Why I want to be a doctor: Meet five women in Medicine's Class of 22
Some were influenced by their experiences with ill family members. Others were inspired while working in health care.
Meet five women who chose to pursue a medical degree at the University of Toronto – and are now members of the Class of 22.
Mahsa Rahmany Rad
When I was 10 years old, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. I would spend my nights reading medical articles, trying to understand every word written about the disease.
Being so young, no matter how much I read, I still could not wrap my mind around my mother’s disease. I had no understanding of or appreciation for medical research until I realized it could save my mother's life. My commitment to learning the human body and treatments for breast cancer was what I thought could help save my mother's life. Soon, I realized I enjoyed drowning in the never-ending medical articles and research even after my mother was cured.
Taking care of her was a bittersweet experience, yet it showed me how much I enjoyed taking care of people and being the one they can rely on in such vulnerable circumstances.
There wasn’t a single defining event in my life that made me decide to pursue a career in medicine. It was a gradual progression from living in rural India to exploring my interest in science throughout university.
I grew up in an underserved community in India, where I witnessed the limitations of not having an established health-care system in my community, waiting for months to see a doctor and travelling long distances with family to visit urban hospitals for basic health-care needs. I remember my grandparents often discussing if their health condition was “serious enough” to travel that far.
I moved to Kuwait, then Canada – first to Hamilton and then to Thunder Bay. The advanced and easily accessible health-care systems in Kuwait and Hamilton were a complete contrast to that of rural India and Thunder Bay. Recognizing these disparities, I aspire to work in small communities.
Having a sister with special needs, visits to the doctors were all too common. Those visits exposed me to both good and bad experiences with physicians.
I realized early on that a good health-care provider can make the most difficult situation easier to manage for the patient and their family. To this day, my family remembers all the exceptional doctors who treated my sister. I knew I wanted be a doctor who could make a lasting impact on the lives of my patients.
I don’t think it was an “aha!" moment for me, but rather a combination of didactic, hands-on, and observational experiences in the sciences, patient care and clinical settings. Since undergrad, I’ve always been interested in human physiology, cell biology and psychology. These disciplines led me to develop an appreciation for the beauty and complexity of the human body and mind. What was even more interesting to me was how we can apply these subjects from the bench to bedside, so I volunteered at various hospitals to experience patient care first-hand, and I loved it.
I pursued medical research and shadowing opportunities – I really wanted exposure to all aspects of medicine. I became a research assistant at various hospitals throughout Toronto and shadowed a cardiovascular surgeon at Toronto General Hospital who showed me what it's really like being a doctor and how rewarding the profession is. That's when I finally knew that it was right for me.
It was during undergrad that I realized how truly rewarding medicine is. As part of our undergrad curriculum, we enrolled in project courses and mine was in emergency medicine. I started my course with very little knowledge of medicine, but this changed quickly. I regularly went to the ward to talk to patients, their families and the health-care team. Many patients were acutely ill, and having the privilege of talking to them and helping them in their most vulnerable state was truly rewarding.
One memorable experience was when a doctor was trying to put braces on the hand of an older woman with a broken wrist. She was in a great deal of pain and I watched how kind, gentle and thoughtful the doctor was in easing the patient’s emotional and physical distress. Moments like these inspired me to pursue medicine.