Health sciences student named Rhodes scholar


[img_inline align=”right” src=”” caption=”Sheiry Dhillon, a fourth year health sciences student at McMaster, has been named one of just two Rhodes scholars from Ontario. Dhillon will spend two to three years at Oxford in the UK. Photo by JD Howell.”]Her elder sister was born in a small rural home in India, a country with a shockingly
high maternal mortality rate. There, her mother gave birth on a wooden frame covered
in a woven cloth and the umbilical cord was cut with household scissors. No medical
professionals were present.

In stark contrast, Sheiry Dhillon was born in an Ontario hospital, in a sterile and safe
environment, with a fully equipped obstetric and neonatal team ready to handle any

That jarring difference in circumstances and the drastic social inequity that her own
family experienced would shape Dhillon's life and push her to level the playing field.

“As a child, I remember being a naive young humanitarian with a longing to protect the
vulnerable and alleviate suffering,” said Dhillon. “I began small, often confronting the
playground bully or sheltering animals on our kitchen floor.”

A fourth-year bachelor of health sciences student specializing in global health, Dhillon
has been chosen as one of two students who will represent Ontario as Rhodes Scholars.

“This is such a thrilling opportunity,” she said. “To be part of the Rhodes community is
remarkable and to 'fight the world's fight' as many Rhodes scholars often say. This
provides me with the resources and education to make real change.”

Dhillon is the first Rhodes scholar to come from McMaster since 2004.

The scholarships provide students from around the world the opportunity to study at
the University of Oxford in England for two to three years.

“Sheiry is an outstanding scholar who combines a commitment to academic excellence
with impressive leadership qualities and a passionate regard for the welfare of others,”
said University President Patrick Deane, who acted as a mentor to all three of McMaster's
Rhodes finalists. “She does not view her education as an end in itself but rather is
deeply committed to using her education to improve life for others.”

Much of her motivation comes from her parents, who immigrated to Canada from India
in 1989 to provide a better life for their children. The family now lives in Brampton.

Dhillon plans to pursue her research interests in global health science and sees her
education at Oxford as an integral step to reaching the goals she first set as a small

“Social inequity has driven my pursuit of knowledge for my entire life,” she said. “I use
my mother's story as just one example of a greater cause to which I hope to dedicate
my life's work.”

Holden Sheffield, an MD candidate in the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine and
Joseph Veloce, an engineering student, were also among the 13 Ontario finalists.

Established in the will of Cecil Rhodes in 1902, the Rhodes is the oldest and perhaps the
most prestigious international scholarship program in the world.

Rhodes' vision was to develop outstanding leaders who would be motivated to “fight the
world's fight,” and his will outlined four criteria: literary and scholastic attainments;
energy; selflessness, devotion and sympathy for the weak; and leadership.