Faces of U of T Medicine: Paolo David

Aug 23, 2018

What do music, medicine and video games all have in common? They’re some of Paolo David’s passions. This fall, he will join the MD Class of 2T2 as a first-year medical student. He talked to writer Julia Soudat about his interest in family medicine and why he chose U of T.

What did you do before coming to UofTMed?

I grew up in Mississauga and although it’s not exactly Toronto, I always argue it’s “close enough” when explaining where I’m from to non-Canadians. I studied and graduated from the Bachelor of Health Sciences Program at McMaster University. After graduating, I spent the last year working as a Unit Coordinator with Trillium Health Partners at the Mississauga Hospital, where I enter physician orders, transcribe medications and provide clerical assistance. I also participated in a research team exploring the benefits of music in long-term care, particularly in seniors with dementia or depression.

What made you want to become a doctor?

I’ve been interested in health care ever since I was young. As a high school student volunteering at long-term care homes, I was astonished by how much music could improve the morale and cognition of senior residents. This sparked my interest in health as a multifaceted definition, comprising both physical and psychosocial domains. This interest grew even further at McMaster, where I fell in love with health sciences - particularly anatomy and physiology. I really began to view medicine as something that could offer everything I would want in a career. This was further affirmed in the ICU this year, where I worked with amazing physicians. I was intrigued by the diagnostic dilemmas they faced, the integration of diagnostic imagery and lab work, the reliance on scientific literature, the calmness demanded from patients and families when disclosing information, and the collaborative effort required from the entire unit to provide the highest quality of patient-centred care. I knew immediately I wanted to be a part of that.

Have you had mentors or role models who’ve helped you along the way?

Oh, so many! Definitely my parents. They took an enormous leap of faith coming to a country they had never seen—simply seeking a better future. They’ve supported me unconditionally and allowed me to pursue a career that I would find purposeful and in alignment with our core values and beliefs.

From an academic perspective, my first-year psychobiology professor was a huge mentor to me. He really emphasized what it meant to be an educator. He sparked my interest in pedagogy and encouraged me to become a teaching assistant for him. He eventually went on to pioneer a course where students would learn science through the lens of popular fictional characters. “Take chances and don’t be afraid to be wrong,” I would remember him saying constantly. He was one of my biggest supporters in pursuing medicine. I will forever carry the experiences and life lessons he taught me.

What specialty do you hope to pursue and why?

I’ve always been interested in family medicine. I love conversing with others and hearing their stories, which may not always be the case in more acute care settings. As someone interested in starting a family, I would also enjoy having some flexibility when choosing my own schedule. In terms of scope of knowledge, I like the idea of generalists having a firm understanding of many systems throughout the body which is congruent with how I like to learn (breadth vs depth).

How did it feel when you got your acceptance letter?

I was volunteering at the hospital at the time I received the email. I was terrified to look and told myself I would just check later. But one of the nurses working with me said she would check on my behalf. She looked at my phone and turned to me with a big smile and hug. I knew immediately what it meant. I felt over the moon and was screaming internally! I wore a huge smile on my face throughout my entire shift. My first thought was how much work it would be to prepare and get ready for September. But then a second thought kicked in, telling me to relax and enjoy the moment. My parents were even more excited than I was when hearing the news. As first-generation immigrants from the Philippines, it was a dream come true for the whole family.

If you got accepted to other medical schools, why did you choose U of T?

I was lucky enough to also get accepted into Ottawa. It was a difficult decision because I really enjoyed interviewing at both schools. I ended up choosing U of T because I’m really excited about the new Foundations Curriculum and IPE workshops. U of T has proven that they are committed to improving the knowledge acquisition of their students. It is also much closer to home, which made my family incredibly happy.

What are you most looking forward to as a UofTMed student?

I’m looking forward to finding where I belong and how I can contribute to the U of T community. I’m going to enjoy exploring the countless extracurricular opportunities that will help mould me into a confident, capable physician. Along the way, I’m excited to meet like-minded people with similar interests to see what we can accomplish together. This may involve something with music or sports, but I’m all for stepping outside my comfort zone and trying something new as well!

On a side note, I can’t wait to try all the great blogTO spots I see on Facebook!

What do you think the biggest challenges will be?

There is a lot of knowledge that needs to be absorbed during first year. I think my biggest challenge will be retaining all the information despite the many distractions living downtown while maintaining a healthy work-life balance. However, I am confident that the academic and life skills I have gained during undergrad will be put to good use as I transition into medicine. It will be important for me to create good habits in order to traverse the challenges ahead.

What do you like to do outside of school?

I’m a huge video gamer. I love the idea of solving puzzles not just individually, but collaboratively in an online community. My current favourites are Fortnite and The Witcher 3. Definitely looking forward to the release of Kingdom Hearts and The Last of Us 2.

I also love music. I’m an avid pianist and vocalist. I played much more during high school but a friend and I recently started up a YouTube channel to get back into one of our favourite past-times.

Lastly, I’m a big sports fan, especially of our Toronto teams. You can imagine my excitement this summer after the Leafs and Raptors got Tavares and Leonard, respectively. Another way I like to de-stress is by playing pick-up basketball. Definitely looking to utilize U of T’s great athletic facilities to take care of myself outside of class.

Shameless plug: please contact me if anyone is looking to create an intramural team!