Kavi Ratnaweera: Humanitarian & Medical Laboratory Science Aficionado

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Our September Leader in the Spotlight features Kavi Ratnaweera, a second year Medical Laboratory Science student at UBC. Recently, he helped fundraise $135 000 for Help, Learn & Discover and went on a volunteer trip to Ecuador to build 21 homes. In addition to being an active member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity, Kavi also serves as a volunteer with Fraser Health and the Canadian Blood Services. In our interview with Kavi, learn about the benefits of Greek life, the most intriguing aspects of Medical Laboratory Sciences, and get the must-know advice for university.

1. What first got you interested in joining a fraternity? What types of activities are you involved in? 

When I got accepted into UBC, a few friends asked me if I would join a fraternity. Funnily enough, at the time I had never heard of the word. During my first year at UBC, I got to see my roommate as well as two friends from high school go through the process of  becoming a member of a fraternity. They all said it was one of the best decisions they had made as an undergrad. By then, I was curious and wanted to see what the fuss was all about. So in my second year, I checked out some of the events and I am glad I did!

Through becoming a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) fraternity, I have been privileged to meet a group of individuals who share the same values, interests and passions that I do. In addition, DKE has provided me with the opportunity to network with alumni who can share insights on everything from DKE history to how to be successful after university. Lastly, DKE has reconnected me with sports.  For example, I’m a part of the co-rec volleyball team. I’ve also been a part of events such as the “Scott Trapp Memorial Stick-it to Cancer Tournament”, which is an annual street hockey tournament and DKE’s signature philanthropy event. The tournament has been a memorable occasion since becoming a member of DKE.

  1. Describe your involvement in Help, Learn & Discover. What was the best part of travelling to Ecuador?

My involvement with HLD began in the summer of 2013, when I joined a group of fifteen individuals to fundraise money for a volunteer trip to Camarones, Ecuador to build homes for families. In total, all the HLD teams across Canada and the US raised ~$135 000. We fulfilled our goal to build 21 homes for the community in Camarones and funded some surgeries for patients, who would otherwise be unable to afford healthcare. This experience has been one of the most memorable in my life thus far. The best part was the celebration held with the community and seeing the happiness of the parents and the children who had a new home to live in.

The following year, I was privileged to be hired as a Leader in HLD. This time around, I worked alongside two other leaders to inspire others to go and volunteer in Ecuador. I was able to strengthen my communication and presentation skills.

  1. What is Medical Laboratory Science and how did you decide to pursue a degree in Medical Laboratory Science?

 Medical Laboratory Science is a two year undergraduate program offered by the Department of Pathology under the Faculty of Medicine at UBC. The program accepts on average 24 students and requires students to have completed a specific set of first and second year pre-requisite courses or be a certified medical laboratory technologist with a MLT diploma.

My first exposure to the MLSc program was in my first year, when I saw a presentation by students who have graduated from the program. What caught my attention was the amount of hands-on lab work that the program offers. In my first year, I had opportunities to conduct lab work such as cell culture, histochemistry and hematology. Another appealing aspect of the program was its focus on the study of human disease. Our classes offer different perspectives on human disease, from various viewpoints such as microbiology, biochemistry or histology. I believe this aspect was instrumental in my decision to pursue a degree in MLSc, since I am interested in human disease.

  1. What is the most important piece of advice you have for students, academic wise and non- academic wise?

Academically, I would say one of the most important things for students is to get a head start on studying, writing papers, and completing assignments. Coming from the regimented schedule in high school, students need to adjust to the varied timetable of university. There might be days in the week where you have one or no class at all. Consequently, it is easy to put off assignments, lab work and studying for another time because you feel as if you have a lot of time. I was guilty of this in my first year and it was difficult towards the end of the term; several assignments were due simultaneously, and I also had to study for lab and final exams. Therefore, I recommend getting a good head start at the beginning of the term so it is easier to be on top of your school work later on. This will also provide you with time for things outside of academics.

Non-academically, I think the most important advice is to avoid being a student who only goes from the desk in class to the desk at home. University is one of the best places to meet others who share the same interests as you. There is a good chance that there is an existing student group or club that pertains to your interests. If not, university is also one of the best places for you to start up your own group or club and to get others interested in your ideas. Take that first step and join whatever you’re interested in. Alternatively, challenge yourself by trying something new. The opportunities to greater achievements will follow after your initial commitments.

  1. What’s been the best experience of your undergrad?

It is hard to pinpoint one exact memory as the best experience of my undergrad, but I think one of the most impactful experiences was living in on-campus residence. Both in my first and second year of university I lived on residence and I believe it is an experience that everyone should try out if they have the financial capabilities. Not only did residence provide me with the opportunity to meet individuals who share the same interests with me, but it also gave me the chance to meet others with passions in areas I have no knowledge of. Living in residence allowed me to learn from so many people. In addition, living in residence has helped me become more responsible and independent while considerably improving my time management skills.


Want to ask Kavi a question? Schedule a chat with him today! Kavi is happy to answer your questions and offer advice on the university experience.



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