Applying to medical school can seem daunting due to the lengthy admission process, but students in Selkirk College’s Rural Pre-Medicine (RPM) Program had the opportunity to gain valuable insight that will enable them to strive for success.
Selkirk College invited Dr. Shahin Shirzad to the Castlegar Campus during the first week of classes to speak with students in all three years of the program about the process. The Assistant Dean of Admissions at the University of British Columbia (UBC), provided details on a process that whittles down as many as 2,400 applicants to the successful annual intake of 288 medical school students.
Dr. Shahin Shirzad, the Assistant Dean of Admissions for the MD Undergraduate Program at the University of British Columbia, arrived to the Castlegar Campus during the first week of classes to help explain the medical school application process to students in the Selkirk College Rural Pre-Medicine Program.
“A big part of my role is to educate the students and future applicants about our process,” says Dr. Shirzad, who is also a Clinical Assistant Professor at UBC and a practicing physician in emergency medicine. “It really is no secret and we want to give people as many tools as possible to be successful in that process. We feel very strongly that we do have a good process that picks the most capable students that can provide for the health care needs of our province.”
The three-year Rural Pre-Medicine Program at Selkirk College was launched in 2014 after nearly two years of study and consultation with partners in the health care community. Geared towards addressing the shortage of doctors in rural Canada, the program provides students with a unique set of academic and non-academic programming that prepares them for application and entry into professional health programs.
Valuable Perspective on Future Opportunities
With the fifth cohort starting their journey towards acceptance to medical school, students had a chance to hear more about the process many will become very familiar with when applying to medical school for the first time.
“Many of our students in RPM are the first in their families and social groups to pursue a future career in medicine,” says Jonathan Vanderhoek, a Philosophy Instructor and chair of the RPM Admissions Committee. “As a result, they have not had the benefit of watching others navigate the process of applying to medical school. We are excited, therefore, to have had the opportunity to host Dr. Shirzad who could provide our students with a detailed walkthrough of the admissions process. This information will help them to strengthen their future applications.”
Students can apply to the UBC MD Undergraduate Program after completion of three full years of post-secondary. Roughly 50 per cent of the application is weighted to academic qualifications that are judged based on marks from high school, post-secondary and the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). The other 50 per cent is based on non-academic qualifications that include factors like community involvement, volunteer work, employment and interpersonal skills.
Each year, UBC chooses 650 applicants to proceed to the gruelling interview stage that features a series of ten seven-minute interviews on topics revealed two minutes prior. After this stage, the final 288 successful applicants are given offers of admission.
Despite the heavy academic and non-academic expectations for each applicant, one of the messages delivered by Dr. Shirzad to the students was to keep it all in perspective and don’t burn yourself out for a singular goal.
“Those things that make you happy—your personal relationships, your health, your community—those are commitments that you cannot lose in the process of pursuing medicine,” says Dr. Shirzad. “If you continue to nurture that personal side, it will probably make you a better and more capable physician down the road.”
It was a message that was received by the ambitious students gathered to hear his presentation.
“I try not to look too far into the future,” says first-year RPM Program student Jacqualine Cleaver, who grew up in Greenwood before graduating high school from Castlegar’s Stanley Humphries Secondary. “I know where I want to go, but I am also very flexible. I need to continue with my life and it was interesting that he touched on that aspect of getting your education. I will continue to do what I love and let everything else fall into place.”
A Focus on Rural Representation
Dr. Shirzad also stressed the importance of UBC’s distributive process which places an emphasis on educating future physicians who represent the entire province. Of the 288 seats available each year, UBC offers 32 seats at each of its locations at the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George, UBC Okanagan in Kelowna and the University of Victoria to ensure that a total of 96 seats are based in areas outside of the Lower Mainland.
Svetlana Hadikin (middle) and Adib Malas (right) are the first two Rural Pre-Medicine Program alumni to be accepted into the MD Undergraduate Program at UBC. They are part of the cohort of 288 students accepted for this September.
Proof that Selkirk College is helping find solutions to the rural doctor shortage came earlier this year when the first two program alumni were successful in their application. Svetlana Hadikin and Adib Malas graduated from the RPM Program this past April and the next month found out that they would be joining the 2018 UBC MD Undergraduate Program intake. Both students were accepted after only three years of post-secondary.
“The admissions process to medical school is very competitive,” Dr. Shirzad says of the accomplishment. “Even getting invited to an interview is an accomplishment. Being admitted is something to be proud of, it’s a reflection of the time and dedication that every individual has made to their future career in medicine.”
Applications for the Fall 2019 intake for the Selkirk College Rural Pre-Medicine Program open on September 24, 2018.