Many people roll their eyes when they hear someone say, “The sky’s the limit.” While the phrase can sound corny, it’s also pretty accurate for you. Your drive to become a doctor means you already have the work ethic and mindset necessary to achieve lofty goals.
Your positive attributes can really come in handy if you’ve faced some challenges getting into medical school, because many naysayers will tell you going to school in Canada is the only way to become a doctor there. But studying abroad and practicing medicine in Canada do not have to be mutually exclusive — especially not for motivated students who attend a quality institution.
Those who attend the School of Medicine at St. George’s University (SGU), for example, are just as qualified as any Canadian medical student. Plenty of graduates have happily gone on to complete residency and practice medicine in Canada.
An overview of SGU alumni in Canada
Let’s start by taking a holistic look at the St. George’s University medical graduates who have returned to Canada. According to Canadian Post-MD Education Registry (CAPER) data from 2017, nearly 90 SGU graduates are in residency training across the country. And there are hundreds who are licensed practitioners. Furthermore, 10 SGU students matched for residency positions in Canada in 2018.
Canadian SGU grads share their experiences practicing medicine back home
You may be wondering what it’s truly like to return home after studying abroad for medical school. To give you a better understanding of the journey, we spoke with three SGU alumni who chose to return to Canada after completing their education. Keep reading to learn more about their stories.
Taking an unexpected journey
Sometimes the path to your end goal doesn’t go precisely the way you planned. Being flexible and having perseverance can make a huge difference. Just ask Dr. Ivan Kamikovski, SGU grad and Orthopaedic Surgery Resident Physician at the University of Ottawa. Though he didn’t initially secure his current residency, Dr. Kamikovski successfully matched after completing a one-year preliminary position in Detroit, Michigan.
Dr. Kamikovski believes forging relationships with residents and physicians while he was still in school played a big part in his success. “It’s really important to get an elective as a fourth-year medical student in a Canadian school, just so they can know you,” he explains.
"It’s really important to get an elective as a fourth-year medical student in a Canadian school, just so they can know you."
You also need to make sure to put your best foot forward when you manage to obtain an elective. “If they get a sense that they can trust you and they can work with you on a team, then you have a pretty good shot at coming back to Canada,” Dr. Kamikovski says.
Though his path to residency wasn’t quite what he expected, Dr. Kamikovski is happy with where he ended up. “It’s a terrific program,” he says. “The staff really, really wants you to do well.”
"It’s a terrific program."
Dr. Kamikovski quickly realized one of the keys to becoming a strong resident was being open to learning. You still have plenty to pick up after completing medical school. “You have to work on your professionalism as well as your medical knowledge — it’s not just medical knowledge,” he explains.
Pursuing a lifelong passion
A lot of doctors knew they were destined for a career in medicine early in life. This was certainly the case for Dr. Jeffrey Ho, family medicine resident at the University of Toronto.
“I always had a passion to become a physician, but I felt like Canada wasn’t giving me a chance,” Dr. Ho says. “I knew beyond a doubt that becoming a physician was the only profession I could ever find joy in.”
Attending St. George’s University was a big step for Dr. Ho, but SGU’s impressive track record for residency placements and robust clinical training program convinced him it was the right move forward. “My decision to go to St. George’s University was one of the hardest, yet among the best decisions I have made in my life,” he reflects.
"My decision to go to St. George’s University was one of the hardest, yet among the best decisions I have made in my life."
Dr. Ho knew matching for a residency in Canada was his goal, so he did everything he could to make himself a competitive candidate. That included focusing on achieving top test scores, securing an elective rotation in Canada, and putting extra effort into preparing for residency interviews. Dr. Ho thinks a lot of medical students overlook the importance of practicing for interviews.
“I practiced extensively with current residents and attending physicians who were willing to give me constructive feedback,” Dr. Ho explains. Preparation should go beyond the obvious, too. Dr. Ho thought it was helpful to work on answering tough questions, such as requiring an applicant to address ethical situations or discussing a current medical issue.
"It has been a dream come true for both my wife and me."
Dr. Ho is grateful to be where he is today. “It has been a dream come true for both my wife and me,” he says. “I was actually born at the hospital I’m currently doing residency at, so being able to serve the community that raised me provides me with an extra sense of fulfillment.”
It’s a bittersweet moment when your identical twin brother gets accepted to a Canadian medical school, but things don’t work out for you the same way. Dr. Paul Howatt, SGU alumni and family medicine resident at Western University, refused to let this exact scenario hold him back. He even obtained a master’s in anatomy. “I think it was four or five years that I spent applying for medical school in Canada,” he explains.
With the support of his spouse, Dr. Howatt eventually set his sights on St. George’s University. “My wife is actually an engineer, and she decided to give up her job and come with me,” he says. “Traveling is quite an interest for both of us.”
"My wife is actually an engineer, and she decided to give up her job and come with me."
Together, they set out for England so Dr. Howatt could begin his SGU journey with the St. George’s University Of Grenada School Of Medicine/Northumbria University Four-Year MD Program. They spent their next year in Grenada, and then things fell into place when it came time for clinical rotations. Dr. Howatt secured a clinical position in Detroit, Michigan, which made the move to Windsor, Canada an easy one.
“It was about a 25-minute commute,” Dr. Howatt says. “I got to have the benefit of living in Canada with my spouse, not having to worry about getting a visa for her, and still getting to have a great clerkship experience.”
After graduating, Dr. Howatt matched into his current residency position. Unlike Drs. Ho and Kamikovski, he did so even without completing an elective rotation in Canada. Dr. Howatt thinks focusing on exam performance and maintaining focus were both important factors in helping him succeed.
“I was always on the pathway to Canada, and I think that was something that helped me.”
“The thing is, I never wavered,” he says. “I was always on the pathway to Canada, and I think that was something that helped me.”
As for his residency? Dr. Howatt is happy that his role offers the kind of diversity he craves. Working in the hospital, heading to the clinic, and covering an emergency room shift are all on the table. “It shows how much of a full-spectrum practice you can have in Canada as a family physician,” Dr. Howatt says.
Follow your dream
Don’t let pessimists sway your decision. You can see that the SGU School of Medicine provides a path back home for students interested in practicing medicine in Canada. With hard work, following in these grads’ footsteps is quite achievable.
Interested in learning more about the medical program at St. George’s University? Head to our request information page to further your research.
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