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Beyond BMSc - interviewing Western Schulich Medicine

Hey everyone! Welcome back to Beyond BMSC. Today, we'll be hearing from Curtis, a student at our very own Western's Schulich Medicine! So let's skip the chitchat and hear from Curtis himself!

To hear the audio version of the following conversation, please visit us on Spotify:

Western Schulich Medicine

Interviewer: Ethan

Interviewee: Curtis

Ethan: Hello, and welcome to Beyond BMSA where we interview past medical science students who are pursuing graduate programs to answer your questions for post-BMSA pathways.

Ethan: My name isEthan, and today we're joined by Curtis.

Ethan: Tell me a little bit about yourself.

Curtis: Hey, so yeah like Ethan said, my name is Curtis and so the program that I'm in is the medical school here at Western, so Schulich. So before this program I was in BMSE, specifically, I was in Interdisciplinary Medical Sciences.

Curtis: Uhm, and then something about me that I like to do that's not really part of my program, but that is still kind of related to academics is I'm interested in doing some research in rural health. So something that's really unique and special about Western is that they're offering the new MD Plus program where you can kind of add on different aspects of learning to your MD degree, and so I'm currently applying that fingers crossed for that. But I would be taking a leave of absence, if successful, to do a thesis-based masters in epidemiology looking at rural health care and access to medicine in vulnerable populations. Uhm, but there are also lots of other opportunities that they offer that are non-research based, so that's a cool program that's unique about Schulich.

Ethan:That MD Plus program sounds really interesting, I personally never heard of it. I'm sure a lot of the viewers are really interested too, how's the application process like?

Curtis: Yeah, I mean it's some super new like I think this is the second year it's running, last year were the first two candidates that went through.They both went through for course-based masters programs I believe. But the application process is really chill, like it's just a letter of intent and then a supporting letter by either a potential supervisor or just somebody you've worked with in the past. But it offers lots of different things like they have. You can do your MBA, you can do some exchange opportunities as well, I think one of the programs, history of medicine, is done overseas. But there's yeah, there's just something for everybody which is kind of cool and hopefully they'll be expanding the slots in the future so that more students can do it, 'cause right now it's limited to just a few, but time will tell.

Ethan:Oh wow, that's great, so is it like you do your first year with the medical program, and then you take however long you need for that and then go back to the medical program?

Curtis: Kind of so like the goal of the program is that you're done in a year on the MD plus portion, which is a little complicated for thesis-based, which is probably why there no one has done one of those before. But the goal is that you would either leave after the end of your first year at the end of your second year, because those are both your pre-clerkship years, so you're not in the hospital yet, so it's easy for you to take a leave of absence and come back just the following year. So yeah, you would take about you would take a year off either between your first and second, or between your second and third, do your program--if you're doing a thesis, you would defend it by the end of the summer and then you just join back with the class below you in terms of years.

Ethan: Okay, that's really interesting actually, and super, super useful to know. Could you tell me some more about your program?

Curtis: Yeah, sure, uh so, it’s very different from the program that I was in, from my undergrad program. There's a lot of aspects that are difficult, but there are also a lot of aspects that I really love. So, in terms of difficulty, I guess there's a lot of content which makes sense, but they’re very flexible in terms of your learning, they're not expecting you to know everything and about every different block that you go through, and I think that makes sense, given that they're training you to be a general practitioner, and then you specialize later in your residency. But they don't expect you to know everything, so it takes a little bit of the pressure off, in terms of learning things.

Curtis: But yeah, I was a little overwhelmed by the amount of content that there is in medicine. I knew it was vast, its just that there's so many details and so much information to know for just each individual block, and there's just so many specialties of medicine that it can be challenging at times. But I think they balance it really well with the expectation of not that you don't have to know everything, and that's reflected well in the fact that all of our, well, most of our progress tests and assignments and whatnot are pass fail, and they're actually, every course that we do is as well is pass/fail. So you don't actually have to worry about marks like you did in undergrad. Uhm, your transcript will always just say pass or fail. For courses you're allowed to re mediate, even if you do fail some courses. So that's doing something else, either another test or a clinical experience, to kind of show that you've learned the material and they will just change your path, sorry, your fail to pass on your transcript and it will be as if it was never there.

Ethan: Wow

Curtis: So in that yeah, in that respect it's, It's a lot less pressure. But because of all the content, it is still demanding for sure.

Ethan: Yeah, definitely. I'm sure there's so much to know. What was it about your program that made you choose it?

Curtis: Ah so, in terms of medicine in general, I did apply to some other Masters programs and there were a lot of things I was interested in in doing a research-based as well as course-based masters. But then at the end of the day medicine was the field that I saw myself in the most, and so for that reason, when I did get an offer, I kind of went for that for sure. That was kind of the thing I was holding out for. Not to say that I would not have been happy in some of my Masters programs. In fact, some of the ones I've applied to, I think I'd like to go back and do in the future, maybe for fun and, and I mean, I am trying to do a thesis-basedMasters right now so. I wouldn't have been upset in those fields, but for me I see myself best in medicine and so I was really ecstatic to get that offer and in terms of choosing where to go, Western is a really nice school for me because like I had said, I'm interested in rural medicine and that's something that's really a value to Schulich looking at rural medicine in equity and medicine and the impact it can have on vulnerable populations and our indigenous communities. So those kind of aspects that Schulich really emphasizes was something that drew me to the school itself.

Ethan: That's great to know, and this MD Plus program really sounds like a great great hook for you to come here again too. What resources did you use and that you found helpful during the application process?

Curtis: So for me, the most helpful things were my friends, other people applying. So when it comes to writing my application, the first, the first segment when you submit to OMSAS (Ontario Medical School Application Service). That mainly for me was taking a good amount of time ahead of time to look at my application, think about my answers, write out drafts, edit and refine and then getting the input of some of my friends not only friends who are applying but also friends in diverse programs from myself, people who have applied successfully to medical school in the past and having them look over. Some of the one of the best, one of the best aids I had in writing my application was my current roommate who was in Health Sciences at the time. She just had such a different diverse perspective from me having gone through BMSC which is mainly biomedical in nature, in terms of the courses. And talking to somebody who looked at who studied, so the social determinants of health in such depth, I felt really helped get my application to have a well-rounded approach to some of the questions and some of the and reflection on some of my experiences. And then in terms of getting through the interview stage that was mainly interviewing with some of my friends who are applying again, interviewing with some people with diverse perspectives, some of my friends from back home who aren't in a science-based programs, as well as taking advantage of some of the interviewing sessions at Western offers. There's a lot of really good tools and events that they host, so if you're practicing for interviews, I'd definitely recommend taking you to look into those. And they're also free if you're Western students, so it's great.

Ethan: Uh, after doing some of the just looking on YouTube for this kind of information, I've been getting a lot of ads for like third party help and stuff. Did you ever consider that?

Curtis: I do know those ads you're talking about. They get really annoying really fast. Not going to name any names, but I think we all know who we're talking about here. I still can't watch any YouTube without being traumatized by those ads still coming up even though I've already gotten into the program I was hoping to. In fact, I've actually started to get some ads for residency, so that's always good.

Ethan: Oh man.

Curtis: Honestly, I never used any of those third-party ones. I can't really speak to whether they work or not. I don't know anyone who's used them either, so I don't know if they're super prevalent, but I think you can definitely.

Ethan: Okay.

Curtis: The resources that are available through Western just your friends are just as good as those programs and most people I know who got in, well, actually all people I know who got in, as far as I know, relied on those resources exclusively rather than using those third parties, but I don't know whatever works for anyone. I mean, if it works, it works in that case.

Ethan: okay, that's really comforting to know that these like interview help is available at Western. Considering it's the same school that you went to for undergrad, how's the medical program different from BMSC?

Curtis: So as I was talking about a little bit earlier, it's different in terms of stress, so there's lower stakes in terms of things being passed failed, but there's so it's less stress in that respect. But then there's also so much more content. Sometimes we'll have like a lecture where you learn everything that I learned in an entire course. For example when they taught like immunology, like I took many immunology courses during undergrad, and then they just had like one or two lectures that covered an entire course for me and I was like that's that's a lot.

Ethan: Oh man

Curtis: By some amount of sheer content, it's stressful in that respect, but it's manageable. Uhm, other things that are different that I like are the fact that there's a lot more hands-on aspects in medicine which kind of makes sense, the undergrad courses are very theoretical. But in terms of medicine, you get to do those those clinical skills where you actually get to use your stethoscope and use your your little reflex hammers and do like things that doctors do. And that's I think, really cool and it's a big change from undergrad, and it's something that I was really excited about going in, and something that I still enjoy, as I, as I continue it into my second semester.

Ethan: Yeah, would you say that those courses that you're talking about, like the immunology courses? Do you think they prepared you really well for the medical program?

Curtis: Yes, for sure, uh, my one of my regrets from undergrad was not taking more diversity of courses. I really wish I took some farm courses 'cause honestly some pharmacology is complicated for me, but that's 'cause I didn't have a background when it came to the immunology and microbiology portion of our studies--

Ethan: Okay.

Curtis: --that was a lot more straightforward because I've learned everything before in terms of the mechanisms, not necessarily in terms of some of the actual medical applications, but having that background helped me a lot. Some people in my class are struggling with that exact aspect because they hadn't had that background and now that's going to be me as we go into pharmacology-based stuff but, also, having a Physiology course background is very helpful Uhm, but that being said, there's people that come from tons of different programs, people come from business people come from music, art, social sciences, so there will be people who don't have that background. And so they know that and that they do, they do provide you with the resources and tools to learn it. It might just be more difficult for you in certain aspects, but at the end of the day, we'll all be able to learn from the basics up, which is nice.

Ethan: Okay, that's good to hear, yeah, but I'm sure it's a little bit more studying for them or for you in pharmacology coming up. What final words do you have to say to the NMSC students listening who may be going through some confusion for this whole process?

Curtis: I'd have to say that I know it can be very stressful process, especially the application. I know it can be very down putting, especially if you don't get in your first try or if you get the rejection letters. I know they're coming out, I know it’s January, I know it's very stressful right now.

Curtis: But just know that in my class and this is similar among all the classes in different schools across Ontario and just across Canada and US as well, the age range is fast and the experience ranges vast. There are people who had to apply a lot of times, there are people who got in their first try. There are people who are older adults coming back there are people in my class who have children, have families. If medicine is where you want to end up, don't be discouraged by some rejections, don't be discouraged by the hard work. If you put your mind to it and know that that's where you want to be, eventually you'll be able to make it. It just might be a little bit of a different pathway than you originally envisioned, but that's okay. We're all at the same place now, and so we're all equal playing field, so don't feel bad if it takes you longer. It's just it's part of the process, and if you really are interested in it then keep going for it.

Ethan: Thank you, those were some very comforting words and thank you Curtis very much for coming and taking the time to tell these students such important information.

Curtis: Yeah, sure!

Ethan: This is another podcast for the medical program at Western University. 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!

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