“As a new student to McGill, I urge you to take every opportunity to expand your social circle, step outside your comfort zone, and explore new interests or hobbies.”

On May 1, the achievements of Black students in McGill’s Class of 2024 were celebrated at the annual Black Grad Gala. Organized by the Black Students’ Network of McGill, the sold-out event was held at the Omni Hotel.

A number of dignitaries spoke at the gala, including this year’s Black Grad valedictorian, Yasmine Elmi. Having completed a master’s in Family Medicine with a specialization in Global Health, Elmi will begin the joint MD-PhD program at McGill in the fall. A McCall MacBain Scholar, Elmi was chosen to represent her peers as valedictorian based on her strong academic performance, leadership, and commitment to making the University – and the world – a better place.

As part of the Reporter’s Spring 2024 Convocation coverage, we spoke with Elmi about her experience at McGill and her future plans.

Where do you call home?

For me, the concept of home transcends physical boundaries and is deeply rooted in the relationships and memories I’ve cultivated over the years. Djibouti and Somalia represent my cultural heritage and the rich tapestry of my familial roots. Ottawa, built on unceded Anishinabe Algonquin territory, is the home where I spent my childhood, enveloped in the warmth of family and community. And Kenya, my birthplace, holds a special place in my heart for unforgettable memories of my teenage years. Ultimately, I call home wherever my family and friends are, regardless of the location.

Yet, as I reflect on the notion of home, I can’t help but recognize the immense privilege to have a sense of belonging and security, and the fragility of this privilege for many. I hope we can use our own experiences of home to inspire action, whether it’s advocating for those who are marginalized or actively working towards creating spaces of inclusion and safety for all.

Why did you choose McGill?

I had always dreamed of attending McGill for my undergraduate studies, but ultimately, circumstances led me to prioritize staying closer to my family and the stability of Ottawa. This all changed when I was awarded the McCall MacBain Scholarship for my graduate studies which both offered me the financial independence to choose McGill and sparked a renewed sense of motivation within me to grow and develop as both a student and a leader.

What were some of your impressions when walking onto campus for the first time?

While visiting campus I have always been struck by the green spaces, the historic buildings, and the sheer size of the campus. But in all honesty, my initial impressions were soon overshadowed by the endless inclines across campus which have never gotten easier.

What are your three favourite places on McGill’s campuses?

  • The School of Population and Global Health with its massive windows and breathtaking view.
  • Thomson House as a haven of academic focus during the day and a vibrant hub of chatter, laughs, and camaraderie in the evenings.
  • Roddick Gates represent a hub of student activity and window into campus life.

What are some of the highlights of your time as a McGill student?

Working as a teachers’ assistant has been a big highlight of my time at McGill. It has allowed me to engage deeply with course material in health research while also honing my communication and leadership skills. The sense of fulfilment that comes from helping others navigate and succeed in their studies has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my time as a McGill student, and it’s an experience that I will cherish long after graduation.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced during your time here and how did you overcome them?

My biggest challenges during my time at McGill has been the adjustment to a new environment. Moving away from home and community meant adapting to a new city, building roots in a new community, and growing accustomed to independent living.

What’s next for you, both short and long term? What are your career aspirations?

In the immediate future, I am excited to continue my academic journey at McGill in the joint MD-PhD program. This path aligns perfectly with my long-term career aspirations of becoming a clinician researcher with a strong commitment to advancing Black health and promoting health equity to drive positive change and address disparities that persist within our healthcare system.

What advice do you have for new students to McGill?

First and foremost, as a new student to McGill I urge you to take every opportunity to expand your social circle, step outside your comfort zone, and explore new interests or hobbies.

For my fellow Black students, I highly recommend paying a visit to the Black Student Space in the Ferrier Building. This unique space showcases the creativity of Black artists and provides a welcoming environment to meet other Black students at McGill.

Finally, I also recommend you work on your cardio since you will spend all your time walking, running, and sliding up and down McGill’s hills.

Read more about the recent Black Grad Gala