Dr. Vasiliki Rahimzadeh, recent PhD graduate in the Department of Family Medicine and the Centre of Genomics and Policy, provided the following text reflecting on her recently being awarded both the Governor General’s Gold Medal and Gordon MacLachlan Prizes. She began her postdoctoral work at Stanford University in September 2019.

The social, clinical and ethical complexity that primary care and family medicine epitomize within modern healthcare systems compelled me to launch my research career in the Family Medicine Department in 2013. I am awed most by the challenges and opportunities family medicine and primary care presents for medical humanities scholars like me to translate clinical progress into policies that are both equity-enhancing and facilitate human flourishing.

I could never have imagined a more humbling way to mark the close of a transformative chapter in my own life both professionally and personally. To be awarded the Governor General’s Gold Medal and Gordon Maclachlan Convocation Prizes only deepens the heartfelt gratitude I have always felt for the opportunities McGill afforded me, the community it grew for me, and the academic horizons it broadened for me. In 1987, Gordon MacLachlan remarked passionately that

“…the time-honoured role of the university [is] to educate people to think critically and to become citizens with some vision of the future, rather than merely to train them to accommodate themselves to current social structures and systems and to maintain the status quo.”

Though his remarks were responding to a different time, place and cause, they echo my own sentiments today about how universities are best poised to shape a more just world vis-à-vis the pursuit of new knowledge.

Humility shares space in my heart with conflict about being recognized at all during this historical moment. It is a privilege to be recognized. To accept this recognition is to pay tribute to the paths of academic success paved before me by truly change-making McGillians, in particular Rosemary Brown, Joanne Liu, Charles Drew, and fellow Governor General Gold Medalist, Daniel Ruiz-Serna. I wish to use this platform to highlight their work, histories and triumphs, as well as countless others within our McGill community who tirelessly preserve the University as a diverse and inclusive space for all. This time of celebration converges at a time of sober reflection on how to more deeply commit myself and orient my practices towards systemically elevating scholars of colour, voices of the unheard and rights of the underprivileged within the academy. Indeed, everyone who rejects “accommodating themselves” to systems that obstruct such inclusion is deserving of a gold medal in my eyes.

My door (and heart) are open to you in support of engaged scholarship, collaboration, and human connection.


With love and hope,



Where to find me: Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics

Email me: vrahim@stanford.edu

Learn about my research and current projects: https://www.vnrahimzadeh.com/



June 22 2020