Student Spotlight: Cheryl Zhang

Class president recognizes Stritch culture, mentorsA headshot of Cheryl Zhang

By Sam Uhlarik

What makes a great leader? For Cheryl Zhang it begins with connecting to the people you are leading so you can effectively represent their interests. As president of the Stritch School of Medicine Class of 2023, she puts this approach to good use to lead her classmates throughout their medical school journeys.

Learn more about Cheryl’s experience as a medical student and leader at Loyola: 

What is your favorite part about being the M3 Class President?

As class president, I represent the Class of 2023 to the Medical Student Union, the University community, and attend all official officer and leadership meetings. But that’s just what’s on paper. The real role is learning about the sub-communities within our class and what’s important to them, scaffolding all the other leaders around me, and becoming someone who is approachable and trustworthy so that classmates can feel comfortable expressing themselves to me — and that is my favorite part.

Why is your work important to you?

I’m currently doing research in the form of case reports — and it’s so much fun! As someone who needs to feel tangible progress in working toward a goal, I like case reports because they’re unique, not overly complex, and achievable in a short(er) amount of time. The publications I’ve been a part of vary from rare fat embolisms to zebra-status breast metastasis, and are all special cases that have never been seen before in literature. This kind of work makes me feel like I’m contributing to the medical field incrementally, and that’s important to me.

How have Stritch faculty mentored you during your studies and research?

Where would I even be without my mentors? Assistant Professor Dr. Emad Allam has been a kind and encouraging mentor to me and helped me get started with research even before I knew what a carcinoma was. Student Life Assistant Director Catherine Jardien has guided me through the emotional rollercoasters of medical school since day one. Associate Dean of Student Affairs James Mendez has given me pep talks in the darkest times, challenged me to have difficult conversations with my peers, and built me up when I felt like I wasn’t enough. I find mentorship in my peers and colleagues, too, because I’ve found that everyone brings a very special background and experience to Stritch.


What about the Loyola culture has impacted you?

Loyola has helped me become more comfortable with being uncomfortable. And being uncomfortable breaks down barriers and allows me to grow. I chose Loyola because the community felt genuine: faculty actually cared about my learning and students (although stressed) were happy. When we, as a class board, bring up issues to administration, they are heard and changes are made for the following year. Now, as a third-year medical student completing my very first rotation, I find that the residents and interns are the same way — eager to teach and listen instead of being jaded and tired — and that goes a long way.

One of my favorite moments was during an elective called Healer’s Art where we learned how to sustain our humanity and passion while training to become a doctor. My group leader, Dr. Tracy Boykin-Wilson, was so genuine and fun that our group dropped our walls and opened up to each other (some of us were strangers beforehand). In this safe space, we let emotions flow, talked about difficult topics, and dug deep into ourselves for reflection and learning. There were as many tears as there were laughs. Lights were off and candles were lit. There was candy. It was a very special space and a time that I haven’t ever experienced in my life; it was uniquely Stritch.