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The Pam and Rolando Del Maestro Family William Osler Medical Student Essay Awards

Osler Library Board of Curators' medal
Osler Library Board of Curators' medal

Congratulations to the three winners for 2020!

This year, those participating in the Pam and Rolando Del Maestro Family William Osler Medical Student Essay Awards had to contend with a unique challenge: how to write an original research paper in the humanities or social sciences without access to physical libraries. The essayists met the challenge and the resulting submissions were truly impressive. This year, we had the pleasure of hearing the results of the students' work at the Del Maestro Family Medical Students' Humanities and Social Sciences Symposium.

In addition to congratulating the participants, we must give our deepest thanks to the mentors who worked with the students and to the essay awards committee, whose members had the unenviable task of choosing winners from a pool where each contribution was worthy in its own right.

The results of this year's contest are as follows: 

  • First place: Saman Arfaie, "Exploring the Relationship Between Robert Schumann's Bipolar Disorder and His Creative Musical Genius." File Reflective piece by Saman Arfaie.

  • Second place: Minahil Khan, "Colourful Innovations in Neuropathology: Robert Hooper and the Shift in Portrayal of the Morbid Brain in the Nineteenth Century." File Reflective piece by Minahil Khan

  • Third place: Cassandra Poirier, "The Path of the Wounded Healer: Revisiting the Study of Shamanism Through a Phenomenological Approach." File Reflective piece by Cassandra Poirier.


In addition to the finalists above, we thank the following essayists for participating in the symposium:


We would also like to acknowledge the work of those unable to present at the symposium:

A recording of the symposium is available below or here:



Medical students at McGill are invited to explore the historical, social, ethical, and humanistic side of their field thanks to an essay contest established by the Medical Students’ Osler Society and the Board of Curators of the Osler Library of the History of Medicine, and endowed through a generous gift by Pam and Rolando Del Maestro.

The essay contest gives McGill medical students the opportunity to explore any theme of interest to them in the history, social studies, sociology, ethics, and humanities of the health sciences. It also provides them with the chance to be mentored by an expert in their topic drawn from the Library’s Board of Curators or elsewhere to complete their project, and to use the rich resources of the Osler Library and other libraries at McGill.

The utility of pursuing a complete education is one where it incorporates the core elements of the humanities and the arts with that of STEM. There is no question that the human mind is imaginative and filled with colourful ideas and sentiments worth exploring. As we immerse ourselves and our time dedicated to reading books, our minds continue to grow. We become wiser. Not just more knowledgeable. The Del Maestro Family William Osler Medical Student Essay Awards is a competition that celebrates this very depth of our inquisitive inclinations for the pursuit of knowledge. In a discipline as humane as medicine, having a solid grasp of the humanities not only makes us more complete, but fosters a greater sense of emotional maturity and humility.

The Osler Library is one of the world’s wonders and a comprehensive source of scholarship when it comes to the history of medicine. It is an incredible place where thousands of rare works, historical texts, and medical theses conveniently come together. The staff are knowledgeable and dedicated to helping students excel in their respective areas of research. The mentor-mentee pairings of students with experts in the field ensure that each contestant develops research papers they are proud to share.

For students who are currently learning the art and science of medicine, taking some time off from their valuable clinical commitments, and engaging with a different set of frameworks that celebrates our collective pursuit of truth, is surely an awe-inspiring experience. We come to acknowledge that ideas never arise from the vacuum or originate from pure nothingness. Instead, they carry a distinguished lineage of older ideas that can be traced back to their predecessors. While at times they—indeed—may be at odds with one another, through active reading and researching, we come to the profound insight that via permutations and sometimes happy coincidences, most of our modern mind is deeply interconnected with its past. This is a very humbling experience to realize.

As someone passionate about the overlap between Western Classical Music and the psychology of genius with mental illness, I genuinely enjoyed working on my project in my first semester of medical school. I highly recommend this enriching experience to all my friends and colleagues during their time at McGill.

—Saman Arfaie, MDCM (Class of 2024)


The Osler Society is responsible for promoting the contest and encouraging participation. Essays are written with the help of a mentor during the summer and submitted in October. Three finalists will be chosen and will present their essays on Osler Day. Prizes will be given of $250 for third place, $500 for second place, and $1,000 for the winning essay. The first-place winner will also receive the Osler Library Board of Curators' medal. The top essays are typically published on the library website, though we may agree to postpone this for winners who are preparing their essays for publication.

The two step process is as follows:

1. Submit a 1-page proposal stating the research topic and potential sources of information. Include your full name, department and year, and contact details. Proposals are reviewed by a committee. You are strongly encouraged to find a mentor to work with, though if necessary the committee will help find an appropriate one to assist you in developing the essay. Before submitting a proposal, students can contact the Osler Library of the History of Medicine for research help. Submit your proposals to osler.library [at] Deadline: July 6, 2020.

2. With the help of your mentor, produce an essay of 3,000 words maximum in Word format (not counting notes, bibliography, appendices, tables) on the approved topic, using the resources of the Osler and other libraries. References should be formatted according to a recognized citation style. Also submit a 1- or 2-page reflective piece describing which library resources you came to know well due to your research, how your skills grew as a researcher, and how using library material helped you to increase the scope, depth, and significance of your subject. Send your essays to osler.library [at] Deadline: October 12, 2020.

The three finalists will present their essays on November 5, 2020. The three prizes will be awarded on the basis of the quality of both the essay and the presentation.


Note: All participants in the contest are encouraged to submit their essays to the McGill Journal of Medicine for publication (see submission guidelines).

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