For starters, I wanted to be an astronaut – just saying. I fell in love with the noble profession that is medicine for the intellectual growth, the continuous development, and the privilege of the responsibility that comes with it. Then again I still have a mini astronaut on my desk and Space Medicine is a thing – so we’ll see how it pans out! ;)
My interests include fitness, photography, and tactful expression with words (reading, writing, spoken word, and theatrical banter is not at all ineligible too).
I am currently a PGY-1 (or R1) resident in Family Medicine at the University of Toronto, specifically working at St. Michael’s Hospital.
How do you recall your experience of giving the Steps and/or Canadian board then applying to the Match?
My experience with standardized examinations and applying to the Match was the average grind. It was a lot of hard work, and a lot of soul searching and existentialism LOL. I started thinking about exams in 4th year, and studied for Step 1 that summer through to fifth year when I sat my exam. For the latter part of 5th year, I dedicated what extra time I had to setting up electives abroad. I got about as many No’s as Yes’s for the record – it’s all part of the process.
During internship, I supplemented my clinical exposure with Step 2 CK “Secrets”, MTB, Toronto Notes and Step 2 CK Uworld. This was studying for learning more than it being structured for exam prep. I reached out to colleagues and seniors, as well as doctors in fields that interested me to try to get a clear(er) understanding of what residency is, and what working in a particular field might be like.
During the latter part of internship, I took my MCCEE, Step 2 CS, and then the NAC OSCE not too long after.
What is it like to be at St. Michael's hospital?
St. Michael’s Hospital is part of Unity Health, located in the heart of downtown in the “big city” scene of Toronto. It is unique in its emphasis on Inner City Health (ICH) and service to underprivileged populations. ICH is medicine geared towards issues such as homelessness, addictions, HIV, mental health, and refugee health which are prevalent in an urban setting.
As family medicine residents, we have exposure to the above mentioned areas of care in our designated clinics, in addition to community outreach and health justice (working alongside lawyers who work pro bono or for low fees to aid patients with legal issues affecting their health) in a dedicated family medicine-inner city health rotation.
We have longitudinal “resident practice” clinics with our own patient rosters that we develop continuity of care with over a period of 2+ years.
For the rest of our training, we rotate through different services. St. Michael’s is a large hospital, designated trauma center, and has a level 2 NICU so it offers good exposure in a broad sense. We are also offered the flexibility to book rotations at other sites as needed to meet our individual learning needs.
How is residency coming along/ future plans?
Residency is going well, especially now that it’s past the 6 months mark and I’m starting to get used to my new role. It can be very busy with high workloads but it’s all part of the package. I have a great department with down-to-earth colleagues and very supportive leadership for which I'm grateful.
My future plans are not very well defined as of yet, but I do have a passion for teaching so wherever I end up I hope to have a positive impact on learners like some of my teachers have had on me during my education and training.
What you wish you knew earlier on?
Things to know ahead of time:
Medicine is best learned from real cases and participating actively in patient care; books and question banks will get you the requirements in today’s medical training system - but after that, it’s you and a patient sitting in your office where the onus is on YOU to provide quality care. Really, really make use of clinical attachments. Don’t skimp on those rotations & put your heart into it!
Review the entire match process and exam deadlines. Read all program requirements on CaRMS/NRMP/whatever match system waaaay in advance. (like, a year ahead!)
Advice for aspiring medical students?
Understand your 'professional identity' and your personal interests. Start exploring early on what your values, motives, and future vision are. If you think you’re interested in an area, talk to a resident or a staff/consultant. Attend a conference or get in on a study. This can be as early as first and second year, and you don’t have to commit to a decision!
For medical students approaching that milestone of applications – make sure you have as clear an understanding of your field and what residency will be like in it as possible. You will need to reflect this understanding in your personal letters and interviews. Your program will likely be looking for it in your CV, and recommendation letters as well!
Finally, find a hobby and develop it during medical school. Extra-curricular activities reflect an ability to manage time, maintain discipline/motivation, and a developed outlet to deal with life stresses / burnout etc. hence a likelihood that you will maintain wellness and a high performance during residency (all desirable traits in a potential candidate).