|Name||Nilanga Aki Bandara|
|Grad Year||2020 (BSc Food, Nutrition & Health), 2021 (MKin)|
|Degree||Bachelor of Science in Food, Nutrition, and Health, Master of Kinesiology|
|Major||Food, Nutrition and Health|
Nilanga Aki Bandara has a Master’s in Kinesiology and started medical school at UBC in 2021. Aki is also a UBC Wesbrook Scholar who has been involved in research projects and many community organizations.
What motivated you to pursue med school?
It’s been a passion of mine since the end of grade nine. At that point in my life, my grandma was going through various health challenges, specifically cardiovascular disease.
We were often in and out of the hospital and seeing different specialists. Being able to witness the care that these healthcare professionals gave her was an inspiration and I really wanted to take that experience and pave the way forward for other families and community members.
How did your time in LFS prepare you for that process?
Coming into university, I felt that I held a very biomedical definition of health and my time in LFS challenged my perception of health and what impacts our health. There were several courses that pushed me into a direction that I had never really considered before which were mainly around the social determinants of health and public health. Learning that there were so many environmental factors that impact your health, for example, your socioeconomic status, housing status, food security and education, made me think about health as a broader concept encompassing many different intersecting dimensions.
Additionally, I learned even beyond the social determinants of health and looked at spiritual and emotional determinants of health specific to the Indigenous Medicine Wheel.
My time in LFS helped me both develop an understanding of the human body but also more broadly speaking, health and wellbeing.
What are some accomplishments or highlights that you are most proud of?
The one I’m most proud of is the Wesbrook Scholarship. I initially heard about it when I was in my first year. I was doing a check-in with my enrollment service advisor and she had mentioned it and some of the previous recipients. I was really inspired because the students who had won it were very notable alumni, who had made substantial contributions to our society.
Then in fourth year, to see all the work that I had been doing throughout my undergrad and to be recognized with this award, it was really humbling and I’m grateful for it and all of the support that UBC has given us.
What are your future plans?
At the end of these four years of medical school and during my residency, it would mean a lot for me to continue to live in Vancouver and be able to take care of my family.
In terms of a specific discipline, I’ve had a lot of interest in different organ systems. I would say cardiology, based on the experiences of my grandmother and my father going through cardiovascular disease, and perhaps ophthalmology because my brother and my mother both have eye conditions. I also have a lot of interest in a surgical specialty, like cardiac surgery.
I haven’t made any concrete plans yet. I’m really open to trying things out and seeing where the journey goes.
What advice would you give to current students who may want to pursue medical school?
For myself, the journey to medical school has been quite long. It’s been close to nine years since I had this goal of pursuing medical school and it actually took me three tries to get in.
My first time I got wait-listed and my second time, again, I was wait-listed. This year was my third attempt and I am really grateful that I got the opportunity to start medical school. I think it’s so important not to give up, be resilient and really push through. When you fall, rely on your support network and spend some time reflecting. If it’s something that you want, you’re going to make it happen some way or another.