I graduated from the Humanities program in 2008 with a combined honours in Biology (in the era before there was an official ‘stream’ of curriculum geared towards this). With Dr. Laird’s encouragement, I applied and was accepted to medicine at McMaster University. There, I completed my MD in 2011 and went on to pursue General Surgery at the University of Manitoba. In June 2017, I successfully wrote my royal college exams to become a fully qualified surgeon and am now at the University of Toronto pursuing subspecialty training in hepatobiliary and multi-organ transplant surgery. This is a fairly coveted fellowship and I am extraordinarily fortunate to have the opportunity to pursue this amazing work. Along the way, I took a year off to do a Masters of Science at the bench, looking at the role epigenetics (specifically microRNAs) play in the pathophysiology and possible treatment for congenital diaphragmatic hernia in infants. We have just been published in Nature!
While I have devoted a significant portion of my life to my education and training, and these experiences have shaped me in innumerable ways, I am proud of the fact that this list of degrees remains inadequate at defining who I am. First and foremost, I am a mother to a beautiful girl, who was born in 2016. As my daughter grows up, I look forward to sharing with her my love of the outdoors, from gardening to backcountry camping. In my spare time, I enjoy planning and taking trips that connect two points on a map under my own human power. This allows me to see cities and countrysides, go down rivers and across lakes, fast enough to cover great distances but slow enough to still see the little details of how people live and interact with their environment along the way. My last trip was cycling unsupported from Paris to Amsterdam (~1000km) and I’m just waiting for my daughter to be big enough to sit in a bike trailer/canoe before planning our next adventure.
I often attribute the solid foundation of my personal and academic success to the experiences and education I gained at the College of Humanities. The College taught me to have a rigorous, critical mindset that made me capable of solving problems by looking at them from all angles while also ensuring that I never lost touch with the humanity that is the heart of medicine. It has allowed me to feel comfortable with doubt and make fast, life-and-death decisions based on limited information. The College also taught me the skills necessary to communicate my research and my clinical knowledge to a broad audience, which has been critical to my success in both fields. Lastly, I have often revisited some of the great works that we read during my undergrad to help me understand and process the toughest cases of sorrow, suffering, and loss that my patients and I have experienced. This background has given me the ability to stand with my patients in the crucible of despair, fear, and grief that big diagnoses such as pancreatic cancer, liver failure, and organ donation inspire, day after day, without losing my sense of self, my compassion, or my motivation.
I cannot recommend pursuing an education at the College of Humanities strongly enough — no matter what your interests and career aspirations may be. I hope that my daughter will attend herself one day. If you are already enrolled in the College and interested in a career in medicine, I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.