Dr. Oscar Casiro, the head of the IMP, notes that the new approach is part of a dramatic shift in how the curriculum is taught and in the type of applicants selected to form the next generation of doctors. Individuals with stellar academic records alone will have a hard time getting through the interview process if they don’t come across as personable, caring, and compassionate individuals with exceptional communication skills. “We really have a patient-centred approach,” says Casiro. “At the heart of our selection is the question: would I want this person to be my doctor?”
With that guiding principle, it’s no surprise to find that this first crop of IMP students in the shiny labs and interactive lecture halls of UVic’s new $12-million Medical Sciences Building are about the warmest, most accomplished and well-rounded people you’re likely to meet at one place and one time.
“Everybody seems to play the piano—and I don’t mean dabbling, but really well,” quips David Harris, 24, who has Grade 8 conservatory piano and has been chosen vice-president of the 2008 IMP class. His extracurricular activities over the years are astonishing. He’s acted in musical theatre, coaches 13-year-old boys in soccer, volunteers at Queen Alexandra Hospital, and is a provincially-ranked badminton player. He’s no academic slouch either, graduating with distinction in biochemistry and microbiology.
Harris co-authored a peer-reviewed paper on T-cell immunology during undergraduate co-op work terms and credits those experiences for his drive and desire to be a doctor. Working in labs in the faculty of medicine at UBC he saw “how hard these brilliant people worked—they were really passionate. It taught me to be accountable, to really work hard and to care about what I was doing.”
The desire to make a meaningful contribution and to care for others seems to be a central characteristic of the five UVic alumni and their IMP colleagues. UVic kinesiology program graduate Michelle Tousignant, 25, fits that description. The daughter of a senior Canadian military officer once visited her father in Rwanda where he was the force commander of the UN Assistance Mission, replacing General Romeo Dallaire. She spent time with the orphans of the genocide and saw the refugee camps.
“It made such a lasting impression on me. It made me realize I wanted a skill that would make me useful in a crisis and that’s when I started thinking about becoming a doctor,” says the athletic Tousignant, who came to UVic to be near her grandparents and to join the varsity rowing team. Her rowing, however, was sidelined by her grandmother’s sudden illness. Tousignant helped nurse her until her death. Her desire to enter medical school was fuelled again in 1999 when she went to work in rural health clinics in Honduras assisting with vaccinations and births. Following her kinesiology studies, she worked as an aquatic therapist at the Saanich Commonwealth Pool, helping people regain movement and strength following heart attacks, strokes, car crashes and other traumas.
“It was not a linear path to medical school but the whole time, since I was 14, I just couldn’t shake the idea of becoming a doctor,” says Tousignant.
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