2013 Finalist: Leaders of Tomorrow sponsored by Alberta Enterprise and Advanced Education
Bridging Research With Clinical Practice
Mr. Matthew Benesch is an ambitious academic who is driven to accomplish something few medical students do. His PhD and an MD from the University of Alberta will help set him up in a thinly populated field.
“The two degrees allow you bridge the research side with clinical practice,” Mr. Benesch says. “The PhD teaches you how to ask the right questions. Medicine teaches you anatomy and physiology. I will be able to analyze the research in the context of my understanding of the body and feed that back into the PhD side to develop a medical solution.”
Mr. Benesch’s goal is to be a surgical oncologist. His wants to use his patients’ tumour samples to identify biomarkers, biological indicators that indicate types of cancer. As a scientist doing basic research, he hopes that information will evolve into a practical application to inform decisions about treatment and progression of disease.
“No one works in a vacuum. Everyone contributes based on their skills,” he explains. “We can push our knowledge forward, others will pick up on it and it snowballs. So we are all working towards something that has a greater impact.”
Mr. Benesch’s impact is already being felt. He is an inspiring leader who desires to work for the greater good.
From the Beginning
Even in high school, he identified that non-profit organizations needed affordable help to build and manage their websites. So he started his company called Bytespace to fill that need.
Based on the success of Bytespace, the U of A recruited him to be a podcast editor for the Radio Pipeline, a service that highlights campus academic life. He also blogged about his university experiences as an online ambassador for the university registrar. With typical fierceness, he blogged over 200,000 words over nearly 300 entries and readership was about 2,700 per month.
“I met a first-year medical student who told me that he’d read every one of my blogs and they convinced him to go to medical school at the U of A,” Mr. Benesch says. “You never know the impact that something you do might have.”
Addressing the Challenges
Coming from rural Alberta, Mr. Benesch brought his understanding of the challenges facing rural students to his leadership role with the U of A MD Rural Ambassadors. The group promotes the medical school to high school students from rural areas. He helped the Rural Ambassadors connect to every rural high school by video conferencing, reaching 5,000 students – a huge jump from the 30 students reached the year before he joined the program.
A resident of HUB – a campus residence housing approximately 850 students – Mr. Benesch joined the executive. He helped transform the space physically through major renovations and instilled a community spirit in the residents that resulted in the largest volunteer force in the 39-year history of HUB.
Mr. Benesch received the Student’s Union Hilda Wilson Volunteer Recognition Memorial Award recognizing his valuable contributions to campus life through hard work, leadership and dedication to others.