Growing up in Pakistan, Omer Mallhi dreamed of becoming an army officer, following in the footsteps of others in his family. His father dreamed of Omer becoming the first dentist in the family. Given his strengths in school he was convinced to alter his path.
“I grew up with my passion to be wearing a uniform,” says Omer. But by the time he finished his dentistry degree, he outgrew his interest in the army. “I realized that the uniform I wanted to wear was a white coat.”
Omer and his family immigrated to Canada in 2012, seeking out a life where his children could grow up with more opportunity. He began applying to dental schools to obtain certification to practice in Canada and was accepted into Dalhousie’s Qualifying Program.
“Dal has been like a professional home for me,” says Omer.
Since coming to Dalhousie, he has made it a mission to get involved and engage with his classmates. Omer created International Food Day, an event for all Qualifying Program students to showcase the traditional cuisine of their country, offering an opportunity to learn more about their classmates. “It’s a really beautiful thing and I would say that it brought all of us together,” he says.
Omer’s community engagement earned him the Faculty of Dentistry’s Dr. Bruce N. Fergusson Memorial Award for exceptional leadership, character, scholarship and personal qualities.
For Omer, it’s the little actions that can make a difference—like how, as a way to bond with his classmates when he first arrived, he made a point of remembering everybody’s name.
“This is a new environment for us,” he says. “All of us are out of our comfort zones, so it’s more on us to integrate.”
Omer will be learning some more new names this summer when he moves to St. John’s, Nfld., to practise.
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