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In my early childhood, I had remember receiving an amazing picture book about science from a relative.  I knew from that moment on that science was quite possibly the coolest thing ever and I wanted to be a person who did the coolest thing ever.  


I went to high school in a relatively poor Toronto suburb.  OSSLT pass rates were 70%.  Drug dealers littered the school.  Disrespect for authority.  The biggest impediment to learning were other students.  I came to a place where people from bad homes gathered and they didn't care for others.  Principal has been attacked.  Multiple reports of Arson reported.  Small-time gang violence.  It was just another day for me.  


I found a nice group of "nerdy" friends to hang out with and was inspired by them and my teachers who always took an interest and encouraged us.  Having been bullied in elementary school, I had found solace in a group of people who were far more accepting and didn't come from a judgmental elementary school such as my own.  


I didn't quite try in grade 9 and 10 and was no means seen as a bright child, achieving nothing higher than low 80s.  In grade 11 I had began to put effort into high school and was rewarded with good marks and the encouragement of teachers who inspired me to become the best I could.  I took many different contests and competition tests like Avogadros, UofT Biology Competion, and the countless Waterloo math ones.  The math ones were the worst, but, I only went so I could skip class and get free chocolate from the math teachers.  I did poorly in every contest, scoring in the 10th-20th percentile range despite doing better than most others!


Applying for University, I had known that I wanted to be a medical doctor, an internalization of my parents suggestions as a child.  I wanted to make my parents proud.  I wanted to be rich; not suffer from a poor financial stability like my family (although, my father's hard work and street smarts, has turned that around for us).  That's who I wanted to be.  Secure, stable, loved, all while helping people overcome their obstacles.


Everyone told me not to apply to UofT because it would be so hard to get into medicine since they will destroy your GPA.  My father pressured me into applying to UofT.  And so I did.  He was paying for my application after all (and eventually University). 


I was dead set on going to McMaster for LifeSci.  I wanted to move out of Toronto, which is odd since at that point of my life I hadn't quite experienced it.  However, after a University of Toronto tour, my mind changed. 


I was unsure what it was; the fun people I had met, the unusually warm March day, or the enticing academic air that permeated my lungs.  The buildings were old and the architecture made me feel connected to a past which wasn't my own.  Turtle necks, blazers, crazy hair and hipster glasses (Little did I know that these were humanities professors!).  This was it.  This was the school I was going to attend and nothing would make me change my mind.  I was very glad my father had asked me to apply here.


Fast forward to first year.  BIO120H1F; ecology and evolutionary biology.  I don't recall ever learning about ecology in high school.  I sat among a group of 2000 people within convocation hall.  Spencer Barrette, an intelligent and well accomplished Evolutionary Biologist was our professor.  He was rough around the edges and not the type who would put up with your crap.  A common thread among faculty.  Barrette, in his condescending British accent, addresses the class:  "How many of you want to go to med school?"


Nearly everyone, myself included, had put their hand up.  I looked around, this was more students than the number of successful Ontario Medical school applicants.  These people were my competition, but I would later learn they were my ultimate support in my struggle to achieve my goals.


One semester later.  Barrette asked us the same question.  My hand raised up.  Nothing was going to kill my spirit; tricky questions about pikas, foliage, or tri-gendered flowers weren't enough to stop me from being a medical doctor.  Only a quarter of our class had shared my sentiment.


First day of 3rd year.  Two year had gone by and this school was close to breaking me.  I had become cynical and it wasn't unusual for me to think about my possibilities (and GPA) had I gone to other Universities.  For the most part, my classes were no longer 2000 people.  First year had effectively halved us.  If it wasn't biology that destroyed you, it was physics, it was math, it was chemistry.  The rejects poured into HMB majors or went into humanities.  (I later realized how untrue this assumption was as the diversity of students in such large programs were difficult to paint with such a large brush.  Even if you didn't do well in first year, as long as you were willing to persevere , this University will whip you into shape and teach you many valuable skills.  Very intelligent individuals litter every UofT program.)


I, on the other hand, was in arguably the most competitive POSt at UofT (a comforting thought in times of inferiority).  I often took courses from the BCH, LMP, IMM, and PSL department for fun.  Science was my thing and even though I struggled sometimes, this was ultimately what I loved.  I had been driven insane by my need to learn the coolest things ever.


Despite all this; there was still a part of me, a naive aspect of my time here that I had kept alive.  One semester in first year had shattered the dreams of Medical school for over 1000 people in UofT life science.  With my own motivations, goals and future wavering in uncertainty, I was terrified.  No doubt the people around me were terrified too.  I wanted to help the people around me, and in turn they helped me.  Sharing class notes, discussing science, providing encouragements, contributed positively to Facebook groups, and circulating lecture recordings.  We were in the fight together.  We battled day and night to secure our future.  Some harder than others.  

There were no rejects, no idiots, no crazy competition.  These were young people just like myself.  Aspirations, goals, dreams, motivations coming from a wide variety of backgrounds; some from much better places than me and others from far worse.  We all simply wanted to make a place for ourselves.  Whether it was through medicine, research or something else.


Luckily, during my 3rd, I had gotten a job as an analyst at one of the big Canadian banks thanks to a connection I had.  The job was well paying, and only required me to work 2 days a week during the weekend.  My RESP had run out some this was the perfect time to start paying the rest of University myself.  I gained a degree of financial stability and no longer relied on my parents.  I would even bring the groceries home sometimes. 


Third year goes by relatively okay but nevertheless very stressful.  It could have been better had I not taken English, but hey, that's what American medical schools want!  I even got a paid position at a basic science lab during the summer; something that alluded and evaded me for the past 3 years.  The key was blasting millions of professors with emails; luckily this guy was new here and wasn't taking in someone he already knew or something.  I had a great time despite my unproductive summer in the lab.  Negative results and plenty of technical failures on my part.  


Best of all, I even met a girl at the lab, she's sweet and wonderful and thinking of her makes me giddy inside (as ridiculously embarrassing as that sounds).  I've been single for a couple of years now and had avoided relationships, but she makes me feel different.  We're currently dating.  I'm not sure where we're going to go, but, she just like myself is another one of those students who are just struggling to find their place in such a fast-paced and competitive world.  I am content and happy.


I'm currently doing a 4th year project in this lab, the supervisor believed that I was not working up to my potential and so I was put under the tutelage of different senior scientist in the lab.  One with much higher expectations.  Although, I feel as if I fail to meet such high expectations quite often; my time in the lab and specifically under this scientists has forced me to become a much critical thinker.  Furthermore, I have be forced into better managing my time.  The lab is a huge sink for my time as I wish to produce wonderful positive results (despite the arduous and ridiculous amount of optimization that I must complete).  Even if I don't, I am still content with a good mark, the learning (both the work ethics and the science).


With 4th year just starting, the stress levels are beginning the climb.  I didn't write the MCAT and I will not be applying to medical school this year.  A big blunder on my part.  A GPA of 3.7 and a couple of low-to-mid tier level leadership positions are not enough to show medical schools that I would be a wonderful candidate.


My motivations for wanting to be a doctor are no longer the same as when I was in high school.  I feel like it has fallen more in line with the way I felt about the people around me as I have .  A doctor is assisting and enabling the health of the people around him.  At the end of the day; we're all just trying to do our best given our capacity to do so and a doctor simply increases that capacity for you.


With my heavy interest in science, I am planning to do a Master's with a laboratory that focuses on basic science at UofT.  I want to learn and make an impact in the field.  At the same time, I would like to involve myself in more health-related initiatives and learn about health care policy.  


My end goal is no longer to go to Medical School but it is to complete an MD/PhD program.  I wish to bridge the gap between a clinical setting and basic science; generating interesting questions around problems encountered in a clinical setting and attempting to find a solution within a laboratory.  


I might be a little cynical and a lot more goofy, but ultimately, its no longer about making money or making others proud, but about helping in the way I feel that I can make a difference.


If you have any questions, about my life or UofT, feel free to ask.  And if you have any suggestions feel free to comment.

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Sounds like you've learned a lot in the last few years, and it's a great thing to be able to talk (or write) about your journey so far. Thank you for sharing!


A few things to consider moving forward:


1) Depending on the breakdown of your GPA, you may have a shot at a few schools, but the only way to know is if you write your MCAT. Too late for this cycle, but I'd encourage you to consider writing the 2015 MCAT sooner rather than later. You're far enough along in your education to be able to write it competently, and without it, it'll be tough to see what else you need to do to get into Med School.


2) A Master's won't compensate for your undergrad GPA, though it'll likely help at U of T. Sounds like you're enjoying the research side of medicine, so the Master's sounds worthwhile for its own sake, please don't approach it thinking it'll be that big of a help for Med School applications.


3) Make sure you check out what an MD/PhD program gets you (well, besides an MD/PhD). Wanting to respond to clinical problems with laboratory research is an admirable goal, and while an MD/PhD gives you a foot in each aspect of medicine, it's not necessarily the only or even the best way to become a clinician-scientist. I'm not saying it's a bad way either - many people who take that path are quite happy with their choice - but there are certainly both pros and cons to that route and it's worth understanding those factors when looking towards a career in medicine. 

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Out of this journey you have to remember as long as you have a good MCAT score, you can still get in. Either here or the US.

If I were you, I would write the MCAT and keep trying at least twice. If you don't get a single interview or your MCAT scores are too low, then go to the caribbeans. 

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Have you contacted any MD/PhD programs to talk to their directors? If not, you should. They are more than happy to discuss your history and future ambitions and whether the program would be a good fit for you. Our program director is currently on sabbatical but his replacement is also a good person to talk to.


The MD/PhD program is a long road; make sure it is for you.


PS: I also grew up in a very poor neighbourhood and "escaped my surroundings". I know quite a few people who ended up in jail or are drug dealers. I feel lucky to have not done the same.

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