Life as a Catholic medical student in a secular world can seem unfathomable at times. That is why CMA student sections found at medical schools throughout the country are so vital to the mission of the Catholic Medical Association. One in particular stood out this year.

“With a focus on how to handle ethical issues in medicine, engaging with its local CMA Guild leadership and welcoming 45 new student members, the recipient of the 2022 Outstanding Student Chapter Award is the University of Minnesota Duluth CMA Student Section,” announced Dr. Marie-Alberte Boursiquot at the 91st Annual Educational Conference in Denver, Colorado.

The University of Minnesota Duluth CMA Student Section was only founded in the fall of 2021, but already it is 50 members strong and “has achieved measurable growth and effected meaningful change in its community,” an accomplishment that helped it achieve this CMA honor.

“We were very excited to hear that our student section was receiving the award because it validates all of the work we put in to get our student section up and running this past year,” said President Tony Ukkelberg.

Student members include those in medicine as well as nursing, occupational therapy, speech pathology, physical therapy and pharmacy. They gather twice a month to discuss medical and ethical topics and explore how the Catholic faith informs and helps students navigate those issues.

“Our meetings also function as a space for people who share the same values, morals, and beliefs to talk through challenges they are facing either in their respective professional programs or in their personal life,” explained Ukkelberg. “We serve at local events including the recent Vatican Unveiled event held in Duluth. As we learn and grow as health care professionals, we also foster spiritual growth through adoration, Marian devotions, and celebrating Mass together.”

The student section has a strong working relationship with the St. Raphael Guild of Duluth, which was also recognized at the CMA conference. They were one of four guilds who received the 2022 Pillars Certificate Award for their role in “ensuring a comprehensive approach to realizing the vision and mission of CMA.” The Student Section gives much credit to the leadership of the St. Raphael Guild for its own success.

“The local Guild and its members have been completely invaluable in our forming and continual thriving as a student section,” Ukkelberg said. “The Guild has provided resources, wonderful discussion, and learning opportunities for us to grow in knowledge and faith. Most of all, I cannot stress enough the impact their presence has had on our members’ confidence and sense of belonging in the medical field — which can be elusive sometimes in the current cultural climate. In our local Guild, we students are fortunate enough to find leaders, mentors, and friends.”