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Med student from Okanagan named 2022 Rhodes scholar

A medical student from Kelowna will be joining one of the world’s most elite educational institutions, having been named a Rhodes Scholar.

Jesse Lafontaine is one of 11 Canadians who will head to Oxford University in October 2022 to join a class of more than 100 scholars from around the world to pursue their education on one of the world’s most prestigious campuses.

Lafontaine, an École Kelowna Secondary graduate, is currently a second year medical student at the University of Alberta. He previously completed a Bachelor of Science with honours, majoring in chemistry. He plans to pursue a Master of Public Policy and a Master of Science in Translational Health Science at Oxford.

“My education in Kelowna helped lay the foundation for success and inspired my passion for pursuing higher education,” said Lafontaine. “I am truly grateful for all the people who have been part of my team along the way, and I am excited for the next steps in my journey.”

The son of David, who works for the Vernon School District, and Kathryn, a Central Okanagan teacher, Lafontaine is a member of Métis Nation and the Kelowna Métis Association and is passionate about equitable health care for Indigenous people. He is the president of the University of Alberta’s Medical Students’ Association and co-founder of the Indigenous Medical Students’ Association of Canada, and is committed to increasing Indigenous representation in health care fields.

Lafontaine hopes to pursue a career that combines his interest in Indigenous health with his skills in leadership and policy development.

“Mr. Lafontaine’s scholastic achievement and dedication to equitable health care for Indigenous people inspires our entire district, so we offer both our congratulations on this rare distinction and our gratitude,” said Kevin Kaardal, Central Okanagan School District superintendent. “Our goal is to empower students to thrive as global citizens, and Jesse Lafontaine is a shining example of someone whose commitment and humanity will surely make a difference in our world.”

The Rhodes scholars were selected in a highly competitive process administered by six regional committees. The process included a meticulous review of applications followed by a broad-ranging final interview.

“This year’s class of scholars reflects the incredible diversity, prodigious talent and deep humanity that Canada has to offer,” said Richard Pan, Canadian secretary of the Rhodes Trust and chair for the Rhodes Scholarships in Canada. “Our scholars deeply impressed the Committees with their accomplishments, passion, and importantly, their sense of responsibility to the community around them. We look forward to supporting our scholars in the exciting journey ahead.”

“We are proud that scholars come from a vast array of backgrounds and have attained remarkable accomplishments in a wide range of fields,” said Elizabeth Kiss, the warden of the Rhodes Trust. “It is that diversity of background and thinking that makes our community special. What unites them is their curiosity, character, academic excellence and their desire to make a difference.”

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Brendan Shykora
Reporter, Vernon Morning Star
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