This year's Discovery Week brought four UWO 1st year medical students to Tillsonburg District Memorial Hospital, May 23-27.
Adam Southcott (Windsor), Ramm Saini (Etobicoke), Adam Kwinter (Toronto), and Thomas So (Vancouver) had the opportunity to shadow local physicians and learn what their typical workday encompasses.
Discovery Week is a mandatory one-week placement at the end of the first year for all undergraduate medical students at University of Western Ontario's Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. Students are placed in more than 60 rural and regional communities in Southwestern Ontario, including Tillsonburg.
"We mostly observed a few doctors, sometimes ER, sometimes surgery, ICU," said So. "And family practices at the mall offices and a couple others... all in Tillsonburg."
"We got to examine patients and talk to them a little bit, get some histories," said Saini. "In the family practices, that's what we did too, getting family histories from patients and examining them a little bit."
While in Tillsonburg they got to know the community. Mayor Stephen Molnar gave them the 'grand tour,' noted Southcott.
They also met with Glendale High School students.
"We talked to some high school students who were considering going into medical school," said Kwinter.
"I told them, because these are high school students, not to be dead set on something because a lot can change in four years," said Southcott. "So just do something that they will enjoy."
"One of the things we wish we had said - we talked about it later - is the things that make you a good medical school applicant will make you good at whatever you want to pursue. Like having good grades. So find the things you are interested in and pursue them. They are generally good things, no matter what you want to go into."
They also noted it's a long road becoming a doctor. Entry into the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry requires a four-year Bachelor degree. Followed by four years of medical school. Then residency, which can be two to six years (eg. surgery is five years).
After Discovery Week, Saini said they are more determined than ever to complete the process.
"If anything, I'd say it strengthened how badly I want to pursue it. It's one thing to learn stuff in a classroom, but to see it applied and actually seeing it being used to help people, I want to see it out way more."
"The first two years of medical school are mostly classroom-based study," noted So. "So for a lot of us, this is our first time being in a hospital setting and experiencing what doctors actually do."
Southcott, from Windsor, said there seems to be a perception among some med students that 'making it' means working at a big city hospital.
"I think there is... a bit," said Southcott. "I don't think it's super strong, like 'if you don't end up working in downtown Toronto you've failed,' but there definitely is a thing where that is seen as more prestigious or something like that."
"I think that working at an academic centre is seen as more prestigious," said Saini. "So at the larger hospitals they kind of teach more. They see more certain types of cases... cases they are referred to more often, than they would see at a smaller community hospital."
"In a small rural hospital," said So, "one physician is required to do a variety of procedures. In a bigger hospital one doctor might do one procedure over and over and over again. So they might be more competent in that single procedure, but if you ask them to do anything else, they wouldn't be able to do it as well as a doctor here."
In 5-10 years, the UWO med students will be physicians. But what type - and where - they do not know yet.
"I don't have any idea," Southcott admitted. "I haven't ruled anything out and I'm not really leaning towards one specifically."
"I will probably think about specializing in internal medicine," said Saini. "But that could always change."
"Yeah, I'm not that sure," said Kwinter. "There are advantages and disadvantages to every practice area. I'll have to weigh those out."
"If I had to choose right now, I would choose anesthesiology," said So. "But I'm still open to other things."
The Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at Western University is one of Canada’s preeminent medical and dental schools. Established in 1881, it was one of the founding schools of Western University and is known for being the birthplace of family medicine in Canada. For more than 130 years, the School has demonstrated a commitment to academic excellence and a passion for scientific discovery.