Glittering Sun, Family Love and the End of Exams!

As I type this, the setting sun is gleaming off the ice and snow that covers the grass in our backyard. I love to write at our dining table because of the beautiful view that I get to experience. My daughter is sitting to my right, testing out a box of markers to make sure each pen is still working well and up to her standards. Every so often, she proudly points to her artwork which at this point mostly consists of multi-colored doodles.

This week was an intense exam week consisting of Anatomy lab exam, Digestion/ Metabolism Final exam and the Reflective exam (which covers clinical material since the beginning of medical school). I found this block to be one of the most intense so far. Despite the challenging exams, the week ended on a great note with a fun patient simulation activity and then dinner with the Dean of Medicine. I was really impressed that the Faculty made time to meet with us in groups over the past few months and that the Dean talked to each of us individually to find out more about us. When asked what he considers to be the features of a good doctor, his words stuck with me….”listen, be kind and be humble”.

Now that this set of exams are over and we are on Spring break, I got to spend a beautiful simple day with my daughter. We did silly things like dancing around the dining room to her favorite music. I love how she would look at me with her big brown eyes and giggle as she tried to copy my dance moves. My son spent the week with his grandmother in the Laurentians since his school was on Spring break and I was having exams. It was the first time he has ever been away from us overnight and it went very well. He had a blast with his granny. I really missed him though and look forward to seeing him  when we drive up to the Laurentians for the weekend.

Today, I had the chance to reflect on the wonderful blessings in my life, especially my husband and children. My husband came home early from work today and surprised me with beautiful flowers. A few weeks ago my son presented me with some of his artwork depicting our family and it really moved my heart to see his perception of us. Sometimes in the busyness of life, we can forget how much we as parents mean to our children and how important we are to them. I love being a mother and wife, and despite the demands of medical school, I am so happy to be learning so much and that I have been given the incredible opportunity to do this. I look forward to the next block after the Spring break!

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Beautiful surprise flowers from hubby!
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My 5 year old’s drawing of our family (including our black dog!)

 

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Reflections on the First 3 Weeks of Medical School

I have just experienced my first three weeks of medical school and it has been amazing! The first week was a series of orientation sessions to get us familiar with the medical program while the second week was the official start of classes.

I would love to share my experiences with you!

  • What I love about the program:  Fantastic classmates, passionate teachers, fascinating material, plenty of support, small group sessions, mentors, a focus on wellness, and the opportunity to shadow physicians right from Week 1! So far, I have had some exposure to family medicine, obstetrics and pathology. I loved being in the birthing center where I got to meet a patient who had just given birth by cesarean section. There was something so profound about being with someone at such a life-changing moment. I have also enjoyed my histology labs where we have been identifying different types of cells and tissues. Interestingly, it seems that pathology is moving away from using microscopes and instead using very high resolution images on the computer screen.
  • Challenges: The biggest challenges so far are being away from my children and the 2-3 hour daily commute. Traffic has been much worse than anticipated so I am making the most of my commute time to listen to lectures and also to decompress at the end of a busy day. I am very grateful to my husband for his tremendous support in helping out around the house and with the kids.
  • Surprises: The orientation and first few days of class focused on physicianship, the social aspects of medicine, indigenous health and the disparities in healthcare among the aboriginal population. Where as I thought we would be diving straight into hard science and performing dissections in the anatomy lab, it was interesting to learn about the social side of medicine and how so many factors affect health. I have also been pleasantly surprised by the vast array of backgrounds that my classmates have. It is such a diverse group!
  • Strategies for survival: I have had to adjust my study methods compared to the last time I was in school. The material is too voluminous for one to completely master every detail so I am learning the art of determining what is the most essential and what fits into the big picture of becoming a doctor. So far, I am mostly using the lecture material and my own created flashcards to summarize the material. Upper year students have also created some useful summaries that they have graciously handed down to us newbies.
  • Tips and advice: An important tip that I have heard from many seasoned medical students and doctors is to not neglect my life outside of medicine. I am trying to create a positive habit early on of having protected time for my husband, kids, devotional time, adequate sleep and exercise. I will also try to keep up with one or two hobbies, some friends and family.  There are several activities and organizations on campus I am interested in joining but I will have to be selective and not take on too much. Flexibility is important and I realize that I may not always be on top of things, but I will do the best that I can and enjoy the adventure!

Although I am only at the very beginning of my training and there is much more to come, I am really enjoying medical school so far and feel so grateful to have been given this opportunity!

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My new stethoscope just arrived! If you are wondering what brand to buy for medical school, this one comes highly recommended and is offered in an array of colors.

 

Medical School Starts Tomorrow!

It is hard to believe that after 10 years of planning, with plenty of detours and surprises, I am finally starting medical school tomorrow! When I look back on the past few years, there were several moments when I wondered why there had been a delay or why things did not go as planned. In hindsight, I realize that everything had a purpose and that this is exactly the right time to be doing this, even if it took much longer than expected to get here!

I am so grateful for the support I have received from my amazing husband, church, friends and family. If you have a goal in life that seems somewhat overwhelming or even nearly impossible, gather the right people around you to encourage you, lift you up and mentor you. This has been invaluable to me for getting through obstacles and disappointments.

Last Friday, my husband and I spent a day together (normally, we’re surrounded by our rambunctious kids!) We drove downtown and strolled around hand-in-hand reminiscing on our early dating days. It was so special to walk on campus where I completed my first degree eleven years go, knowing that in just a few days I would begin another one at the very same university.

My husband and I wandered into the medical building where most of my classes will be. We eventually found ourselves in the Osler library, home to thousands of books on the history of medicine personally owned by the Canadian physician Sir William Osler, the father of modern medicine. There was something so profound about being in touch with this important piece of history just prior to the start of my own journey into medicine.

As I start a new phase of my life tomorrow, I hope you will continue to follow me on this adventure. My husband and children are very excited and although I know it will be demanding, I am so thrilled to have my ‘team’ behind me for support!

Onward to medical school!

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On campus with my husband
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Last weekend before medical school starts! A fun ferry ride on the way to the beach at Oka park
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Last day before medical school starts: a day at the water-slides in Pointe Calumet

Photo credit for featured image: Karen Coshof (from the book ‘The Osler Library’)

Getting Closer to the Start of Medical School!

As the start of medical school approaches, I can feel the excitement continuing to rise! This is going to be such an amazing journey! I know it will be very challenging and will stretch me in many ways. I am going to give it my very best effort, knowing that my family, friends and God’s strength will help to sustain me through the upcoming long journey!

Since my last medical school update, we have managed to get a lot done:

  • Take Basic Life Support class (CPR and AED): Done! Very useful course that I think everyone should learn!
  • Update immunizations: mostly completed. Pending 2 reports following a chicken-pox titre test and chest X-Ray. Two more tetanus shots will be done in August and February.
  • Financing my medical education: meet with the bank (done, credit-line approved!), apply for government financial aid (done, waiting for my application to be processed) and scholarships (done, and I’m happy to announce that I received a scholarship that will go towards part of my first year of tuition!)
  • Look for a second-hand car to commute 5o minutes downtown: done! We got a fuel-efficient 2012 Toyota Yaris with only 13,000 kms on it for less than half the price of a new car!
  • Register for classes: Registration opened yesterday! It’s so thrilling to see what courses I will be starting off with (trying not to be fazed that the number of courses and credits are almost double what I did per semester during my undergraduate degree. I have been told medical school is like trying to drink water from a fire hydrant!!)

So all in all, things are falling into place and I feel truly grateful to God for this amazing opportunity to study medicine and hopefully make a difference in the lives of my future patients!

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Registering for my medical school courses Fall 2016!!

 

Accepted! I’m Going to Medical School!

On behalf of the Faculty of Medicine of McGill University, I am delighted to offer you a position in the Fall 2016 MDCM…program. Congratulations!

On behalf of the Admissions Committee, allow me to compliment you on your impressive candidacy. We are confident that your unique experiences and perspectives as a Non-Traditional Pathway student will enrich the McGill learning community and we look forward to your favourable response.

Yours sincerely,
Assistant Dean of Admissions

Words cannot express my joy when I received my offer of admission to medical school yesterday! This is a dream come true for me and after years of effort, three attempts at the MCAT, and my second attempt at applying to medical school, I have finally made it!

Yesterday and today have been  a whirlwind of events as I have spoken to many friends and family members. I have received an outpouring of beautiful messages from all over the world. At my women’s bible study this morning, I was smothered in hugs, smiles, laughter and happy tears as well as presented with a beautiful bouquet of flowers. A celebration party is already in the works courtesy of my friends who are as excited as I am.

Countless friends and family have been upholding me in prayer this whole journey and particularly after I received the difficult news on Friday that I had been put on the waiting list. My support network never gave up hope and continued to encourage me, support me and pray for me. I have never felt so much overwhelming love around me. My husband came home from work with tears running down his cheeks as we embraced for a long time and the kids were jumping up and down in excitement.

I feel that I have not been walking this journey alone. So many have been walking with me, picking me up when I fell down, motivating me when I felt exhausted, encouraging me when I felt like giving up.

This whole experience, both the highlights and valleys, has made me grow in so many ways and has strengthened my faith in such a mighty way. I am so grateful to all of you who believed in me and encouraged me. I will never forget the night in my kitchen when I announced to my husband that I was giving up on medicine and we talked for 2 straight hours about how that was not an option and we needed to talk through what my concerns were.

Through it all, my husband never wavered and continued to assure me he would walk with me through this journey. I owe so much to my family and friends, and in particular one of my big brothers and mentor who has been inspiring me since we were children, and who consistently told me how much potential  I have. I could not have done this without my Heavenly Father who gave me so much strength through my weak moments, and who guided me when I felt lost.

As I continue to absorb this exciting news, I think of my amazing late father who set a wonderful example of inspiration and dedication in his career as a surgeon. Taken from us to soon, daddy, but I follow this path in honor of you!

I want to encourage everyone out there who is on a difficult path, particularly those trying to get into medicine. It is very competitive, tough and sometimes disheartening to go through the application process, but persistence pays off. Keep trying, don’t give up! Whatever you set your mind to, keep your eyes above the waves and focused on your prize. You will get there at the right time!

Thank you so much to all my readers for taking the time to read my blog and encourage me. You don’t know how much it has meant to me and helped me along the way!! I know that the journey is only really just beginning and I still have a long way to go but I am just so excited to be starting medical school in the Fall!! Please continue to walk with me. It would be my delight to share my experiences with you!

This verse encouraged me multiple times during my journey:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” Jeremiah 29:11

A new chapter of my life begins…I’m going to be a doctor!

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My beautiful family that I’m so blessed to have!

 

 

 

The Admissions Decision…Working Through Disappointment

This is a difficult post for me to write. I received the medical school admissions decision on Friday and found out that I was put on the waiting list. So close to getting in, but did not quite make the cut. I felt utterly disappointed when I first found out the news. I had been put on the waiting list the first time I applied to medical school in 2012. It was like déjà vu and I just felt crushed by the news.

I had applied in a very competitive category (the non-traditional pathway) for applicants who have been out of university for several years and whose science prerequisites have “expired” (more than 8 years old). There were 127 applicants, 17 interviewed and 3 spots available in this category. I was so happy to have made it to the group of 17 who were interviewed. If I made it to the waiting list, it means I am probably in the top 4 to 6 applicants.

Processing this news has been difficult because I felt that I got so close to my goal. It is there looking me in the face but just out of my grasp. It was hard to share the news with my friends and family who were eagerly waiting to know what the decision was. They have been so amazingly supportive and positive.

There is of course a chance that I will make it off the waiting list if one of the three accepted students does not take their spot. The waiting list remains active until the first day of classes in August so I have possibly another 3 months of waiting.

Because I am a person who tends to keep my struggles to myself, I am looking at this as an opportunity to learn to lean on others for support and to not stifle my emotions. I am going to “grieve” this news and allow myself to sort through the feelings of disappointment. I am not going to allow myself to feel like a failure because I know I gave it my all and there were circumstances beyond my control.

In all of this, I have to remind myself that God has a plan, the best plan for me. Right now I don’t understand this outcome. I don’t understand what the bigger picture is. But I have to trust that God sees that bigger picture and he is working behind the scenes to bring about something wonderful.

In the next few weeks as my husband and I figure out what to do next, I will try to remain focused on the great things in my life, like my beautiful children and awesome husband, my wonderful mother and big brothers…and all the amazing friends and family who continue to uphold me and encourage me.

Now is not the time for embarrassment, self-deprecation or negativity, but a time for reflection, a time to go back to God for more direction and a time to heal from this immense hurt that I feel.

 

My Medical School Interview is Done!

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Ready for my med school interview

Yesterday, I had an amazing day as I went through my medical school interview experience. After an intense few weeks of preparation, it was finally time to face the interview! The venue was downtown, 50 minutes away from our house. My husband and children (my cheering squad) were eager to accompany me to the interview so they got up bright and early with me to make it downtown for 7am. We arrived well in advance and I got to chat with other interviewees.

As the interview day organizers came to collect us nervous interviewees from the lobby, I kissed and hugged my family good bye and proceeded to the check-in location. I was thankfully assigned to the first group of the morning and after a quick debriefing, we went to start our interviews. It was in Multiple-Mini-Interview (MMI) format with 10 different interview stations. Despite my initial nervousness, it was a fantastic experience. It’s difficult to know how I performed but I really enjoyed it and felt that it stretched me out of my comfort zone.

Even in those especially challenging moments when I felt unsure of how to answer the question, I prayed for strength and was encompassed by such a sense of boldness and confidence. I felt God’s presence with me helping me to be calm and at peace. I thoroughly enjoyed interacting with the interviewers, actors and the other interviewees.

It was stimulating hearing about people’s stories and their diverse backgrounds. The whole event was very well organized and there was something so energizing about being around people with similar goals and aspirations. The admissions decisions will be released on May 12th when I will find out if I have been accepted to medical school!

Through all of this, I am just so grateful to have made it this far. I have received overwhelming support from my church, friends and family who have been encouraging me and praying with me for months. No matter what happens on May 12th, it has been an amazing ride and my faith has grown in so many ways through this whole process. I’m excited!