The one-page story of why I want to be a physician

As the title suggests, this is the one-page version of my story, on why I want to be a physician:

“For many years I was convinced I was more into the physical sciences than life sciences. In high school I loved physics and math, and in my second year of university I found the study of the Earth so fascinating that I switched majors, from Physics to Geology. The creative and exploratory aspects of Geology especially appealed to me; there was room to interpret and imagine, whereas Physics seemed to be nailed down already into well-established theories, formulae and laws.

It was not until my final year of university that I decided to give Biology a try. I chose an elective called Human Biology, and discovered a subject far more captivating than rocks and tectonic plates: the human body. Learning about the incredible ways our bodies develop, are maintained, and become subjected to diseases and disorders, sparked a surprisingly strong interest in a career in medicine. However, by that point I already had experience and an established network of contacts in Geology, so upon graduation I did the “sensible” thing and moved to Labrador to work for the Iron Ore Company of Canada, in mining and exploration.

Despite the fact that the work was interesting (and the pay was great), I found myself frequently wondering what it would be like to study and practice medicine. Rather than subsiding, my curiosity surrounding the medical profession increased, and I began to read articles from medical journals and biographies of physicians. In my heart, I was not content imagining a career that consisted entirely of finding mineral deposits and exploiting resources. I felt like it was too far removed from my passions, and a meaningless application of my skills.

The turning point came in July of 2009, while on vacation in Newfoundland with my wife, Kathryn. It was during that trip that I had the life-changing opportunity to visit a museum dedicated to Sir Wilfred Grenfell and his medical mission to Labrador, spanning the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Sir Grenfell had a remarkably holistic understanding of human wellness, and is credited with saving thousands of lives through his medical work, fund raising, practical solutions to poverty, and encouraging spirit. At the end of the visit, I told Kathryn that I knew I had to become a physician, and that is the goal I have been working towards ever since.

In late 2009 I returned to my home province of New Brunswick, where I found a job as a Personal Support Worker with Bayshore Home Health. While the job turned out to be unsustainable – in terms of providing for my family’s needs – it confirmed for me that there is great satisfaction in living a life of service through health care provision. During the same time period I began volunteering weekly in the Paediatric ward of the local hospital, which I continue to do today. This experience has given me the chance to bring joy to kids in the midst of hardship, and has taught me that even in the face of great pain and uncertainty, the will to live and enjoy life is almost indomitable.

I truly believe each person deserves as full and healthy a life as possible, and that as a physician I would be equipped to play a more active role in the well-being of individuals and communities. I know that I will not be able to “fix” everyone, and sometimes I will lose people who I have come to care for, even as I did while working for Bayshore. For me, however, becoming a physician is not about fixing every problem; it’s about being there for people whenever they need someone to trust, to care for them, and to support them through the stages of life. To an extent I agree with the popular analogy that a doctor is like a mechanic for people; however, my understanding of the role also demands a significant pastoral aspect. When I look back on my life, this is the kind of contribution I want to have made, and accomplishing this would be far greater than finding any amount of gold, silver, or iron.”

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7 thoughts on “The one-page story of why I want to be a physician

  1. Sounds great – love how the story comes around full circle. What did you mean by “pastoral aspect”?
    Best of luck, Tim!

    • pastoral as in the original sense of the word: like a shepherd who cares for his flock, although not in a demeaning way. The shepherd does more than just try to prevent his sheep from dying, he wants the best for them because they’re his livelihood and he cares about them.

    • That’s a great article, thank you for sharing! I’ve heard from a lot of people about this dilemma – studying abroad at the risk of getting stuck out there – on medical forums and such. It’s tough, but Kathryn and I have never been committed to living in one place. I think we’ll likely end up in the same boat as so many other Canadians, getting educated abroad and being “forced” to practice in the States or somewhere else, at least for a while. If I don’t get into Canada, well, too bad for Canada; I’ll go where opportunity is available. I’m pretty dead set on becoming a physician, ever since that visit to the Grenfell Museum in St. Anthony!

      Actually, Steph, the place I’m applying to now is affiliated mostly with the Jackson Park and Mercy hospitals in Chicago, IL. Are you still around those parts? That’s probably where I’d end up doing clinicals (maybe even residency, you never know!).

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