This blog is a collaborative effort between the Foundation for Student Science and Technology (formerly the Canadian Young Scientist Journal) and Science.gc.ca. Our aim is to offer an interactive platform where Canadian students can talk about their passions, challenges and ideas on how to further pursue scientific interests and education. We welcome new contributors -- if you are interested please contact us at information@science.gc.ca.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

How a Few Emails Changed my Life

Originally Published: January 2, 2014
By Jeremy Ho

“So, Jeremy, what I’m getting from your emails is that you want to shadow me for a week. Is that correct?”

I nodded my head in agreement. After sending nearly 200 emails to physicians all over the city of Toronto, Dr. Subodh Verma, a cardiac surgeon at St. Michael’s Hospital in Downtown Toronto was one of three doctors who agreed to take me on for a week as a shadowing student this past summer.

Little did I know that these emails would change my life forever.
And for three weeks, I learned to scrub into over ten surgeries in orthopaedics and cardiology, participated in rounds with residents and fellows, observed clinical visits with patients, and attended group research meetings with PhDs. All this, even before entering University.

The experiences were life-altering.

As my understanding of medicine gradually deviated from the stereotypes of doctors from House and Grey’s Anatomy, these three weeks have reaffirmed my love for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) ever since I chose it over a future in business in Grade 12.

With biotechnology, biomedical engineering, and biostatistics overshadowed by our views of medicine as primarily surgery and patient care, the physicians I shadowed pressed the significance of the three aforementioned aspects in our many heart-to-hearts.
Medicine’s expansions in the future in STEM have sucked me in. This is not what I would like to do – this is all that I want to do for the rest of my life. There is so much in medicine beyond surgery and I dream of exploring all aspects of STEM in medicine.

Who would have thought these eye opening revelations sprouted from a few emails?
Later that summer, I sent hundreds of emails inquiring about research positions at the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry and The Hospital for Sick Children (for a summer studentship), and once again, to my luck, I have found principal investigators willing to take on a young, ambitious, STEM-loving student. I am looking forward to research in epigenetics, a STEM-related part of medicine.

My STEM story is filled with many rejections and ignored emails as well. Many doctors questioned my ambitions at such a young age and many did not even consider taking me on. And so, I thank Dr. Ferguson, Dr. Cameron, and Dr. Verma for changing my life forever – because they were willing to say yes.

Without a doubt, all those late nights of sending emails have paid off. In less than two years, I’ll be applying to medical schools and whether I get in or not, I know that STEM has changed my life forever.

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