Leaving no one behind: MD student retraining to answer the call

Posted on Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Catherine Moran enjoying a winter day on snowshoes

“I could no longer ignore the feeling that I could be doing more to serve people having difficulties.”

- Catherine Moran

Like the distant howl of wolves, the world of medicine used to call to Catherine Moran in the night.

Her dreams of becoming a physician began as she grew up in Sioux Lookout. She saw first-hand the hardships of remote communities, and how Indigenous, minority, homeless and other populations were often underserved by the health care system.

At the age of nine, Catherine travelled five hours from her home to have a bone fracture treated. Even today, she says, people are forced to travel several hours to a larger centre to access medical treatments. To her horror, she has seen everyday infections turn into amputations due to the hurdles, both distance and financial, of travelling to see a doctor.

Like many students, Catherine felt her finances and confidence fell somewhat short of a career in medicine. Upon graduating college, she began a career as a registered massage therapist, running her own thriving clinic for 15 years. But the singing of the wolves was growing louder as the years went by.

“I could no longer ignore the feeling that I could be doing more to serve people having difficulties,” she says. “No one should ever be be left behind.”

After completing undergraduate degrees in psychology and health science, Catherine’s drive to make a difference in vulnerable populations ultimately led her to apply to the MD program at the Faculty of Medicine. As an Indigenous student of Métis background, she has now dedicated herself to the study of medicine, with a special interest in under-serviced and Indigenous populations.

“Indigenous communities are among the most poorly served communities by the health care system,” she says. “It is important they be treated by Indigenous physicians who understand the culture. It will be a great honour to give back to my community.”

Catherine has faced difficulties of her own in embarking on her retraining. Diagnosed years ago with inflammatory bowel disease, she wondered how she would manage if it flared up when she moved to Ottawa. But together with gastroenterologist Dr. Richmond Sy of the Department of Medicine, they worked out a plan to manage her symptoms as she returned to school.

“I’ve witnessed my own gratitude when a complete stranger takes the time to listen and understand,” she says. “His care has grown my appreciation for the importance of good medical care in living your best life.”

Catherine has already helped found a mentoring program at the Faculty for Indigenous undergraduate and graduate students at uOttawa who may be interested in applying to medical school.

“I’m so excited to see all the initiatives at the Faculty to help Indigenous youth,” she says. “As a society, I believe we should be taking care of each other, particularly the people who need it the most.”

For other students who might be considering retraining, she assures them that doing something you love outweighs any uncertainty of going back to school.

Set to graduate in 2021, she’s now walking her own path to a greater purpose. And the singing of the wolves is music to her ears.

Catherine Moran enjoying a winter day with her niece

Catherine Moran (MD 2021) could no longer ignore the call to to help vulnerable communities. She relies on the support of family (here, she enjoys the outdoors with her niece) as she retrains as a physician. Photo credit: Catherine Moran


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