Some of you may remember my post from a couple of years ago when I gave a talk as an alumnus of York House School. During that talk I outlined my path to becoming a surgeon and took questions from the all-female student body. That experience made me think about what to tell young people that are considering a career in surgery, namely was I being too honest about how difficult the road is?
But the feedback from the students (age 15-17) was really positive and included comments such as:
"I feel like I learned a lot at this. I saw 2 MD's who had very interesting, different insights into the medical career. I feel that this gave me a new perspective on this profession. For me, a speaker that really stood out was the plastic surgeon. I enjoyed that she didn't sugar coat the fact that her job was difficult and not for everyone, but also highlighted the fact that she could really enjoy it. I think the way she presented her job was really effective."
"I loved hearing about the plastic surgeon. It gave me insight into what the life of a surgeon might look like and the road that was taken in order to achieve what she has. Also just hearing about the success is unhelpful so I liked that she outlined the work that was involved as well and the sacrifices she had to make and how they have affected her."
"I went and saw the plastic surgeon. The plastic surgeon was amazing. She had a full on powerpoint which she organized and was able to talk to us about so much. We got to see photos of reconstructed breasts which was incredible to see, as well as hear about how satisfying the job is when the patients are overjoyed with their surgeries."
I really enjoyed doing that talk and so this year when I was asked to speak again by a group of high school students that formed "Quantum Leaps" I immediately said yes. I was so impressed with these young women who planned and executed this conference with their goal being to inspire women to pursue careers in the "STEM" fields (science, tech, engineering and math). I thought I would share a bit of what I spoke about. I hope it gives more people insight into what it takes to become a surgeon.
Back when I was in high school in the 90’s it really seemed like there wasn’t a lot of guidance in terms of how to choose a career path. We were essentially divided into those that were good at science and those that were good at “the arts”. I liked both but I was especially good at math and science and so it seemed a natural path for me to pursue that at university. At the time I didn’t really know for sure what I wanted to be, but I managed to get on a path that led me to a job that brings me immense satisfaction and I think a large part of that has to do with luck and a few pivotal opportunities and experiences.
Once I made the decision to pursue science, and most likely medicine, I finished at York House (that's me, my mother and sister on my graduation day above). I left my family and flew to Montreal where I completed a BSc in Biochemistry and then applied to medical school across Canada and the US. Looking back I would suggest a Bachelor’s degree in preparation for medical school because the first year of my medical training was a repeat of what I did at McGill which made the transition easy.
The path from there was a long road. I completed my 4 year Bachelor’s degree then 4 years of medical school and was looking towards a 2-5 year residency after completing medical school.