virgin Islands with 13 of my classmates for two Reading Weeks to volunteer in their hurricane-relief effort. It was an incredible group of people that worked hard to fundraise for the project, then even harder to make a huge impact on the ground. We took just as much out of the experience as we put in.          

What was your favourite class during your program?

I definitely enjoyed the clerkship portion of medicine the most, where we were able to apply our foundational knowledge to real patients and make a positive impact for them. Emergency Medicine was my favourite rotation, which is fitting as that is the residency I am moving into. I enjoyed practising with the wide variety of patients and working closely with the inner-city populations.  

Who was/is your mentor or favourite professor? 

Global development is my passion, so Abdullah Saleh has been an incredible mentor for me. He co-founded Innovative Canadians for Change (ICChange) while in medical school and has made a huge impact in Eastern Africa by providing clean water for communities, innovating trauma systems and many other initiatives. With my background in finance, he’s given me amazing opportunities to help carve out business plans for these global initiatives with plenty of mentoring along the way. I’m incredibly excited to continue to work in this field going forward. 

What is the biggest lesson you have learned as a U of A student?

As someone who started in business and ended up in medicine, I’d say it is to follow your passions no matter if it is unconventional or directs you away from your original timeline goals. The best thing I ever did was take a semester off in undergrad to teach in Tanzania. It re-oriented me to what I was truly passionate about—global development—and got me connected with people who demonstrated how much fun a career in medicine could be. Then, when I came back the next semester, I had clear goals for what I wanted to achieve with my U of A education.     

If you could accomplish one thing in your career what would it be?

Currently, I’m working with ICChange, which is already a dream come true considering the amazing work they do. However, I would like to lead my own global health or development project, from consultation and design to conceptualization and implementation, and see it make a significant impact in creating opportunities for people in developing countries.           

What inspires you about your chosen field?

In emergency medicine, I love that I get to work with all types of people and practise all types of medicine. Inner-city populations are a group I’m passionate about and have spent time working with, and the emergency department (ED) can be their only source of health care, so I value being able to help provide that. My mind also usually races a mile a minute, so I enjoy the pace of the ED and that there’s always lots of different cases and procedures to do.         

What have you learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, and how do you think this will affect your career?

Personally, the pandemic forced me to slow down for a few months without having a thousand things to do every day. I definitely enjoyed this but within a week or so I found I was getting antsy and realized I love to be busy, especially if working on global development initiatives, so I’d like to carve out time within my career to be able to work on these projects.

How do you plan to celebrate convocation?

Oh boy, just soak up the final week of vacation before residency starts on July 1. Hopefully I'll get outdoors, do some camping and hiking, and zen out a little before the difficult but exciting adventure starts!