Class of 2T1: Highlights from Medical School
As they prepare for their virtual convocation ceremony, 7 students from the MD Class of 2T1 share the greatest highlights of their medical school journey, who helped them get to this point and what’s coming up next in their careers.
Up next: Orthopaedic Surgery at U of T
There have been several “wow” moments throughout the last four years. Some examples: seeing a cardiopulmonary machine take over a beating heart, delivering a newborn on my birthday, reducing fractures in the trauma bay and countless others.
I couldn’t have done any of it without the support of my family. My family has been my rock, especially during the demands of clerkship. They have kept me going with their encouragement and made sure I have been well fed! My mentor, Dr. Jihad Abouali, an Orthopaedic surgeon at Michael Garron Hospital, has been especially important in helping me navigate 4th year. Also have to give a shout out to my espresso machine, the blurred lines between the early morning grind and late-night study sessions would not have been possible without it. It was like having my own personal barista!
The pandemic was a huge curveball in “the plan.” A four-month clerkship hiatus, restructuring of electives and virtual CaRMS tour were not part of how any of us expected to end medical school. It challenged us to adapt and become more resilient. These traits will serve us well in residency and will allow us to extract the most out of every learning opportunity.
In the next chapter of my medical career, I’m really looking forward to being able to teach; I’ve had many amazing residents who have taken time during clinics or while on call to teach. It is a tradition that is embedded in the foundation of medical training. I look forward to joining a resident group that takes great ownership in teaching trainees and continue to pay it forward to the next generation of medical students. Toronto has been my home from day one. I’m excited to be able to continue my medical training here and also serve the diverse patient population that makes the city unique.
Up next: Family Medicine at U of T
Without a doubt, one of the greatest highlights of medical school was getting to write Daffydil with Mary Ann Zokvic. We helped build something from the ground up, bonded with the whole cast and crew, and saw their talents bring the show come to life! It was a once in a lifetime experience that I’m so glad I got to be a part of.
The other highlight of my medical school experience has been the chance to meet and learn from so many incredible people. It has been a joy to witness to the passions, talents, and brilliance of my classmates as we navigated these chaotic 4 years together.
There is no way I could have made it where I am today without the incredible support and mentorship of the 2T0 Out in Medicine co-leads, Claire and Katie. They encouraged me to be myself when that was an unbelievably scary thing to do, and taking that first step has led me to so many opportunities to advocate for and help others.
On that note, I owe so much of my success and stability this year to my incredible partner Mallory Jackman. We couples matched together to Toronto, and I’m so excited to see her become a superstar pediatrician!
The pandemic has had a massive impact on our last 1.5 years of medical school – we had an impromptu 3 months off from clinical work, and a mad-dash of a 4th year to match and graduate on time. Moreover, the inequitable health outcomes we all witnessed during the pandemic emphasized to me the importance of physician advocacy and outreach to underserved populations, and I’m eager to be a part of the movement to help essential workers and racialized communities get the respect and care they deserve.
I’m excited to become a resident like the ones who guided me through the tough days of clerkship with coffee-breaks, debriefs, and high-yield teaching sessions. Down the road, I’m looking forward to becoming an educator and primary care physician and who provides comprehensive and inclusive care to people from the LGBTQ2S+ community and beyond.
Up next: Psychiatry at U of T
The highlights for me over the past 4 years really boil down to those small, impromptu moments when I saw my friends in the hospital while on rotation, when I was able to catch up with them after class/clinic, and when I was really able to take off my “medicine hat” and wind down. And I can’t ignore that the aftermath of Match Day was a pretty big highlight too!
I have to give a huge shout out to my parents, who have supported me over the past 4 years and have been a rock for me to lean on when things get tough. I was lucky enough to stumble upon an amazingly supportive group of friends in my class, who I won’t call out here to save them the embarrassment (but you know who you are!). And I can’t ignore the more formal connections and supports that I’ve had over the past four years, from OHPSA to Dr. Kevin Imrie, a mentor who I met through the Diversity Mentorship Program at UofT. They say it takes a village, and I can’t help but agree.
It sounds so weird to say, but if anything, the pandemic really made me slow down and forced me to give myself the space to prioritize my own wellness. Studying, going to class, and attending clinical placements was already hard enough without the stress of the pandemic hanging over all of us, but it’s almost unbelievable how much mental exhaustion comes from doing the exact same things with the pandemic swirling around us. Giving myself the mental capacity to recognize those moments when I’m feeling overwhelmed and giving myself the space to slow down has been so important for me throughout the pandemic so far, and is a reflective practice I hope to continue moving forward.
I am very much looking forward to working with, and standing alongside, individuals and populations that have been made marginalized and vulnerable by our systems. While I am excited about continuing my training in a specialty I’m passionate about and gaining increasing independence as a resident, I also look forward to the privilege of learning with and from my patients that I will serve.
Asia van Buuren
Up next: Paediatrics at the University of British Columbia
My favourite parts of the past four years have been the hours spent with people that make me laugh until my stomach hurts. I am so lucky to have friends that see me, celebrate me, and inspire me every day. In addition, I have loved building relationships with patients and their families and have felt privileged to be with them at vulnerable times in their lives. Brene Brown says “the magic is in the mess.” In looking back on my medical training, it’s the challenging, disorienting times that have made me the clinician I am today. I’m so grateful for all of it.
Also very grateful for the support of my family members, particularly my siblings, nieces, nephews, parents, and grandparents that made themselves available to support me at all hours. I’m indebted to my partner, Liam, who has been nothing but patient, loving, and supportive over the past 4 years. I feel super lucky to have lots of mentors in the field I have chosen, particularly Dr. Ashley Vandermorris and Dr. Joey Latino, who have cheered me on every step of the way.
The pandemic definitely brought its fair share of challenges. From a mental health perspective, I struggled with feeling disconnected from my peers and my family. I noticed I felt more burnt out, maybe because it felt like there was less separation between my medicine life and my home life. I often came home worried about patients I had seen in hospital that were facing an admission without their support networks by their side. As someone who is passionate about advocacy, I’m concerned about the inequities made visible and exacerbated by COVID-19 and how these are impacting young people in our communities. I am entering residency with an ongoing commitment to addressing these inequities in my clinical practice.
I can’t believe I have the opportunity to continue to learn and grow within an area of medicine that I am extremely passionate about. I’m so excited to learn from and with children and their families in my home province. Not going to lie….also super excited about the joys of working in paediatrics…colouring, play time, dressing up for Halloween, and practicing medicine from a place of joy and creativity.
Up next: Ophthalmology at U of T
The past four years have been an emotional roller-coaster ride with numerous ups and downs, both personally and clinically. Some of the greatest highlights included working with a strong team of student leaders in advocating for the medical students via the #SpotsForDocs initiative and, more recently, working closely with faculty and staff to guide our class through a nearly four-month hiatus in 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. I was also privileged to learn from highly respected and engaging healthcare leaders as a student in the System Leadership and Innovation Masters program (a collaborative initiative between the MD Program and the Institute for Health Policy, Management and Evaluation), an experience that will suit me well given my interest in health policy.
Personally, I unfortunately had to deal with a family illness which thankfully had a successful outcome. However, finding a silver lining amidst it all was not too difficult given the immense support from everyone around me. Most notably, despite the cancellation of our dream Bollywood wedding and amidst clinical and leadership commitments in this pandemic, I am proud to have married my best friend last summer.
It would be impossible for me to list everyone who has made an impact on my life and career path thus far; however, I know I would be nowhere near where I am today without them. Foremost, I am grateful for my wife and parents, who have supported me throughout my many failures, especially over the past year.
My passion for ophthalmology stemmed from my experiences as a child in helping my mother run her busy optical practice and in witnessing the substantial impact she made on the quality of life of her patients by providing them with the advice and tools they needed to see and remain independent. This, along with my fervent curiosity in the field and future patients with symptomatic conditions who are therefore motivated partners in their care, makes me excited to continue my mother’s legacy of preserving and restoring vision within our community. Additionally, the opportunity to be surrounded by collaborative forward-thinking experts in the ophthalmology who genuinely care to help me grow as a future clinician provides fertile ground for me to pursue my research interest health policy to further enhance the provision of eye care in Canada.
Two common sayings, “Carpe diem” and “this, too, shall pass,” are more relevant than ever before. This pandemic taught me how to be resilient and that, while planning is great in theory, the unexpected cannot be controlled and so we need to savour the time we have now. I am always going to be busy with clinical and research responsibilities that will make great excuses for me to push personal commitments aside; however, I am a firm believer that time is not to be found, rather, it is to be made. I will definitely ensure that I spend the time I need to with my loved ones because a career is important, but family will always matter most.
Up next: Dermatology at the University of Alberta
Medical school has held some of the most exciting and terrifying moments in my life. When I tell stories of my times in clerkship to my family and friends, sometimes I can’t believe the things I’ve done and how much I’ve grown as a person.
The reason I’ve been able to have the opportunities to do things like this is all because of my amazing support network. My family, friends, teachers, and mentors have supported me as I pushed myself through each challenge, and as I’ve demanded more and more of myself. The pandemic has made me even more grateful for these people, as I’ve grown to have a deep realization that these people are who helped to shape me into the physician I hope to be.
I hope that moving forward in my own career, that I can motivate and inspire others who want to pursue medicine, and to encourage future medical students to push themselves to achieve their dreams and believe in themselves!
Up next: Psychiatry at Queens University
Attending MedGames in Montreal during preclerkship and winning the improv tournament with our team was a moment of joy and pride I often think back and remember fondly. As for clerkship, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to spend time with patients, learn their stories and be humbled by them.
Alhamdulillah, as a Muslim, I can’t help but think of the Quranic verse 16:18, which reminds us that our blessings are innumerable. The endless love and support of my parents has always been (and continues to be) foundational to my successes, so if there’s anyone I want to thank, it’s them! I have so much love for my family and friends who have been by my side throughout my MD – from my homies in my clerkship group to my comrades who keep me grounded even though we almost never see each other in person. I also cannot thank my friends in upper years enough for their guidance and advice – I don’t know how I could have navigated medical school, especially clerkship and residency, without them.
While it’s felt like an inconvenience not to be able to meet with friends and family in-person as often as I once did, I think that being forced to live and work remotely has ushered in a real revolution in the way that we share knowledge and connect with others globally. While the internet has always made things publicly available (to those privileged enough to have access to it, of course), in the last year there has been a concerted effort to make things available online in unprecedented volumes. Conferences, lectures, resources… now available more than ever, and to global audiences to boot.
In terms of patient care, one thing (among many) the pandemic highlighted was the hardship we may have previously placed on patients and medical staff by not offering and appropriately remunerating remote options for patient care.
Finally, inequities and injustices around the world have been exacerbated, exposed, and broadcasted to more people than ever before, and I am hopeful this will accelerate the pace at which we can work to correct them.
I’m looking forward to meeting new colleagues and mentors, making new friends, and continuing to be in awe of patients’ stories and experiences. I hope to work with them not only to solve their individual concerns, but to work towards broader structural and societal changes to improve the lives of people and their communities both in Canada and around the world.