Fourth-year McGill University medical student, student leader and researcher Saman Arfaie has been selected as one of 15 national recipients of the Canadian Federation of Medical Students MD Financial Management Leadership Awards. This generous award, designed to acknowledge dedicated, passionate and caring medical student leaders across Canada, provides recognition and support for innovative contributors with national and international impact across their schools and beyond.   

During his time at McGill, Saman has played a pivotal role as the president and co-founder of the Canadian Medical Student Interest Group in Neurosurgery (CaMSIGN). Since its inception in 2020, this group has acted as the first national educational interest group with a mission to, as Saman puts it, “reduce barriers for students, especially those who do not have access to a home neurosurgery program but would like to pursue the field.” The group’s speaker series, keynote lectures, journal club meetings, interviews and mentorship opportunities enable students to explore the field as a whole and to thrive as future leaders. The group was recently awarded a Tier-1 Grant from the Canadian Federation of Medical Students and is actively building a mentor-mentee program and nationwide research opportunities to connect interested students with residents.  

Saman has been active in the discourse about the pandemic and its impact on Canada. He is currently co-editing a book with two colleagues. COVID-19 Contextualized: A Mosaic of Interdisciplinary Works Through a Canadian Lens, contracted with the University of Manitoba Press introduces 15 chapters with some of the leading Canadian molecular biologists, infectious disease researchers, population health experts, healthcare professionals, policy and legal experts, historians, psychologists and psychiatrists.  

With a deep appreciation for classical music and training as a pianist, Saman crossed paths with Professor Phillip Pearl MD, Director of Epilepsy and Clinical Neurophysiology and William G. Lennox Chair in the Department of Neurology at Boston Children’s Hospital and Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School., an esteemed pediatric neurologist and jazz pianist at Harvard University. The duo has since contracted an upcoming textbook with Cambridge University Press titled Neurobiology of Creativity: Music, Medicine, and the Art of Self-Expression and have invited several international colleagues ranging from musicologists, neurologists, neuroscientists and interdisciplinary scholars across the world to contribute to this initiative. The book’s focus is divided between medical diagnoses of composers and performers, artistic explorations in medicine and the drive to creativity. 

Saman’s passion for research also led to the co-creation of the Neuro International Collaboration (NIC),  spearheaded with two of his dear friends and colleagues, Mohammad Mofatteh, PhD, MPH, MSc, PGCert TLHE, BSc (Hons) (current medical student at Queen’s University, Belfast, UK) and Dr. Mohammad Mashayekhi MD, PhD, BSc, MSc (Neurosurery resident at the University of Ottawa). Together the trio have had the privilege to work with leading neurosurgeons, neurologists and psychiatrists across the globe alongside a team of 50+ members consisting of resident physicians and medical, undergraduate and graduate students spanning four continents. Thanks to the guidance of NIC’s core faculty, the team is determined to continue this interdisciplinary initiative to focus on topics related to nervous system research. “Boundaries between fields, while necessary in a sub-specialized world, may also add artificial barriers,” notes Saman. “The mission of NIC is to explore all dimensions of clinical neurosurgery, neurology and psychiatry and eventually expand to cover basic and translational sciences within the neurosciences.”  

“I would like to thank the Canadian Federation of Medical Students, who have bestowed me this honour,” says Saman regarding this most recent award. “As Rumi astutely commented, we are not a drop in the ocean, but the entire ocean in a drop. While I feel small in the grandeur of the healthcare field, it is through my colleagues and collaborators that I feel whole, which grants me the courage to work harder. It is through them that all of this has become possible. I appreciate the opportunity and hope to continue in this direction moving forward.” 

Congratulations Saman!