Faces of U of T Medicine: Marisa de Souza

Dec 19, 2017
For Marisa de Souza, moving to Toronto from Port Perry, Ontario to study at U of T was a dream come true. Now, the second-year MD student at the Missisauga Academy of Medicine (MAM) is an avid volunteer and burgeoning triathlete. She spoke to writer Julia Soudat about the best parts of medical school and the extracurricular pursuits she’s involved in.

What did you do before coming to U of T Medicine?

I studied Kinesiology at U of T for three years and absolutely loved it! In undergrad, I competed on the Varsity figure skating team and volunteered at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital in their creative arts respite program. I also volunteered at SickKids in my third year. It was always the highlight of my week to be able to spend time having fun and being creative with children through those programs.

Why did you choose U of T for medical school?

U of T is world-renowned, so it’s hard to say no to an offer of admission! Toronto is one of my favourite places and remaining here meant I could be close to my friends and family as well as the communities and organizations that I was involved in during my undergrad.

I was offered admission to the Mississauga campus and at first, I didn’t know what to expect. Its turned out to be a great fit for me. I love the nature around campus and the convenience of having most of my courses in one building. Most of all, I love the community. MAMers are supportive and friendly people. We study together, work out and hang out together. The admin staff know us by name and I feel like the instructors really care about us.

What made you want to become a doctor?

I come from a family of teachers — 11 of them. I was determined to be a teacher until grade 12, when I realized my passion for helping others could be applied in a way that integrates science and healthcare through medicine. After my experiences volunteering and working in hospitals, I decided this was the path I wanted to take.

Do you know what kind of specialty you’d like to pursue?

I’m interested in pursuing a career in paediatrics! I started medical school with that in mind and purposely sought out opportunities in different specialties during my first year to see if anything would captivate me more. While I’ve enjoyed the other specialties, paediatrics remains my top interest.

What’s been the most rewarding part of medical school so far?

I’ve enjoyed being involved in the Social Pediatrics Research Summer Student (SPReSS) program and volunteering with Make Room to Read. I feel lucky to have met amazing people in my program who I’m grateful to call my friends and future colleagues.

Are you involved in any clubs, organizations or groups at U of T?

I’m a director of the Paediatrics Interest Group. This year, we’ve connected with the Make Room to Read program at the Canadian Centre for Immigrant and Refugee Heath’s Paediatric Outpatient Clinic. It’s been a joy to read with the children and get to know the families. I’m also coordinating the Developmental Disabilities Seminar at MAM next semester — we could be doing a lot more to make our health care system more inclusive and accessible for people with disabilities.

This summer I was part of the SPReSS program at SickKids, which had a huge impact on me and informed how I hope to practice.

I was struck by a conversation I had with a youth in the shelter system when we were trying to make a plan together for healthy eating and physical activity. Lifestyle changes are a challenge when one is dealing with mental illness, poverty and relying on food banks and shelter food. I wish I had easy answers, but I was left with many questions about how I, as a medical student, can use my voice to advocate in support of vulnerable peoples' health on individual and systemic levels. Meeting these young people made the idea of Social Determinants of Health real for me. At times this was overwhelming, but after the program I felt more motivated and better equipped to tackle systemic issues.

Earlier this year, I was also a Faculty of Medicine Orientation Week coordinator. It took eight months to plan seven days of activities for 260 2T1 students, but it was beyond worth it to meet such outstanding people and welcome them to the Faculty. After being a beginner for a year, it felt great to share some of my knowledge and experiences.

What do you like to do outside of school?

After I stopped figure skating competitively, I needed a new sport — so I took up three! I’ve been doing triathlons for a little over a year now and I really enjoy it. I am not particularly good at swimming, so it’s rewarding to make progress. The triathlon community is kind and supportive, so it’s lots of fun!


Faces of U of T Medicine introduces you to some of the interesting people studying in the Faculty of Medicine. From advising political leaders to providing care to Toronto’s most vulnerable populations, our students are making an impact on communities at home and around the world.

Do you have an interesting story to share? Contact us at medicine.communications@utoronto.ca.

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