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Coat of dreams

U of M medical school Class of 2026 proudly puts on white coats

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(imageTagFull)Mercedes Stemm was filled with emotion, pride and relief as she donned her white coat, a reward for years of preparation and hard work to prepare for medical school.

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RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

A total of 110 students were part of the University of Manitoba’s white coat ceremony on Wednesday.

Mercedes Stemm was filled with emotion, pride and relief as she donned her white coat, a reward for years of preparation and hard work to prepare for medical school.

“I’ve been waiting for this moment my entire life. I’ve always wanted to be a physician, so I’ve been preparing and I’m ready,” she said.

Stemm, 24, was one of 110 students to begin the journey of becoming a doctor at the University of Manitoba’s white coat ceremony Wednesday. They are the class of 2026, which includes 62 women and 48 men; they range in age from 20 to 41.

Students recite the Physician’s Pledge, which reads in part: “As a member of the medical profession: I solemnly pledge to dedicate my life to the service of humanity; the health and well-being of my patient will be my first consideration; I will respect the autonomy and dignity of my patient; I will maintain the utmost respect for human life.”

Stemm, who is Mi’kmaq, was born and raised in Natoaganeg First Nation in New Brunswick. She’s proud to be one of 13 Indigenous students in her class.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Mercedes Stemm (left) is one of 13 Indigenous students in her class.

“One of the reasons I want to be a physician is to decrease the barriers Indigenous people face when they are trying to receive health care. To see the representation in the profession continue to grow is amazing.”

After completing her undergrad, in which she majored in neuroscience and minored in Indigenous Studies at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Stemm chose the U of M partially because of the resources and support for Indigenous students.

During her undergrad degree, she created a mentorship program for Indigenous students interested in medicine. She hopes to expand the program to Manitoba.

“I got to work alongside admissions for medical school and try to increase Indigenous students in Canada. There’s a large population of Indigenous people here, so I really hope the number of Indigenous physicians increases,” she said.

Her next goal is to become a neurosurgeon.

“I’ve always been interested in the brain. There are still things we are learning about it every day. During my undergrad, I immediately realized I really want to do neurology.”

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Mercedes Stemm with her husband Kyle Cottrell following the ceremony.

Although a majority of her friends and family weren’t able to make it to the ceremony from New Brunswick, they watched the university’s livestream.

“I already know my mom was screaming and crying while watching and taking it all in.”

Stemm also had a heavy heart as she remembered her sister, who died last October.

“She was one of my biggest support systems. Not having that will be different, but I know this is where she’d want me to be,” she said. “Ever since I was young, she called me Dr. Stemm. I hope wherever she is, she knows that I made it here.”

Her husband, Kyle Cottrell, moved to Manitoba with Stemm and said he couldn’t hide how proud he was when her name was announced.

“I was tearing up watching,” he said. “All of the studying and hard work she put in to get here was worth it.”

bryce.hunt@freepress.mb.ca

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