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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Third time's a charm?

So I'm back.

And I have some good news and some bad news.

The bad news is that I didn't get into the medical school in New Zealand. I was devastated. Completely. It took me several days to just accept it and grieve it. It really felt as though someone had died.

For a while I thought that this was it, that I had to move on. And I tried. I looked into law school, I looked into starting a new business. I looked into taking a digital marketing course. And while all those had some positives, I couldn't commit to any of them in my heart. None of them excited me, but I thought I had to do SOMETHING. I also knew I didn't want to go back to accounting. In my heart I knew that being a doctor was all I really want. But tried to bury it.

One day (after a pretty big fight too, I might add), my husband forced me to admit that I wasn't over not getting into medical school. He said he knew it and sighed and said "Let go to Poland then."

So the good news is...we did! We up and left New Zealand and moved to Poland just so I could pursue my dream of becoming a doctor.

I did a bit of research before biting the bullet and there really are some great medical schools with English language programs here. Truly! Of course there are also some that aren't good, so if this is a route you are considering, DO YOUR RESEARCH!

I know there are a lot of snobs out there who wouldn't dream of pursuing this path. Europe (and especially Eastern Europe) is not as prestigious as Canada or the US - I know. But this really doesn't mean that they are sub-par in terms of quality of education. I read "but you'll never get back to Canada!" etc and that is absolutely something I am aware of. However, I connected with some people I went to high school with (I went to an American high school in Warsaw) who went to the University of Warsaw medical school and did the English program and they are all doing extremely well. One guy just finished up a fellowship in radiology at Oxford and is considering pursuing a PhD there. Another girl did a residency in Scotland and is now a family doctor in Canada. A couple my sister knows (they met at the medical school) are both ER doctors practicing in the Arizona. Another stayed here in Poland and is a mini-celebrity with a huge following of her OB-Gyn themed Instagram and blog and TV appearances. They all loved the program, many chose it over other seemingly more prestigious universities and couldn't recommend it more highly.

I know the risk is that I may never get to practice in Canada but that is okay. This is MORE important to me and my husband is okay with it (the only condition he has is that we are to never move to the USA and I'm okay with that too).

Ideally after I graduate I'll be able to do a residency in an English speaking country, with Canada or New Zealand being my number one choice. However, I know that statistically this isn't likely so my next goal would be to do one in Scotland, Ireland or the UK. After completing a residency in one of those countries, I can be a family doctor in Canada without additional training OR if I decide to pursue a different specialty, I can do that residency and practice in New Zealand.

Lastly, if none of the above works out, I'll do my residency and training in Poland and just practice here because I am also a Polish citizen. So this isn't the same as, for example, going to med school in the Caribbean and not getting into a residency program in Canada or the US. I won't be left with no-where to practice. I can also work anywhere in the EU. That will also help in getting into residencies in Ireland (EU residents get a priority over non-EU). Unfortunately with Brexit, I don't know how it will affect my chances in the UK, though currently they accept anyone from the EEA of which Poland is a part of, but if not perhaps my Canadian citizenship will help there.

My husband said that he will figure something out and in any case, he is in the type of industry where remote work is abundant. Luckily he really likes living in Poland and is actively learning the language and is able to keep doing his same job, since its 100% remote. He also said he isn't ready to "settle" anywhere permanently yet (this was also part of his readiness to move away from New Zealand, because if we stayed there, it would require we "settle" indefinitely).

So what are my chances? Well, here is the next piece of good news. My grades from IB are the ONLY thing that counts and from my discussions with current and past students they are more than acceptable (I did well). I will, however, need to do an entrance exam in Chemistry, since I didn't do it at the IB level (the program requires IB Biology, IB Chemistry and IB Math or Physics). But since I JUST completed a university level course in Chemistry, I just need to review it to prepare myself. But grades are all that matter and applicants are ranked from 1-120 and those people are the ones who get in. No essays, no extra-curricular, no MCATs. Just grades from high school (if IB) or entrance exam results (or a combination if you don't have one of the required IB courses). And my understanding is that my grades are very competitive.

But there is a catch. And that is that there is also a very high attrition rate after the first year. As much as 25% of the accepted applicants will not progress to the second year, however after that the university really works to ensure all students succeed. I also spoke to a current student who told me that the pass rate of those who took IB is much higher and the only person he's ever heard of leaving the program with an IB background did so for health reasons, not because of poor academics).

Of course there is every chance that I won't make the cut-off. But I have a back up for that. The program I want has a "Pre-med Prep Course" where you take a year of biology, chemistry, physics, math and organic chemistry and they basically teach to the exam. So far the people who take this course have a 100% success rate of getting in. Its very expensive (10,000 euros!) but my husband said that he would insist I take it if I fail to get in this year. That said, tuition is among the cheapest in the world (currently its 11,000 euros per year) and we can easily afford that .

So watch this space! At the moment I am reviewing my chemistry notes and doing practice problems to prepare myself for the entrance exam coming up in May (which is all multiple choice, of which I will only have to answer the 40 chemistry questions).