The University of Toronto’s Temerty Faculty of Medicine celebrated its MD program graduates on Tuesday.
As they prepare to move onto the next stage of their careers, seven of the faculty’s new graduates agreed to share a few highlights of their U of T medical school experiences.
They spoke about their memories, what it was like studying medicine during a global pandemic – and what they're most looking forward to in the future.
Up next: Orthopaedic surgery at U of T
There have been several “wow” moments throughout the last four years. Some examples: seeing a cardiopulmonary machine take over a beating heart, delivering a newborn on my birthday, reducing fractures in the trauma bay and countless others.
The pandemic was a huge curveball in “the plan.” A four-month clerkship hiatus, restructuring of electives and virtual CaRMS tour were not part of how any of us expected to end medical school. It challenged us to adapt and become more resilient. These traits will serve us well in residency and will allow us to extract the most out of every learning opportunity.
In the next chapter of my medical career, I’m really looking forward to being able to teach; I’ve had many amazing residents who have taken time during clinics or while on call to teach. It is a tradition that is embedded in the foundation of medical training. I look forward to joining a resident group that takes great ownership in teaching trainees and continue to pay it forward to the next generation of medical students. Toronto has been my home from day one. I’m excited to be able to continue my medical training here and also serve the diverse patient population that makes the city unique.
The pandemic has had a massive impact on our last one-and-a-half years of medical school – we had an impromptu three months off from clinical work, and a mad dash of a fourth year to match and graduate on time. Moreover, the inequitable health outcomes we all witnessed during the pandemic emphasized to me the importance of physician advocacy and outreach to underserved populations, and I’m eager to be a part of the movement to help essential workers and racialized communities get the respect and care they deserve.
I’m excited to become a resident like the ones who guided me through the tough days of clerkship with coffee breaks, debriefs, and high-yield teaching sessions. Down the road, I’m looking forward to becoming an educator and primary care physician and who provides comprehensive and inclusive care to people from the LGBTQ2S+ community and beyond.
It sounds so weird to say, but if anything, the pandemic really made me slow down and forced me to give myself the space to prioritize my own wellness. Studying, going to class, and attending clinical placements was already hard enough without the stress of the pandemic hanging over all of us, but it’s almost unbelievable how much mental exhaustion comes from doing the exact same things with the pandemic swirling around us. Giving myself the mental capacity to recognize those moments when I’m feeling overwhelmed and giving myself the space to slow down has been so important for me throughout the pandemic so far, and is a reflective practice I hope to continue moving forward.
I am very much looking forward to working with, and standing alongside, individuals and populations that have been made marginalized and vulnerable by our systems. While I am excited about continuing my training in a specialty I’m passionate about and gaining increasing independence as a resident, I also look forward to the privilege of learning with and from my patients that I will serve.
Asia van Buuren
My favourite parts of the past four years have been the hours spent with people that make me laugh until my stomach hurts. I am so lucky to have friends that see me, celebrate me, and inspire me every day. In addition, I have loved building relationships with patients and their families and have felt privileged to be with them at vulnerable times in their lives. Brené Brown says “the magic is in the mess.” In looking back on my medical training, it’s the challenging, disorienting times that have made me the clinician I am today. I’m so grateful for all of it.
The pandemic definitely brought its fair share of challenges. From a mental health perspective, I struggled with feeling disconnected from my peers and my family. I noticed I felt more burnt out, maybe because it felt like there was less separation between my medicine life and my home life. I often came home worried about patients I had seen in hospital that were facing an admission without their support networks by their side. As someone who is passionate about advocacy, I’m concerned about the inequities made visible and exacerbated by COVID-19 and how these are impacting young people in our communities. I am entering residency with an ongoing commitment to addressing these inequities in my clinical practice.
I can’t believe I have the opportunity to continue to learn and grow within an area of medicine that I am extremely passionate about. I’m so excited to learn from and with children and their families in my home province. Not going to lie ... also super excited about the joys of working in pediatrics: colouring, play time, dressing up for Halloween, and practising medicine from a place of joy and creativity.
My passion for ophthalmology stemmed from my experiences as a child in helping my mother run her busy optical practice and in witnessing the substantial impact she made on the quality of life of her patients by providing them with the advice and tools they needed to see and remain independent. This, along with my fervent curiosity in the field and future patients with symptomatic conditions who are therefore motivated partners in their care, makes me excited to continue my mother’s legacy of preserving and restoring vision within our community. Additionally, the opportunity to be surrounded by collaborative forward-thinking experts in the ophthalmology who genuinely care to help me grow as a future clinician provides fertile ground for me to pursue my research interest health policy to further enhance the provision of eye care in Canada.
Two common sayings, “Carpe diem” and “this, too, shall pass,” are more relevant than ever before. This pandemic taught me how to be resilient and that, while planning is great in theory, the unexpected cannot be controlled and so we need to savour the time we have now. I am always going to be busy with clinical and research responsibilities that will make great excuses for me to push personal commitments aside; however, I am a firm believer that time is not to be found, rather, it is to be made. I will definitely ensure that I spend the time I need to with my loved ones because a career is important, but family will always matter most.
Medical school has held some of the most exciting and terrifying moments in my life. When I tell stories of my times in clerkship to my family and friends, sometimes I can’t believe the things I’ve done and how much I’ve grown as a person.
I hope that moving forward in my own career, that I can motivate and inspire others who want to pursue medicine, and to encourage future medical students to push themselves to achieve their dreams and believe in themselves.
While it’s felt like an inconvenience not to be able to meet with friends and family in-person as often as I once did, I think that being forced to live and work remotely has ushered in a real revolution in the way that we share knowledge and connect with others globally. While the internet has always made things publicly available (to those privileged enough to have access to it, of course), in the last year there has been a concerted effort to make things available online in unprecedented volumes. Conferences, lectures, resources… now available more than ever, and to global audiences to boot.
In terms of patient care, one thing (among many) the pandemic highlighted was the hardship we may have previously placed on patients and medical staff by not offering and appropriately remunerating remote options for patient care.
Finally, inequities and injustices around the world have been exacerbated, exposed, and broadcasted to more people than ever before, and I am hopeful this will accelerate the pace at which we can work to correct them.
I’m looking forward to meeting new colleagues and mentors, making new friends, and continuing to be in awe of patients’ stories and experiences. I hope to work with them not only to solve their individual concerns, but to work towards broader structural and societal changes to improve the lives of people and their communities both in Canada and around the world.