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Beyond BMSc - interviewing McMaster Med

Updated: Feb 17, 2022

Hey everyone! Welcome to an exciting new initiative here at BMSA called Beyond BMSC. BMSA will be speaking with a diverse set of BMSC Alumni who will tell us about their journey to their professional lives and what tips and lessons they've acquired along the way. A transcription of all podcasts will be posted here, along with an audio version on spotify!

To hear the audio version on spotify, please visit:

Today, we will be hearing from an amazing individual currently in their last year of Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine at McMaster's University, lets begin!


McMaster Medicine

Interviewer: Renee

Interviewee: Sherry

Renee: Hello and welcome to Beyond BMSC where we interview past medical science students who are pursuing graduate programs to answer your questions for post-BMSc pathways. My name is Renee and today we’re joined by Sherry so why don't we get things started by Sherry having you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Sherry: Hi everyone! My name is Sherry, I'm currently a 3rd year medical student at McMaster. So, in terms of BMCS previously when I was at Western my module was pharmacology which was what I chose in 3rd year. A little bit about me is that I've personally been interested in personal wellness as well as doing volunteer work and I don't think I realized this as early as I did in undergrad. I guess I thought then was of course to try lots of different things and I think I truly recognized that in the last few years that personal wellness for me was in the form of dance. It was something I didn't really think I would be doing past high school, but I found out that today I still am doing it, so I thought it was a really great way to connect with other people through it, in medical school as well.

Renee: That’s so cool! Do you still dance, up to today?

Sherry: Yea so even last year, a friend of mine in medical school and I, we decided to film a little project of our own. It was submitted into the OMSA, like the Ontario Medical School association. Like a competition and we did actually come out as one of the finalists.

Renee: Wow that's so cool, I used to dance many moons ago, but I eventually didn't have time so unfortunately, I had to stop in like grade 12 but yea that’s so cool that you kept doing that!

Sherry: Yea I feel like that, at a point in the last couple years I realized that you know, it's truly important to continue doing the things that you find are meaningful to you because those things will stay with you till the end and make you feel like you’ve accomplished something. And there really, like the things that I did in the past that weren’t meaningful, I really can't even talk about them now because they really didn't leave a lasting impact on me.

Renee: Yeah, that's so true. And regarding your pharmacology module, was it your first choice or did you plan on doing something else in the beginning?

Sherry: Yeah, that's a great question, I think like most people do in the first year, like we come in with a lot of hopes and ideas. I don't think I really even thought about my module until like when we had to actually submit them sometime in 2nd year and I think I leaned towards pharmacology because I was always really a big fan of the chemistry aspect and physics side. And I think I really enjoyed the nitty grittiness of understanding of the pathways so that was my thought at the time, but I never actually finished the module because I left Western after 3rd year. But now I feel like my thoughts have even changed in post-graduation.

Renee: Oh, so you managed to, I assume get into med school a year early?

Sherry: Um-hm

Renee: Oh, wow that's so cool. It's funny cause now we hear all the first years and we’re all making initial predictions on what module we’re gonna be in, so it's going to be cool to see where we actually turn up.

Sherry: Yea, and I believe in my year as well, after talking to some of my classmates, I think everyone is in a very different workplace or education sector that they hadn't initially started in, so I think there are a lot of options that we don't recognize, and I don’t think that the module isn't the “be all-end all”

Renee: Yea, I have to ask, did you plan on leaving in 3rd year like was that the initial decision you were going to make?

Sherry: I think my thought when I was applying at the end of 2nd year was that I was going to use this as an opportunity to just try it out. Like medicine was the only thing I applied to in that year, it was just kind of a very last-minute spontaneous decision. But when I was doing it, I did put a lot of effort in and like with the expectation, I kind of had that expectation in my mind, had to convince myself to do better, even though it was not my initial plan, but I think it paid off in the end.

Renee: Yea, because I've heard that 2nd year medsci is extremely hard, so knowing that you went and applied to med school and did all that on top of 2nd year sounds really respectable.

Sherry: Thank you. I do think that a lot of it is, you really have to kind of recognize some goal, and just put your head into it and do what you have to do. I wouldn't even say I was someone who planned yearly, like I said in first year I did not know what I was doing, I had no plans in mind, missed a couple deadlines too, pretty messy to be honest and I wouldn't really say I had any research in first year either. I think it was just a kind of second year when you really sit down with yourself and decided that you're gonna try this and do this.

Renee: I feel like that gives a lot of first years some hope considering how messy we seem right now. And was it too much commitment in 2nd year with all the extra applying and everything?

Sherry: That's a great thought, because when I think back about my second year, I think like it was incredibly tiring and I totally empathize with anyone going through that process now because 2nd year is really, is not only academically heavy, but is also a transition point for people to decide their futures. I would say if I was to change anything going back, it would be like, just to like, be a little easier on myself I think because all that extra stress was just out of pressure on myself, and I think if you just get the work done, you don't have to aim for the high 90s, just try to do your best and do what you enjoy, I think that's also super important. Don’t take on too many things that you don't enjoy because they will really drag you down, like emotionally.

Renee: Yeah, I think that's important.

Sherry: And the things you enjoy, are like they'll be meaningful, like I said, like they'll be applicable to your future goals as well.

Renee: Yea I think a big thing our sophs were telling us this year was that we should only pick the things that are really good and make us happy. And instead of doing a little bit of here and there, that eventually won’t really add up to much. Like the activities we do are actually meaningful.

Sherry: Yea I totally agree with that.

Renee: So, regarding med at Mac, is there anything particularly you love about it or any courses that stood out?

Sherry: Yea, so at McMaster the program is a bit unique, it's only 3 years, it's very fast paced compared to some of the other programs. One of the things that drew me to the program was their vision of an innovative and self-directed approach at learning. They used something called a reverse classroom, where you're expected to do a lot of studying on your own prior to going to the lesson. And then the lesson itself would be either a large group or small group tutorial where you come together where you discuss what you've learned and clarify any misunderstandings. So, I personally found that really great because it gives you a lot of motivation to actually prepare for a lesson and get the most out of the actual talk. And as well it allows us to have a lot of free time I think and I mean you have a lot of, there's still things you must do, but you just have a lot of independence and being able to plan your time.

Renee: Yeah, that sounds really good. I didn't know Mac only had a 3-year program. That sounds really fast paced actually. Is it in a really big class or is it more of a tiny classroom kind of thing?

Sherry: So, McMaster each year takes in just over 200 students so I would still say it's a pretty big program in general. The 3 campuses, Hamilton is the main one that takes in about 150 students, and then the 2 more satellite campuses are St. Catherine’s in Niagara and Waterloo.

Renee: So, were you at the main one?

Sherry: yea I was at the main campus where we would attend, so half the time would be a large session in very big lecture halls similar to what you have in undergrad and then we would also spend a lot of time in small groups with like 7-10 people depending on what kind of tutorial. We also had professional competency, a special kind of tutorial, where you talk about ethics and that aspect of medicine. So, there's a good balance of small and big classes. And as well the satellite campuses they get, they see all the big lectures virtually, and that's the one difference if you were in a satellite class

Renee: Oh, I see okay. So, is there any part of it that you really enjoyed so far?

Sherry: I think, I were to think of it broadly, I really do enjoy the 2nd half of medical school where you get into clerkship which is basically practice. I think over the years I realized that what I really wanted to do was not, not so much the research or the studying aspect of sciences, but I really enjoy the application aspect where you get to have that human interaction. I really realized that when I was doing some volunteering, it was just so rewarding to be able to have that front-line interaction with people, so I really enjoyed it. And as someone who is a hands-on learner, it was really helpful to finally be able to apply something you learned in the past.

Renee: That's so cool. Yea we hear it all the time but you don't actually realize med school is pretty different from undergrad.

Sherry: Yea it truly is.

Renee: So how was the experience in your med school compared to your undergrad at BMSC?

Sherry: I think this is something we hear often, but I really feel like you get a lot of control of what you're doing, and you get a lot of independence, and things are not as guided as they were in undergrad. I feel like in undergrad things were very structured and you had your classes, you had your exams, you had things

Renee: Very rigid.

Sherry: And then in here I feel like you really get to, you’re really exploring a career like in real time. And, while there is still a lot of studying, like I think most of it, you really focus on how to be a person, as a physician, how do you act as one, how do you talk to people, and these are, like you build these skills so much in clerkship. The one big difference is like also, the hours you really put into it are a lot, I think. It's really not something you can come in and expect to work like a regular 40hr work week at all, especially not in the training years.

Renee: Yea I assume it's a lot more unpredictable and grueling then that.

Sherry: yea, whereas in undergrad you spend a lot of time studying for sure like in your free time, here actually there is, in clerkship, there's an x amount of worker hours during the day as full time personal at the wards, whereas you go home, and you have to also do your studying and your extracurriculars and all the other things you have. It's kind of like a slap in the face.

Renee: Yea it does sound pretty taxing.

Sherry: But I would say though, people who were at my stage of the medical school really feel like they have matured over the last year. It was difficult but you really grow a lot from it.

Renee: Do you think it bonds you closer with people you study with? Like the people in your class?

Sherry: I think for sure; I think that sometimes you find yourself in a placement where you have classmates with you. Whether they be from your year, or a year below or year above, and I think like I’ve had more good experiences then bad with that. Like where you really work together, and you learn how to depend on others as well as to help others and you really, I can’t say for other schools, but for mac it was really food at collaborative learning experience, and you also have to work in those situations where people are not as collaborative and make it through that.

Renee: Yea that sounds really cool. So, regarding the specific program at mac, is there something that drew you to mac or were there any other schools you had in mind?

Sherry: I think one of the reasons I applied to mac was of course, in 3rd year you kind of limited to the amount for schools you can apply to, so I only applied to 4 in Ontario that allowed, that opened their doors to 3rd years. And I would say mac was actually one of my top choices because of its proximity to my family and I didn’t think too much of it until I got in, I realized how important that was. Like it really is a difficult time in your life, and you’ll feel like you’re stressed quite thin, so to have that supportive friends and family and loved ones close to you is really really crucial.

Renee: So, were you initial friends and family in Hamilton as well?

Sherry: I had some friends in Hamilton as well, but also cause its proximity to Toronto where I’m from was really important. It was like a good distance, but I also enjoy living alone so it wasn’t a problem to travel, like commute the 1hr in between.

Renee: Yea that seems really cool, I think having your friends and family sound really important cause now that I’ve moved across the country, I am starting to value that more when I’m back. So, do you have any field in particular you’re interested in right now? Or I’m not sure how sooner or early on you start specializing, at mac at least.

Sherry: So, I guess one of the things about mac is that you really have to decide a bit earlier then if you were in a different school. I would say people usually, they try to have an idea by 2nd year in what they’re interested in, and in 3rd year it really solidifies, because you have real life experience with you. For me, I had considered things like pediatrics, OBGYN, but in the end I had decided that family medicine was the right path for me because, you really have to factor in the lifestyle, the dedication, and how much you’re willing to sacrifice to your career. And to me family medicine is quite flexible so there’s benefits, like you’re allowed to, like a lot of family doctors don’t spend their full practice in their own clinic, they work in hospitals doing shifts here and there, so it’s really flexible as well.

Renee: Are the hours better than other specialties?

Sherry: I think when you’re first starting off you would expect, especially in residency you are working a lot of hours and the first two years of practice. I definitely think that you have the option to do no call in family which really is a great thing in my opinion, so you’re not forced to go in on weekends and nights.

Renee: Yea that’s pretty important.

Sherry: I would say in medicine, in first couple years of practice, most people tend to work, a lot of hours I would say, like upwards of 80 hours per week, just because when you’re first starting off, you’re doing low comes, kind of different clinics at once trying to get more experience and maybe early a little bit more money so in the first few years I would say you expect to be working a lot.

Renee: Is med school as grueling as people say because we’ve all heard that it is really taxing after a while.

Sherry: That’s something I would, I cannot deny, I feel like, if I was to be honest, when we come in undergrad, there’s a lot like, people love to talk about why they’re going into medicine. That’s one of the interview questions. Something we always think about. I think that’s great because it gives you motivation, especially for traditional undergrad students who are in their very early 20s, I think it’s like, it is a lot of responsibility for someone so young in their life, to carry because you realize very quickly you have, you will eventually have other people’s lives in your hands. It’s a lot of pressure, to have enough knowledge, you’re doing what you have to do, I would say, the first year or so was relatively easy transition at mac, because it’s all like, mostly studying and learning. You have a good balance of doing tutorials, going to anatomy labs, and practicing skills, but in a very like, educational and academic setting. So, you’re practicing on like volunteer patients, so I would say the transitions wasn’t really in first year actually, it was more so in 2nd year when you actually have to do the in person clinical experience it was a lot of hours per say, I would say

Renee: Yea I would assume.

Sherry: at least 50 somewhat around that, 50 plus hours of actual clinical experience. Plus, you have to study for your exam. So that was a big transition there. And I would say most schools try to give you a lot of support during that time. So, def reaching out to the wellness supports available and talking to upper years, these things are always available if you reach out and will help you make the transition a lot easier. I think that’s something everyone has to go through anyways

Renee: Yea you have to reach it eventually and get through it.

Sherry: And also like, to think, I would say even as an undergrad, you can reach out to people in medical school, as residents, as physicians, because they can give you a real idea of what it’s like. You can decide if this is really, the right path for you because there’s so many allied health and other people I’ve met each day, I realize they have a cool career as well, and if I had known about this, I would have considered it maybe.

Renee: Yea that’s interesting. And so, before we wrap up, is there any final words you have to say to the BMSC students listening who may be going through some confusion with this right now.

Sherry: Yea, so definitely although it might not be a comforting thought, but the kind of confusion you're having right now, I think is just part of you deciding your future career and at some point, in the future it would be clear to you to think, so there's def hope in the future. And I would say like, don't get pulled too much into what people around you are doing and feel like you have to follow their footsteps, I think even if you do something later than others, it's always okay, it's still better than not doing them at all, and also the things to do, the things that are meaningful to you and do them sincerely with good effort. These will really come out in your interviews; people can really tell if your being sincere or not. I think people in medicine we've become kind of good at sussing out people's vibes and feelings. And I think, definitely meet tons of amazing individuals and learn from them but don't feel too pressured to follow someone else's path because at the end of the day, even now I feel like we're still looking for our own paths and one of the priorities of what we're doing. Always know you will have a unique path and that's gonna be something you’ll be proud of in the future.

Renee: Yea I think I realized entering university that everyone has their own timeline. And you are, you've reached a stage where you are under no pressure to follow a specific timeline and it's all up to us now and I think that's something really cool. So, if that is all, I would like to thank you so much for coming and taking the time to tell these students some really good and important information. So, this is BMSC’s podcast for the medical program at McMaster university and you can check back on our website and social media platforms for other episodes and other programs with new students each week and thank you so much for listening and we hope that this has been helpful for you!

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