Monday, June 09, 2008

What about those Canadians studying medicine overseas?

A medical school dean once told me, "Every year we turn away as many applicants as we admit, who would also make excellent doctors - our class size just isn't big enough to hold them all."

I've had the unique opportunity to spend time with a few Canadians who are attending medical school in Australia, and I've come to the conclusion that what that dean told me couldn't be more true.

The students here have all impressed me with their life experiences, their intelligence, their motivation, their accomplishments, and how friendly each and every one of them is.

In fact, if you had told me that they were students at my medical school, I would have believed you. I can't see any difference between the students here and the students in my class. They're by no means inferior, whatsoever. And while I'm basing this impression on only a limited amount of time with them, I have already spent a lot more time getting to know them than any admissions interview committee does.

I've also learned that just because a Canadian is studying medicine overseas, it doesn't necessarily mean they were denied from entering a Canadian medical school. Getting into medical school is a lengthy process, and if you don't get in on your first try, as was the case for up to half of the people in my class, the process to re-apply takes almost a year (apply in October to find out in May if you are in September's starting cohort). Rather than apply again, and sit out for another year, some of the students who learned they had been admitted in Australia considered it a logical choice to get on with their medical education right away.

In fact, in many ways I look up to the Canadian students studying here. Before I applied for medical school, I always told people my backup plan was, "If I don't get into medical school in Canada after my third time applying, I'll start applying overseas...Australia, Ireland, the Caribbean." But, to be honest, the thought of having to leave Canada to study scared me, and I wonder if I would have had the determination to apply yet again, let alone apply overseas.

The Canadians studying here, on the other hand, have given up proximity to their families, their friends, and everything familiar to them, to pursue their passion for helping people through medicine - many more sacrifices than we Canadian medical students are making.

And at the end of the road, that determination, that willingness to sacrifice, and that unbeatable passion for helping people - if that's what these students have in them, and if they put all that into how they serve their patients, well, you can't deny that's the type of doctor every patient prefers on the other end of the stethoscope.


Beach Bum said...

It makes me all warm and fuzzy to think that I have your approval. Gah. While I appreciate your honesty, this post kind of chaps my ass.

It saddens me that, even knowing the incredible circus that is Canadian med school admissions, you still thought you were somehow better doctor material because you got in.

Don't get me wrong, you probably had better undergrad grades than I did (even though I graduated from both my undergrad degrees with distinction; two four year degrees in six years). You may even have done better on the MCAT that I did (although I did have a 32Q), but that doesn't say anything about what kind of doctor I will make.

I will suggest to you that my experiences in life, from growing up in an African war zone, to teaching music in rural communities, to experiencing poverty and art have given me tools that will make my practice of medicine far superior to many of your colleagues who have spent the last 6 years of their lives studying in a library carrell.

I am often glad that I ended up at the medical school I did, because the type A assholes got into the Canadian and US schools. My classmates are (for the most part) really interesting people, with fascinating histories and life experiences, and very little ego.

I'm glad you had the realization you did whilst on your trip. It just saddens me that it was necessary.

Dragonfly said...

There are some awesome Canadian medical students here.

Vitum Medicinus said...

"you still thought you were somehow better doctor material because you got in."

I was hoping that my quote from the dean of the medical school would emphasize my opinion that medical admissions are, to an extent, a crap shoot... the whole point of my post was that I don't think I'm necessarily better than the people in overseas schools.

That being said, I will stand up for the others in my class... the number of QAs (questional admissions in my med school - or as you call them - type A assholes - is probably 2% per class... which from my experience is the same proportion that get into medical school (Canadian and overseas). The rest of the people in my class are awesome people.

Anonymous said...

I do agree. As a dental student who had the chance to study with medical students in the first 2 years, I have met very bright and wonderful people. I can honestly say these are the type of people who I want to treat me. Not only are they bright, but they are very outgoing and have done things that I am amazed at. I think the first poster fails to realize that the same type of people are in both schools. While Med school in Canada/US isn't any better, neither is an outside school any better. Same goes for the students.

Anonymous said...

Hmm sense some undercurrent here that Australian medical schools are seen as inferior to Canadian. As an Aussie med student shall I mention that we have a very well developed health care system and
despite our population of only 20 million a huge amount of medical research comes from Aus (eg H Pylori, involved in development of HPV vaccine etc, relenza etc.)

Vitum Medicinus said...

The fact is that it is easier for a Canadian medical student to gain admittance to an Australian medical school rather than a Canadian medical school, and schools in the Caribbean, Ireland, Australia and even the United States, to name a few, are on the list of schools many Canadian pre-med students apply to if they aren't granted admission to any Canadian schools.

Given that fact, a variety of conclusions are possible, including the one you come to. However, another side of it is those countries are able to supply their own needs in terms of physician numbers, whereas Canada unfortunately does not have enough seats in medical schools to keep its own country supplied with doctors.

Richard said...

So... what this really means is that the people in Canadian med school are better at jumping through Canadian med school admission hoops than those who didn't make it in.

It doesn't mean we make better doctors.

Bianca Castafiore? said...

La Belle Bianca murmurs: Be careful, young ones, because the assumptions? Well, the assumptions are showing, which is, how do you say? Ugly, untrue, unnecessary? No... ah! Voici le mot juste:
c-o-n-d-e-s-c-e-n-d-i-n-g -- the grand omen of a future biting-of-the-butt.