Scholarship brings student closer to childhood dream

Leah DrostFor as long as she can remember, Leah Drost has wanted to be a physician.

Her journey began in childhood, when she watched a family member develop an illness. “It piqued my interest in medicine,” she says. “As I went through high school, I realized that I liked science and math – all those things that went along with studying health.”

Drost enrolled in Waterloo’s Health Studies program. She was named a Co-op Student of the Year in 2017 for her work at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, where she researched post-surgery radiotherapy for cancer that spread to the bone. The landmark study was published in the medical journal Radiology and Oncology.

During her co-op terms at Sunnybrook, Drost also interacted with patients in palliative cancer care and breast cancer care.

“I’d had similar experiences in volunteer roles, but these connections were really special,” she says. “I learned that medicine is about more than physical health: it’s about relationships.”

Given her passion for helping others, Drost was a fitting first recipient of the Dr. Stanley F. Leavine Scholarship, an award memorializing a prominent public servant and local physician.

Dr. Leavine spent much of his life in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. He served on the Kitchener Board of Health and the K-W Hospital Commission, and he was president of the North Waterloo Academy of Medicine. Later in his career, he entered city council and held multiple roles in local government, including Mayor of Kitchener. Dr. Leavine was also a strong supporter in the University of Waterloo’s earliest days as a founding member of the Board of Governors.

His daughter Dr. Desta Leavine created the memorial scholarship, which is given to a third- or fourth-year undergraduate student pursuing a medical career. Students can demonstrate that ambition through work or volunteer experiences, or involvement in entrepreneurial activities related to medical innovation.

Drost remembers when she received the award. “It felt awesome,” she says. “I’d gotten my tuition bill for the winter term, so I was feeling a bit of financial stress. The scholarship really did help a lot.” Plus, she says the award reminded her there was a community supporting her – cheering her on.

“I cannot fully express how grateful I am for receiving this award,” she says. “It gave me the courage and confidence to pursue my dreams, and the resources to help make those dreams a reality.”

Leah recently moved one step closer to her goal of becoming a physician. As of August 2019, she’s a medical student.