The conventional path to becoming a licensed medical doctor in Canada and the United States is very competitive and challenging. Traditionally, students in North America would need to:
But now, there is another path to medical school! This new and innovative program is an exciting alternative option for students who want to:
Students complete the 50-week (equivalent to three university semesters) Pre-Medical Sciences diploma program at our Ottawa campus. Upon graduating from the program, students can apply to our partner school to complete their Doctor of Medicine program in the Caribbean.
Laura Friesen is one of the first students who will be taking this exciting new class. We sat down to chat with her about why our program makes sense for her and what she hopes to achieve in her future career.
Hi Laura! Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today! Can you start us off by telling us a bit about who you are and what you’re taking at Willis College?
Sure! My name is Laura Friesen and I am enrolled in the pre-medical sciences program at Willis College!
Wonderful! Thank you so much. Pre-med is a huge undertaking. How did you get to this exciting place in your education journey?
Well, I graduated with my undergrad, applied biomolecular science, at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay. It’s probably been about five years since I graduated and I work at a musculoskeletal tissue bank in town. So I work in helping to produce the graphs that they sell there. It’s a good job, good experience, but I’ve always been debating, “Do I want to do anything more?” I’ve gone back and forth between whether I wanted to try to get into medical school. I’ve played around looking at the content for what I’d have to study to write my MCAT. And I don’t know, I just felt that I couldn’t stick with studying full-time and really concentrating on what I needed to. I’ve got another job as well, so just trying to juggle two jobs and studying has been a lot. And, of course, it’s the studying that usually gets put on the back burner.
I think I just feel this calling to do more, to branch out. I’ve lived in Thunder Bay all my life. I’ve travelled around, and I’ve seen many parts of the world. I just think I’m ready for a change, ready for that next adventure to take me somewhere else. And being a doctor has always piqued my interest to want to help people.
So this program, which is brand new at Willis College, will allow you to transition into medical school with our partner schools once you finish, without writing the MCAT (medical school entrance exam). How beneficial is that to you?
Like I said before, I’ve been playing with the idea of writing the MCAT. So I’ve been studying and then it’s been falling off. So the idea of leaving my job and going to med school, starting the next stage of my life, has always been playing in the back of my mind. It’s been there. It hasn’t always been at the forefront, but when I heard of this pre-med program, I’m like, “I don’t have to do all this studying. I can just submit my application. I can get in. And then as long as I work hard and I keep my grades up, then I’m guaranteed* a spot in an actual med school.”
Because the other thing with writing the MCAT is that even if you pass the test and you get good grades, it doesn’t always mean that you are guaranteed acceptance into a med school. Whereas this program, it has that assurance that if you do good, if you work hard, then yes, you will get into med school. You’re not just going to be floundering in this limbo between writing your test and actually starting to get your education.
(*Please note, Willis College agreements defines ‘guaranteed acceptance’ as being a condition of completing the program with a 3.0GPA and passing the entrance interview.)
How are you preparing yourself for what lies ahead?
Well, getting ready for the program, I’ve been provided with lists of all the different courses and which terms are going to have which classes. And I can pick out which classes I haven’t had the chance to take. Most of them have been covered in the undergrad that I took a few years back. So the biggest course that I think is going to be a problem for me is going to be the anatomy course. So I’ve started doing my own research and studying, watching YouTube videos and that sort of stuff to prepare me for that course.
But I’m looking forward to it! I always heard horror stories when I was in university about the anatomy courses. But I’ve been doing my own prep. And of course, if you’re going to be a doctor, you of course need to know all of your anatomy and stuff. So it’s going to be probably one of the most daunting courses. But I guess that’s the one that I’m most excited about.
Do you have any advice for people who are going to follow in your footsteps and take this course?
I’d say they definitely have to be driven because it’s going to be a heavy course load full 50-week year. Not lots of time off. You’re going to really have to be buckling down to study. So you definitely have to be very driven. You’d have to be able to manage your time properly and focus on what you’re studying for. I definitely think if you’re driven enough, you definitely could do it right out of high school. Or like me, if you have your undergrad and you’re familiar with most of these topics already, that would definitely help to go into a program like this.
If I was trying to convince someone or explain to them, “Why you should take this pre-med program,” I’d probably just emphasize that if you get good enough grades in the program you’re guaranteed to get into med school. Because, again, by taking the MCAT, you might get the grades that you need the first time, you might pass the first time, and even after then, you might get accepted into the med school that you are looking at.
Yes, this program is going to be a lot of work. It’s very condensed and you’ll have to be very focused and work hard. But at the end of the day, it’s a one-year program or one-year guarantee into med school. I think if you want to take this program, you definitely have to be able to keep up with the workload. You’d have to be focused, dedicated, and passionate about what you want to do. You got to know what you want to do. You need that vision in your head of where you want to be and then you need the drive to get yourself there.
Your parents must be so excited for you! What do they think of this adventure?
My parents have always been very supportive of me and all my siblings. The second that I mentioned medical school, they were just like, “Yes, yes, go for it. I know you can do it. You work hard, you try your best. You’re very smart and talented”. So they’ve been nothing but supportive of this journey that I’ve set myself on. Mom of course is a little sad that another one of her babies is leaving the nest, but it’s got to happen at some point.
And you’ve already done so much work with your undergrad degree. They must be so happy to see you taking the next step! And you’re still so young!
Yeah, I’m 27. If I didn’t have the undergrad that I did now, if I’d gone for something else, honestly, I probably wouldn’t go the traditional route to try and become a doctor. I don’t even know if I took an arts degree or something completely different. I don’t know if I’d even try to go and become a doctor. If I had to go the traditional route without the background that I have, I think it would be too daunting for me to even consider it.
Do you know what you’d like to specialize in medical school?
Okay. I think coming out of med school, as I am right now, I think I want to be a surgeon, specifically a trauma surgeon. Whether or not I change my mind or find something different that interests me throughout my studies, we’ll see. But as of right now, I think I like the idea of being a surgeon. With trauma surgery, you never know what’s going to come through that door. So there’s always that sense of unknown. You have to be prepared for everything. It’s not just going to be, “This person’s coming in for a hip replacement,” so you know exactly what you got to do. You gotta keep on your toes. You got to know what your stuff is. And I think I have what it takes to succeed in that area.
If you’re considering a future in medicine we would love to chat with you about our alternate route into med school! For more information and how to apply, click here to get started!