New medical students on how they can build a healthier world
By Tiffany Barnes-Huggins
Marketing and Communications Officer
For new learners, starting medical school can be an equally exciting and daunting experience. Many who enter this field are looking to make a lasting contribution to the lives of others. To make this dream a reality, they need all the support they can get.
Each learner that is admitted to the Faculty of Medicine was selected for a reason, but what are the reasons that these learners choose to pursue this degree? For some, it might be due to a life changing event that set them on this path, while others seek to fulfill a longstanding passion for health or science. Whatever the reason may be, the mere choice to enter medical school inevitably leads these learners down a path to contributing to the betterment of society.
What drives new medical students?
For Sierra Land, a first-year medical student in the Faculty of Medicine, her passion for the medical field was sparked as a young child. After breaking her two front teeth while living in the small Caribbean Island of Nevis, Land and her parents were confronted with various obstacles in their pursuit of immediate medical attention. This included the absence of dentists on the island, the large cost of travelling outside of Nevis, and a natural disaster that was destabilizing the environment around them at the time.
“It was that early on I recognized that there are many different socioeconomic barriers that play a huge role in determining health outcomes,” Land recounts.
As a physician, Land believes that she will have more power to influence decision-making policies and be an advocate for communities in need. She hopes to “act on desired change for them in the spirit of health, equity and social accountability to better serve them,” she shares.
For Adèle Arsenault, another first-year medical student, her experience living in rural Prince Edward Island (P.E.I.) was one of a few things that influenced her perspectives on medicine and the contributions she’d like to make.
“My side of the story is coming from a rural background. Many people are without a family doctor in P.E.I., so a lot of people travelled to places like Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to get care. And so that was kind of the norm growing up,” Arsenault recalls.” I think that having that perspective is really going to allow me to push for changes in rural medicine, which is a big issue in Canada.”
Duale Omar, who is part of the MD 2026 class, was drawn to the field of medicine out of a desire to help individuals achieve a better quality of life.
“As a clinician, I could get the opportunity to be involved in an individual’s recovery process, where a person could end up leading a healthier life – and by extension, a happier life,” Omar emphasizes.
As a Black Canadian, raised by a single mom, Omar has faced socioeconomic challenges in the pursuit of his goals. Given these challenges, he hopes to help students from marginalized communities once he graduates, by providing them with access to support and mentorship opportunities.
“Once I establish myself in this field, I’d like to work alongside already existing initiatives, or even create my own initiatives to help individuals from marginalized communities and show them that regardless of their backgrounds or their socioeconomic status, that they can achieve whatever goal they want to,” expresses Omar.
What challenges do new medical students face?
For many medical students, the road to completing their degree is not without its challenges. These challenges can range from the financial burden of tuition, the pressure to choose a specialty early on, and getting real world experience in a given specialty. Supporting new medical students to overcome these challenges can help contribute to their overall academic and professional growth.
“I think scholarships and bursaries have played a significant role in helping me,” Land explains. “Funding definitely helps take off some of the stress as a medical student when I already have a lot of other stuff that I should be concentrating my focus on.”
Contributing to the Student Assistance Fund at the Faculty of Medicine is an excellent way for supporters of the Faculty to help new students straddle the financial hurdles that come with medical school. The fund provides financial support to all students enrolled in the Faculty of Medicine.
In a field where being “hands on” and having opportunities to apply theoretical knowledge to real life situations is key to the learning experience, the obstacles that have emerged during the pandemic are also a point of concern for learners.
“I think right now, it would be really nice just to connect more with physicians in the field—learn about how they handle their work on a day-to-day basis, the challenges that they experience, what resources they use in medicine to help retain the amount of information that we're expected to know,” says Land.
Alumni are a great resource for these types of mentoring services as they understand some of the challenges MD students face. Student mentoring can also be a great way for alumni to tap into fond memories from their time in university and reconnect with what originally inspired them to pursue a career in medicine. Alumni who interested in mentoring either MD or graduate students can contact Kerry Winnemore, Alumni Relations and Community Engagement.
New medical students have quite a ways to go to become Canada’s future physicians and leaders in medicine, but getting the support they need along the way will make the journey that much more worthwhile.