At just 15 years old, Gil White volunteered with the IMP's clinical skills sessions, eager to help and learn more about becoming a doctor. Now 17 and heading into his senior year at Stelly’s Secondary School in Saanich, BC, he’s committed to fulfilling his goal of becoming a surgeon. We sat down to learn more about him and his experience.
What made you want to become a doctor?
I decided on becoming a surgeon in Grade 6. There was nothing specific that lead me to that idea. I just thought about it, liked it, and started down that path. I knew I’d need good grades, so I started working harder in school. And it’s paid off.
I got even more interested when I attended Medical School for Secondary Students (MedSS), hosted in the UVic Medical Sciences Building. We got talks from med students, heard more about the different fields of medicine, and even learned how to do sutures. All the kids attending were some of the smartest around. It was intimidating! So my goal was to speak out in front of them as much as possible. I actually wound up winning the Citizens Award for asking so many questions. I learned a ton – I loved it!
What type of doctor would you like to become?
A surgeon. I like drawing and building stuff. I’m good with my hands, so I think that would transfer over well. And surgery itself is so intriguing, so intense and exciting. I love the idea of helping someone in such an immediate way. In under 24 hours, you could perform a surgery on someone who's near death, and shortly after, they could be back with their families again. That’s crazy to me, and so inspiring.
When did you hear about the Volunteer Patient Program (VPP)?
I was at home sitting around and figured I better do something with my day. So I went online and started looking at different medical schools. I checked out UBC and discovered there was a medical school on the Island – the Island Medical Program. Then I saw they had volunteer opportunities, and I knew I needed to get involved. So I connected with Karen, the volunteer coordinator, and she got me right in.
Do you recall what your first session was like?
I do, actually. It was for some physical exam. There were three second-year students, all a little quiet. I suppose they didn’t expect to see some teenager taking part. But then the preceptor comes in, so charismatic and friendly, brimming with confidence, and he starts writing on the board. It was a lesson for the students, of course, but there I was learning a ton about internal medicine. I felt like I was getting paid for a free medical lesson.
Has your volunteer experience changed how you view medicine or medical school?
Yes. Aside from my great-grandfather, there’ve been no doctors in my family. I didn't know what the process looked like; when I was younger, I wasn’t totally sure what I wanted to become. I didn’t have a concrete image of what a doctor exactly was – but I did know that it’s not like Grey’s Anatomy.
So coming in here and meeting the students helped me to figure out what I wanted to become. It gave me a general outline of the process and the profession, what they ask of the people wanting to become a doctor. I can analyze all of their traits and get an idea of the trends of successful applicants. It’s been great.
Are you interested in volunteering with the Island Medical Program?
We need standardized patients – a healthy person trained to simulate the personal history, physical symptoms, emotional characteristics and everyday concerns of an actual patient. And, of course, volunteer patients like Gil, who allow medical students to interview them about their health or perform non-invasive examinations.
For more information, connect with Karen Basi, Volunteer Patient Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.