Student Spotlight: Kelly Lien (c2018)

The Student Spotlight is a glimpse into the lives of McMaster medical students through portraits and storytelling. The goal is to highlight the wonderful diversity of our student body.

Medicine doesn’t have to get in the way of other hobbies, and who better to prove this than Kelly Lien, a 22 year old powerlifter from Mississauga, ON.


Some of Kelly’s favourite things…

Hobby: Powerlifting, gaming, playing an instrument, travelling, eating good food

Book/piece of literature: YA novels will always hold a place in my heart – Artemis Fowl, Percy Jackson, HP, etc.

Movie: As of right now? Inside Out – cutest movie with a great message

Song/album/artist: Brand New, old Death Cab for Cutie, old Coldplay… I have a penchant for sad things

Character/superhero: Link from Legend of Zelda

Shocking Secret

Is an internationally competitive powerlifter – competed in IPF Worlds in Killeen, Texas in June 2016 and placed 3rd in the 57 kg junior women’s category.


Kelly started thinking about medical school while in high school. However, since no one in her family was in the field, and she didn’t know anyone else who managed to get in, she believed that the process was daunting and impossible.

She started off her post-secondary education at the University of Waterloo, majoring in biology and minoring in chemistry and French. Taking advantage of Waterloo’s co-op program, she spent 2 years working at the Odette Cancer Centre at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto with two medical oncologists. They would inspire her to follow her aspirations, “encouraging me and providing me with advice along the way.” It was an outstanding experience, allowing Kelly to observe a life-extending Whipple surgery (for pancreatic cancer) while still in undergrad and to witness the complex role that the medical oncologists play in a patient’s journey. After the experience, Kelly knew: “I wanted to be able to do the same.”

The Spark to Medicine and Inspirations

Sometimes a great mentor makes all the difference in a young person’s life. That was certainly the case with Kelly, who was so fortunate to have had great mentors in her education – mentors whom she felt had “a true desire to learn and help and teach.” Specifically, she is extremely thankful to the two medical oncologists she worked with at Sunnybrook and also to her organic chemistry professor, who has since become a colleague and a close friend.

Highlight: Winning 1st place at the Canadian Powerlifting Nationals (February 16) and 3rd place at Internationals (June 22), making friends with some amazing people here at school, and axe-throwing in Waterloo (because the regional campuses get to have all the fun!)
Lowlight: “Pedalling on a scooter at our white coat ceremony due to a fractured ankle (from bouldering)… I probably made history that night as the first medical student to scooter across the stage.” She made it and looked great too.

Future Goals

Kelly’s goal is simply to be able to make a difference in someone’s life. “It can be as simple as comforting a parent who fears that their child is dying, or as crazy as literally saving a life through a great resuscitation.”

Alternate Dimension

Did we mention she minored in chemistry? Well, she would have made a great organic chemistry professor in an alternate dimension. After all, her organic chemistry professor was just another example of a great mentor in Kelly’s life.

To be our next student spotlight, please click here.

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