The week after my adventures with Big Hair, Big Science, I received life changing news. It is with so much excitement, anticipation and passion that I am proud to say that I was accepted to medical school in Canada. The program I was accepted to is a three year program, that runs for 12 months of the year (with only about 9 weeks of vacation in total across all three years!), so in three years time I will be an M.D. I still cannot grasp the reality of this incredible life change.
My path towards medicine began at a fairly young age, when I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I was very ill when I was diagnosed and spent a few days in the hospital, and throughout my stay I always felt rather comfortable at a hospital, perhaps a strange thing for an eleven year old to feel. It’s not that I loved being there or loved being a newly diagnosed diabetic, but I never felt frightened by the hospital, only curious of the noises and sights and sounds. I did not make a big fuss when administering my first needles, or pricking my finger to test my blood sugars. However it was only after my release from the hospital, when the true sorrows and triumphs of living with a chronic illness began, that I discovered my passion for physiology. When my blood sugars were high or low, I had an immediate physical reaction, and I was always curious to find out exactly what was happening inside my body. On the outside I might be shaking, or sweating or feeling grumpy, but I always wondered what was happening at the cellular level?
It took me awhile to place this interest and curiosity in my diabetes into the context of a possible future profession. But one morning when I was in grade 11, I had a revelation. I would be a sports medicine doctor. It seemed the perfect profession for me, as it combined by passion for athletics with my interest in physiology and my desire to help others.
When I arrived at university, my determination to pursue medicine wavered. Surrounded by intelligent, wonderful, high-achieving individuals in my program, I questioned my own ability to get in to medical school. Something I grappled with continuously over the four years of my undergraduate degree was the notion of what makes a good physician? Each medical school has a slightly different preference in who is accepted, and it always left me wondering, which was the right preference? And who has the right to decide what qualities make a good physician? I still have yet to answer these questions, but I think perhaps, in the broad and varied field of medicine, there is no single set of qualities that are needed to be a good physician, because the field calls for a variety of people with different ambitions, skills, emotions and backgrounds. Yet my own questions about the medical field left me wondering if it was the right field for me. In my senior years in university, I worked at a health policy hub and received an undergraduate fellowship (which is what landed me in Geneva, interning at the WHO for the summer), and I toyed with the idea of pursuing a career in the field of health policy over medicine. But I realized that the long hours of reading and researching, and the lack of individual, one-on-one human contact with others did not satisfy me. I have not completely abandoned the idea of continuing in the field of health policy in some capacity, but I know that for the time being, studying medicine is exactly what I want to be doing.
It has been exactly a month since I found out I was accepted to medical school, and I am not sure I have really grasped the reality of it. Having a dream come true that I have been wanting and grappling with for years is a surreal experience. I am sure once I am back in Canada and settling into my new place, buying my textbooks and preparing for a challenging and rewarding three years of intense schooling, it’ll feel more real, but for now it is an overwhelming little thought in my head that can elicit happiness, excitement, nervousness, relief and determination, all at once.