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An Islander’s journey to medicine


No one says the journey to becoming a physician is easy. Despite the time and financial commitments, thousands of students across the country are well on their way to obtaining their medical degrees. The excitement in classrooms is palpable as the school year gets underway. 

First-year medical student Sydney Ford is among those beginning classes that will eventually lead to her dream career. She’s attending Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN) having recently completed her bachelor’s degree at Mount Allison University.

“It’s certainly not been an easy road so far, but I wouldn’t change any of it and I’m very much looking forward to this next chapter,” Sydney said. “Being part of a group of like-minded people, all striving for a similar outcome…I’ve been working towards this for so long it seems a bit surreal, but I’m really excited.”

Sydney is one of approximately 12 students from PEI who have been accepted into medical school this year. The Doctor of Medicine (MD) program at MUN is a four-year undergraduate degree. Upon successful completion of the MD program, students are eligible to apply to match to a Canadian post-graduate/residency program through the Canadian Residency Matching Service (CaRMS).

Admission to the Doctor of Medicine program is very competitive. Each academic year, 80 applicants are selected for admission to MUN. Sixty of the 80 seats are reserved for residents of Newfoundland and Labrador, including three seats reserved for Indigenous applicants of the province. One seat is reserved for a resident of Nunavut, four are dedicated to residents of Prince Edward Island, and a number of seats are available under the Military Medical Training Program for Canadian citizens currently serving in the Canadian Armed Forces.

“It’s extremely hard to get into med school,” Sydney said. “It’s actually not uncommon for someone to apply and be rejected or waitlisted in their first or second application cycle because there are so few spots. It’s an exercise in perseverance for sure but totally worth it.”

All of MUN’s Doctor of Medicine applications are screened to complete a holistic review of applications and interview selected applicants. Interviewed applicants complete the MMI and a CanMeds Competency Assessment and are evaluated by the admissions committee for acceptance after consideration of academic performance, MCAT scores, personal references, interviews, extracurricular activities, volunteer, and work experience.

Sydney, born and raised in Charlottetown, grew up heavily involved in the arts with dance and musical theatre being favourites in contrast to her top subjects of math and biology. With a clinical pediatric psychologist as a mother, Sydney was introduced to a love of health care early and spent much of her spare time volunteering in the emergency department at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Most recently, she worked at the Holland College Health Clinic.

“I was actually waitlisted after my first year of applications to med school and even though I knew it could happen and is fairly common, it was still a bit of a blow to my confidence,” Sydney said. “But I’ve never wavered in my desire to work in health care, so I knew I had to just cut the self-doubt and try again. If anything, the year to re-apply gave me an opportunity to grow a bit more as a person and gain even more experience, so I think it was a blessing in disguise.”

In her third and fourth year, Sydney will rotate through clerkships in specialities like family medicine, pediatrics, and general surgery. It’s during this time she hopes to choose her own speciality. In the meantime, she’s planning to keep an open mind and get to know those around her.

“I’m surrounded by future physicians. These very well may be my colleagues when I start practising medicine and it’s an exciting thought,” Sydney said. “I don’t know what the future will bring but I plan to keep working hard and believing in myself.”

Do you know someone interested in a career in medicine? Check out our pathway to medicine here!