Aravind Ganesh moved to Canada in 2005, graduated from Notre Dame High School in 2007, convocated with a Doctor of Medicine degree in 2012, and will be a Rhodes Scholar in 2014.
The 23-year-old interviewed for the prestigious scholarship on Friday and Saturday and found out on Sunday morning that he had been selected as one of 83 students — including 11 Canadians — to receive the pre-eminent graduate student award in the world, granting two years of paid-for study at Oxford University.
“(I was) absolutely ecstatic,” said Ganesh, “It always takes a couple of seconds to sink in, because there is a part of you that’s second guessing what they just told you. To me, it was really a great honour.
“It’s something that’s been on the back of my mind as something that would be useful to do for our city but also for our country. It’s a real honour to be able to try to represent Canada at Oxford and try to participate in that exchange of knowledge.”
Ganesh grew up in Kerala, India before coming to Canada with his family, living in Mississauga for a short time before coming to Red Deer in 2005. During his few years attending high school in the city, he helped found Youth Voice, a group that worked with the city to develop anti-bullying guidelines to include in a community standards bylaw.
He volunteered as a student at the Red Deer Regional Hospital, and aside from maintaining a 99 per cent average throughout high school, he started a club that connected exchange students and immigrants with Canadian students and organized the school’s first cultural diversity week.
“It was an absolutely amazing three years that I spent going to high school in Red Deer. It’s a short period of time but really transformative … The fact of the matter is I’ve never felt so wholeheartedly accepted, and I’ve never felt so wholeheartedly promoted as I did when I was in Red Deer,” said Ganesh.
He cited Greg Hall, Dan Flanagan, and Kathy Puto as some of those supportive influences from his high school career, and Darci Shaves with the hospital and Linda Healing with the city as Red Deerians who empowered him by supporting his efforts.
After high school he went to the University of Calgary where he graduated last year with degrees in biological sciences and medicine. Now doing his residency in neurology, Ganesh intends to study public health at Oxford, with the goal of researching strategies to prevent strokes and improve care for those who have suffered them.
He also said he thinks learning about Britain’s National Health Service will enlighten him to how the Canadian health system can be improved.
And he has designs on improving the patient-physician interaction by creating a smartphone-based app that would allow patients to get more useful knowledge out of each visit by allowing diagnoses to be made quicker, thus allowing more time to be spent going through a treatment plan using infographics and other visual information.
Over 1,000 Canadians have been named Rhodes Scholars since the scholarships were first offered in 1903.
Former Governor-General Roland Michener, born in Lacombe, received the honour in 1919.
Other alumni of the program include former NHL president Clarence Campbell, Premiers Allan Blakeney, Bob Rae and Danny Williams, and former Prime Minister John Turner.