Hey everyone! Welcome back to Beyond BMSC. Today, we will be hearing from an amazing individual who went to University of Ottawa's School of Medicine and is currently in her very first year there! Without further ado, lets begin!
To hear the audio version of the following conversation, please visit us on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/55QxpEniXCjF5OHLa2pEt2
Ethan: 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 Ethan and today we’re joined by Katie. Tell me a little bit about yourself.
Katie: Hi, thanks so much for having me, I’m excited to be here. I think this is a great idea to help out students in MedSci. So yeah, my name is Katie and I’m a first year medical student at the University of Ottawa and I graduated last year after my fourth year in MedSci. I did an honours spec. in IMS, which I think prepared me really well for where I’m at now. I guess more personal, I like to say now I’m still a Mustang at heart forever. I loved my time at Western, I was heavily involved in the sophing community which is something I’ll cherish forever. The science soph and resident soph in my second year. Some other things I loved at Western were being involved with the Woman in Science Club when I was president in my fourth year, something really rewarding. As well as, I don’t know if you guys are still doing it with COVID but, Swimming with a Mission was another highlight of my “outside of academics” at Western. And yeah, outside of school and extracurriculars I love sports. I used to be into swimming and volleyball and also I guess I love fashion and just art when I have the spare time.
Ethan: Wow, I’m so glad that you really enjoyed your Western experience and that you were part of the soph team. Can you tell me a little bit about your program?
Katie: Yeah, so as I said I’m in my first year at the University of Ottawa’s medical school and I really love it. So I’m currently, how it looks for me now, is the first years, like it is at all medical schools, is called pre-clerkship, where you do kind of a lot of the, not in class, I guess a lot of it’s over Zoom now, but the learning the lectures, the didactic lectures, but also something that I really enjoy as well, is shifting beyond just the didactic lecture style and getting to do some other more, learning some clinical skills. Also group learning where it’s not just you learning from a textbook or from slides, you’re also going through cases, different kinds of clinical cases with your peers and small groups and talking them over. Going over symptoms and tests you order, differential diagnoses. Also getting, within those smaller group sessions, getting a lot of cool opportunities to learn from different specialists in different fields depending on what block we’re in. So I’m trying to think… In our first semester we did a haematology unit, so we got to hear from haematologists in our small group and go over what they see on a day-to-day basis. Yeah, it’s a great kind of program and it’s still, I guess, the first year is kind of similar to what you experience in undergrad where there’s, you know, you learn a lot and then you get tested. We have midterms and then final exams. I think a lot of other medical schools do it differently, you might have more frequent exams, but yeah, that’s kind of how the school structure works so far, in my first semester at least.
Ethan: Great, that sounds like a really interesting first semester you’ve already had. Would you say that any of the classes that you took at Western prepared you, or are similar to the classes you’re taking right now?
Katie: For sure. I think that is something that I’m extremely grateful for. As I said, I was in IMS so I did have a bit more flexibility than maybe some of the other modules to choose some of the courses I took, but definitely I found that some of the courses, like I took histology in third year which has been helpful for my, we have a histology kind of section as well as pathology, so histology’s been helpful. I think in fourth year I took Anatomy 2200 I think it’s called, just because, I guess I didn’t need it, but I thought it would be helpful, which again has been super helpful because I know anatomy can be overwhelming. But I think learning it a second time now in medical school, I feel a bit more at ease, so that’s been helpful. I took a lot of physiology courses, so yeah, it’s definitely been super helpful for me in not having to learn those from scratch. So yeah, I would say physiology, anatomy, histology has been super helpful, and also, even, I took, in fourth year, I think it was 4300, like some of the IMS courses focused a lot on social determinants of health, which again has been just a great background and understanding of it before getting into it because a lot of those concepts and themes are super important in medicine.
Ethan: Ok, that’s great. Is that 2200 course you said, that’s the kinesiology anatomy course, right?
Katie: Ok, well, that might be incorrect, the one I called. I can’t remember which, I don’t know if it’s kinesiology, I think it is within the anatomy and cell bio. I don’t know if they’ve changed it this year maybe? But I might have also given you the wrong course code.
Ethan: Ok. I’m not too sure.
Katie: It’s the one that, I don’t know if you know, but some people, they took the neuroanatomy half course and then just overall anatomy, but I think they might’ve, maybe they changed it.
Ethan: I see. Yeah, probably, I might be remembering wrong myself as well, but that’s great to hear that it’s so applicable. What was it about your program that made you choose it?
Katie: Yeah, so I’m sure a lot of people are confused, if you’re in your third or fourth year, that’s exactly where I was as well. I was debating between pursuing research, or I even, I wrote my DAT and applied to dentistry as well. I applied to medicine, so I kind of wasn’t sure. And I feel like maybe that’s a common thought for a lot of upper year med students, even, not med students, undergrad students. But I think for me when it came down to it, I really had to go over my experiences with each kind of potential trajectory I was going to take. So for example, research. I have been involved in research since first year, all my summers, and I really liked it and I thought it was really cool to learn something besides just the textbook, learning something on your own, and gaining those skills. And I met some great people in my labs, and I hold research to the highest regard. I just thought for me, it was something that, I don’t know if I could see myself doing in the end, because I loved the learning aspect of it, the problem solving, but I think I want to translate that to being face-to-face with someone, more clinical aspect, which shifted me towards dentistry and medicine. And then it came down to the wire with medicine and dentistry. I think obviously both are great professions where you get a great opportunity to help people and problem solve and interact with a lot of people. I think for me, I always subconsciously knew I wanted medicine. It was kind of a lifelong dream of mine and throughout the application process, I don’t know if other people are feeling this too, but I kind of felt a lot of self doubt, where I was like, “Oh there’s no way I’m going to get into medicine, so it’s good that I have different options,” because dentistry is another amazing field. Medicine obviously, I felt like, was my dream but I just was worried that I was never going to get in and I found myself prepping a lot more for my med school interviews, which I think kind of showed me, I inherently wanted to pursue it, and it was something that I wanted and I valued a bit more. So I think at the end of the day it comes down to what you can see yourself doing in the future, talking to people who maybe are in the different fields that you’re considering, and yeah.
Ethan: Well, congratulations on making it first of all, and I’m so glad that from your experience you’ve been really enjoying it, so it sounds like you made the right choice. How would you say that your BMSc experience at Western prepared you for the application process?
Katie: Yeah, so I would say, I know in first and second year in MedSci you don’t get a lot of vocal room with the courses you have to take. But, I would say they do prepare you well for writing, if you do decide to write the MCAT or the DAT. I actually wrote the MCAT after my second year and I thought a lot of the courses would really prep me well for that. Organic chemistry and biochem were obviously, it is a lot of work to study for it, but I felt like I had a good background going in so definitely for the testing it was extremely helpful. In terms of interviewing, that’s something that I think you might, at least I had to kind of had to, do a bit more of the prep on my own just because it is hard, especially even with online school, Zoom, to have those kind of opportunities to practice reciting the best, I guess ,“one minute elevator pitch” for yourself, or just practising talking and kind of selling yourself. So that was something that I did a bit more on the side. In terms of references too, I think something that, looking back, I was always kind of shy to reach out and talk to your professors outside of class.
Katie: But so many of the professors are very willing to help and I think they all want you to succeed. So that’s something, looking back, that I would have taken more advantage of is getting to know your professors and letting them get to know you, because obviously they know how you perform academically. But obviously, reference letters are a lot more than just, “They got a good mark in my class.” Reaching out to your professors, because a lot of them have a lot of wise words, and getting to know them, letting them get to know you, I know that could be difficult with Zoom. At least I found it a little bit difficult, especially with my fourth year being the complete Zoom year. Taking advantage of the great professors that we do have at Western so that they can give you advice and also hopefully write you a glowing review reference.
Ethan: Yeah, I think that’s great advice. And were there any courses in particular that the profs, you felt like, were really helpful or it was easy to reach out to them for?
Katie: For me, it felt, at first, kind of difficult because I was in a lot of big classes, so for me, I felt a little intimidated to go up, or just assume that the professors wouldn’t know who I am, I’m just another student in their class. So for me, I think the best opportunities that I found were in the classes that I had the most intimate setting, so there’s fewer people in my classes. So I think for me, that those were my IMS capstone courses. So in third year it think, it’s 3900 it’s called, we actually, even if you’re not chatting to your professor all the time, but even just showing that you participate and you’re actually actively engaged in what you’re learning, I think reflects really well on your character. And so yeah, I think for me it was IMS courses where I got the most interaction with Profs. But also looking back, I think in fourth year, your courses do get smaller so maybe taking advantage of that because, I think also, Profs, they do enjoy speaking to their students. I know it can be kind of intimidating, but a lot of them are really open and willing and excited to help their students succeed and pursue their dreams.
Ethan: That’s really nice to hear. I think a lot of us have the same fear as well, especially with so many big courses. I was always too scared to talk to Niki. What advice would you say, would you give to students right now who are trying to connect with their Profs? Because, like you said, your fourth year was also completely online, would you say office hours are helpful? Or maybe emailing them?
Katie: I would say office hours are a great opportunity to show that, also if you’re coming to office hours you can come to probably just chat, but also coming with good questions and showing that you’re engaged with the material, not just the “Oh is this going to be on the exam?” but going to your office hours and introducing yourself. Obviously a lot of these things can feel very awkward or forced, but I think whenever you end up doing it, I never would regret it. You know, it’s just intimidating at first but yeah, I would say office hours. Emailing is a little difficult because they don’t get to either see your face or hear your voice, so it’s hard for them to connect you to who you are with just the email. But I think it is a good way after you’ve introduced yourself. Are all of the classes on Zoom nowadays for you guys?
Ethan: Well, same as you, with the pandemic being how it is right now, coming back to school, the earliest that classes will return back in person is the 31st. But the last fall semester was largely in person, which was great.
Katie: Yeah, ok yeah. So even participating in class, I think Profs start to recognize names, even if it’s over the Zoom chat or raising your hand. I know I sometimes get this kind of “Zoom anxiety” where in person I’d be completely fine to raise my hand and participate, but something about the Zoom screen makes me a little scared. But, at the end of the day, I think a lot of people are having those thoughts so participating where you can, just getting your face, your voice, out there, showing that you’re genuinely interested and a hard worker. I think that’s the biggest thing.
Ethan: Thank you, that’s great advice. What final words do you have to say to the BMSc students listening who may be going through some confusion for this whole process?
Katie: Yeah, I can totally understand that it can be quite stressful. And even sometimes I felt a little discouraged even throughout the application process. Just feeling like you’ve put in so much work and there’s just such an element of uncertainty, but I think it’s important to trust yourself and reach out to upper years or friends that you know who are maybe pursuing what you’re interested in, because they obviously, they’ve been through it. Even listening to these podcasts is a great first step. But reaching out to mentors and upper years who can provide you with advice. And also I think, it’s important to know that there isn’t one path to getting where you want to be in the end–I think that’s something I struggled with too. Something that I’ve learned, if medicine is your end goal, people in my class have such cool, different stories, probably got their different backgrounds. A lot of my good friends took years off to work in labs, or they did their masters, or there’s some people who are older and they have kids. So it’s definitely not one kind of single trajectory to get you to where you want to be and I think that can be applicable to the people who are more into the application process now, even in the younger years who aren’t sure of what they should be doing to boost their CV or whatever. I think it’s important to do things that you enjoy because there isn’t a single “cookie cutter image” of what people are looking for in post-graduate schools and professional schools. Doing things that you’re genuinely interested in and enjoy, and obviously work hard and prioritise yourself first. You’re a person first and not a student first. But yeah, I understand it’s been quite difficult, but believe in yourself and trust yourself and keep working hard and know that there are different paths to getting to different places, and it’s not the end of the world if you have to take a few extra years doing something else because those years can also be quite invaluable in terms of what you bring. I know a lot of my friends who did Masters, when I hear them talking about different things, I’m like “Wow, these people are so cool, they know so much more than I do,” so yeah, just have faith in yourself and yeah.
Ethan: Great, thank you. That was very inspiring and I’m sure it would be comforting to a lot of the students listening. So thank you very much, Katie, for coming and taking the time to tell these students such important information.
Katie: No problem, thanks so much for having me. This is honestly really, really nice. I think this is a great podcast series that you guys are doing and so, hopefully it’s helpful to people.
Ethan: Oh, thank you, and this was BMSA’s podcast for the Medical Program at the University of Ottawa. Check back on our website and social media platforms for episodes for other programs with new students each week. Thank you for listening and we hope this has been helpful.