After endless provoking from my boyfriend followed by the question “but why?” after my every sentence, I was able to formulate a somewhat coherent answer to this enigma. So thank you Jack Sparrow.
Why do I want to be a doctor?
I wish I could say that I wanted to be a physician ever since I was young because I visited the hospital often as a kid. But that is simply not the case. I did not enjoy having IV injections and certainly took no joy in ingesting bitter medications. Although my experiences at the hospital was not pleasant, it made a very important impression in me as a patient: the pain and uncertainty that I, like other patients, endured. From then on, I would excessively worry whenever I get sick and always had the desire to know exactly what was wrong with me. It is this irrational worrying along with three role models I would later meet in my life that shaped my vision of becoming a physician and public health researcher.
It was in junior year of high school that I was inspired by my first role model who sparked my interest in medicine. While some 17 year olds were afraid of getting pregnant, I was afraid that I was never going to be able to: I was suspected to have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. I remember walking in to the clinic as an awkward teenager with sweaty palms and jittery stomach, anxious to be inspected. My family physician treated me with respect and showed genuine concern. He did not merely note down my symptoms, wrote a slip of paper and send me off to get blood tests; he took the extra steps in reassuring me in a caring yet professional manner that based on my symptoms I was likely to be experiencing chronic stress. He always ended our regular visits with a gentle smile and told me to “take some load off at school, worry less, and relax”. The reassurance I felt after hearing those words from my family physician still resonates with me today. I was attracted to this human aspect of medicine since I was 17. This is the stepping stone on which I began my interest in pursuing a career in medicine.
In my sophomore year, I met my second role model who was instrumental in shaping my goal. I was a delegate at Transcending Borders: a global health conference in London where I engaged in a small group discussion with Dr. Gary Bloch, family physician and member of Health Providers Against Poverty. After hearing his presentation on the crucial role that physicians have as advocates for their patients and the link between poverty and health, I was in awe. I was fixated on the fact that poverty is a leading cause of poor health. Here I am, a pathology student, learning all about heart disease and cancer and no where in my textbook mentions poverty! In the same summer, I went on a medical volunteering trip to Nicaragua and Cost Rica. After just learning about poverty and health, I was excited to go to a developing country and improve health of people in the community. But just like every other global medical trips, we treated the patients for their symptoms; almost always without a full understanding of their family situation, habits, and complete history. I left the trip feeling uneasy as I reflected back on everything I did, I realized we were just a bandaid to the solution. Most of the diseases we were treating would not have occurred if the patients’ socioeconomic status were different. I continued to witness the impact of social economic factors on health as a volunteer at Street Connection, a homeless youth centre. As a premed, I couldn’t help but notice the discerning difference between health of these clients that come into the shelter and my classmates at Western University. I remember when a client came in with scars all over her body, some were visibly exuding puss. When I asked her about it, her response was “infections from ‘shooting’ dope” an issue that she would not have to go through if not for her homeless situation and street influence. I thought back to Dr. Bloch’s view of “seeing poverty as a disease”, and having witnessed firsthand the impact of social economic factors on health, I grew interested in public health.
My last mentor is my honours thesis supervisor Dr. Cindy Hutnik, ophthalmologist and associate professor at Western University. Dr. Hutnik played a key role in helping me connect medicine and public health research. Prior to working in her lab, I had research experiences in neuroscience and biomedical engineering, while I learned to interpret literature, analyze data, and troubleshoot problems, it wasn’t until working in Dr. Hutnik’s lab that I saw the intimate interplay between medicine and research. I investigated the effect of mechanical stress on trabecular meshwork cells, but the underlying goal was to elucidate the cause of glaucoma. Throughout my project, Dr. Hutnik always related the things I saw in the lab to things she saw in the clinic. Every step of the way, I was encouraged to think critically about experiment design, protein targets, and my results in relation to medical background of glaucoma. I presented my research in both podium and poster format in an effective manner to highlight the reason behind every step of my experiment and what the significance of the results mean in terms of the current field of ophthalmology. I saw the value of connecting the clinical experience to the research, and I knew I wanted to do the same in my career.
I loved the idea of breaking new frontiers of knowledge through research, but I could not let go of the ability to impact lives on an individualized basis through medicine. From working in Latin America and Street Connection, I knew I wanted to do public health research and hence my decision to pursue a MPH. But medicine still tugs my heart strings as I think back to when I was a gangly 17-year-old again and the role that my family physician played in making the otherwise scary period of my life better. From my thesis research, I learned that it is more than possible to be a physician and use their clinical experience to benefit research and vice versa. And here I am, originally motivated by my family doctor and now, I’m excited to bridge the gap between social economic factors and health through medicine and public health.
Alrighty, that’s my explanation… I guess this whole time I was just afraid to admit my expansion of interest from family medicine to global health to public health research and back to medicine. Does it show that I’m not focused on medicine? Is my dream too unrealistic??
Regardless, that’s all I got. Now time to insert skills and the professional stuff to everything I’ve done ha!
Looking back on my attitude during the past 4 years of my undergrad, I’ve been very realistic about the whole medical school application process. To a point where I firmly believed in the admission statistics; if the average GPA is 3.85, and I had 3.99 I thought for sure I’d get an interview, likewise, if someone didn’t have much research experience and UofT is infamous for their preference towards research heavy applicants, I would think their chances of getting an interview is pretty much slim to none.
On both accounts, I was proven wrong.
I was so absorbed in this mindset for the past few years, that I became a slave to statistics and the “norm”. If I was above the “average”; I will for sure succeed, if I was below the norm; don’t even bother. I had the anti-exception complex, I didn’t believe I was special, but as a matter of fact, this past year I was special… and not in a good way. Despite the stats and the fact that I was above the “average” for certain schools, I didn’t get interviews. This proved to me a very important lesson that I am only starting to grasp now: exceptions do occur and statistics-while useful-is merely a guideline, not a rule.
But the only way for it to not be a rule, is for me to show that I am good enough; regardless of what other people are doing, I’ve done my share of hard work, and I can’t be afraid to show who I am before I even enter the race.
I’ve been a realist-optimist pretty much my entire life for everything else except when it comes to myself, in which case it’s just reduced to realist, period. At a time when I have to work on my application while not knowing how I did on my MCAT (hoping for the best, expecting the worst), I need to be a realist and optimist. Because right now feels like I’m trying to race but not knowing whether I was going to have an allergy attack or not during the run.. Okay bad analogy, but point is, I’m blind to my chances. But again, there’s the word ‘chance’. I am obsessed with calculated probabilities based on statistics and the hardest thing to do is pursuing something in the face of uncertainty: with no idea whether you will get there or not. (Wow kudos to all the musicians/artists out there trying to make it big. I honestly don’t know how you guys have that spirit to keep going when the future is so uncertain. )
To be honest, I started this journey on a pursuit to medicine because it was the path that made the most sense, and seemed to have the least amount of obstacles, if I already have good marks and good ECs, then it should be relatively easy right? If you asked me 3 years ago, ‘would you still want to do this if it would be hella hard and filled with uncertainty and risks?’ The honest answer is, I don’t know. But somehow, after disappointments, let downs, and endless self-doubt, I am still on this road. I guess this is what it means to be passionate about something.. either that or I’m stubborn as hell.
Point is, this is the time to showcase who I am, regardless of my “chances” based on statistics. A lot easier said than done, but still at least it’s something to keep in mind.
How does employee surveys benefit both a company and its employees?
When I think about employee surveys, the first thing that comes to mind is the feedback surveys that I would receive in the email from Western University. Some of which were general feedback on the school, and others were more specifically focused on issues such as psychological state transitioning from secondary school to university.
To be honest, the initial reason I did the surveys were to enter into a draw for free iPads (c’mon that’s a pretty good incentive), but from actually doing the surveys and seeing the type of questions asked, I began to slowly appreciate the value of surveys. I started to see it as a way for me to give my opinions and in turn for future students to benefit from lessons learned from my peers and myself. To think that my educational experience was better because of previous students and their feedback; THAT was enough incentive for me to do the surveys even if there were no free iPads. Drawing from my personal experience with school surveys, there are three main benefits that I believe employees and the company can gain from using employee surveys.
First and probably the most evident benefit is that employee surveys serve as a way for employees to give feedback and voice their opinions anonymously to upper management without the stress of face-to-face confrontation. In both academic and business settings, there tends to be a fear for authority. We all know that awkward feeling when you want to raise your hand to object to something your superior said, but you notice no one else has their hands raised and in turn you quietly slide your hand back down but the issue is still unresolved–you still have your unvoiced opinion! The common fear for confronting authoritative figure leads to a lack of active feedback from employees for fear of repercussions i.e. negative treatment by superiors or loss of promotion. Hence, employee surveys acts as a solution that provides easy access, anonymity, and convenience for the employees to give their opinions on the company and in turn improve communication and coherence within the company.
Looking at it from the opposite perspective–that of the company–there are invaluable benefits to be reaped as well. For instance, the fact that the company uses employee surveys year after year means that they can gather information regarding its employees at a grand scale. No longer are companies restricted to understanding their current state but also extending to the past and predicting the future through data analysis and pattern formation. This newly gained ability to analyze employee attitudes enable the company to effectively self-evaluate and in turn, make better decisions regarding which rules and regulations to enact or remove. Knowing how the employees feel about certain rules and regulations can call for appropriate action by the company, and make changes that will improve the work place atmosphere. I am a big believer of the importance of being happy at work; if the employees are happier going to work, one would reasonably conclude that they would do a better job than if they were unhappy with the company, thereby increasing productivity. (As duly noted from a millions viewed Ted Talk)
Which leads me to the last and arguably most important gain from employee surveys which is this: knowing that you work in a place that actually cares about you. This may seem rather anticlimactic to end it in a feel good “soft” argument, but since work is where you spend a good chunk of your day, I believe that being happy while at work goes a long way. Mental health is a increasingly prevalent issue that is being tackled both in schools and workplace environments. With a whopping number of 350 million people currently suffering from depression worldwide (according to WHO), employee survey may serve as one route to gauge the status of mental well being of workers, and facilitate an acceptable environment to openly discuss this issue. Much like the mental health campaigns widely seen in university campuses such as the Holding On To Hope campaign. All of this contributes to healthier and more productive workers who can better focus on their work and enable a better workplace environment! Moreover, the surveys allow the employees to look to the future of the company with hope; that the company will continuously improve and that could be a huge determining factor for whether someone would want to remain in a company. Better retention rates for employees can save the company cost from continuously hiring new people as well as the time and money that goes towards training new people. It is not difficult to imagine that experienced workers can perform tasks quicker and more accurately, and thus companies have much to gain from having more experienced workers in the task force.
So what’re you waiting for? Make your own online survey for your company today.
#2; It’s a great day to be alive.
It really is.
Undoubtedly, poverty still exists, inequality is still evident, corruption trickles down every level, there’s still troubles in your own little bubble. But you know what?
Today’s a great day to be alive.
Sometimes we just got to give ourselves a break, not take ourselves so seriously. Keep our eye on the prize, work hard, and be kind to one each other nonetheless, but… just don’t be so hard on yourself :)
Sun still rises in the east, people still hold doors for one another, prices are fair, global temperatures are just moderately high, world war III hasn’t occurred..
It’s a great day to be alive.
We all encounter these, to different scale and in different contexts. However different, I think we can all agree on the fact that they are not something we enjoy and feel blessed about.
At least, that’s just how I feel. And today, actually for the past few days, that’s exactly what I’ve been going through: trials and tribulations. Moments of self stirred doubt, of questioning my ability, of tireless efforts met with poor results, of longing to be in another’s shoes living someone else’s life, times where I just want to give up.
But no hard task can be overcome easily, no sweet reward are at the end of smooth sailing, and I truly believe our trials and tribulations is what defines our success.
Time and time again, I come across my favorite quote “Just keep swimming" from a wise little blue fish in the sea and I would remind myself of all the obstacles Nemo’s dad had to overcome to find Nemo. Did he give up when he didn’t know where to begin, when he had to cross a sea of jelly fishes, and at times of absolute misery that almost made him lose his only friend? No, he didn’t. And as much as this sounds silly basing life lessons off of an animated talking fish, it’s true, and it helps me knowing that Nemo’s dad had to go through a hell lot more, with higher stakes but he didn’t give up and neither should I.
Last but not least, as much as I keep saying “life’s so sad right now” or the popular phrase “sadlife”, I cringe a bit on the inside every time that comes out of my mouth because I really don’t believe I live a sad life, in fact, I know it’s because I’m blessed with a privileged life that I am able to even encounter my trials and tribulations. And most importantly, I’m so so so grateful to have such supportive people in my life, pushing me through, thanks js.
Phew, that was a mouthful, but hey this is the 4th last blog post, I’m allowed to go on a tangent :)