Sebastien Robert is a 2nd year medical student at U of Ottawa. He graduated from UOIT in 2015 with a degree in Life Sciences & a double minor in Organic Chemistry and Physics.
1. When did you know that a career in medicine was right for you?
I began to seriously consider medicine as a potential career path at the end of my first year of my undergraduate degree, but still doubted when I got in that I could handle certain elements of the job such as assisting serious surgeries or even announcing the death of a loved one to a family member. In all honesty, I only figured out that a career in medicine was absolutely right for me after a few months at U of Ottawa. Being surrounded by great intelligent minds and learning about topics which really interested me on a daily basis allowed me to see for myself that I truly belonged in this field. I might have not faced all the big challenges at this point, which made me hesitant at first, but I have already been exposed to enough to know that I will be able to push through any difficulties I may face in the future.
2. Is medical school what you expected it to be?
To my big surprise, medical school is quite different than what I had imagined it to be. I always thought I would be surrounded by classmates which study all day long, who are obsessed with medicine and are always looking to get ahead. To the contrary, medical school turned out to be a very welcoming environment which encourages students to explore other interests besides medicine. The University of Ottawa is also extremely focused on your well-being, which is quite comforting. Now although my daily life does still revolve around studying, I have been able to balance a family and personal life with relative comfort and have loved the opportunities I have been given so far.
3. What is your favorite thing about being a medical student at U of Ottawa?
You get very good diversity in Ottawa, meaning, we have students from different age groups, with all sorts of different backgrounds, interests and life goals. Also, being in the French stream at UOttawa, you truly feel like you are part of a family as you are surrounded by the same small group every single day – which I really like.
4. Do you mind briefly sharing the day-to-day life of a 2nd year medical student at U of Ottawa?
My day to day life as a 2nd year student is very similar to my day to day from 1st year as I am still in a period they call "pre-clerkship." Most days, I wake up around 7 am and ride my bike to campus for my 8 or 8:30 am class. We then have standard lectures given by medical doctors or PhD professors on the topic of the week until 12:30 pm. This is either done in a standard classroom or in the laboratory, depending on the topic. As for the afternoon, this varies greatly depending on the day of the week. On most days, we get the afternoon off so I tend to go back home, hit the gym, then settle down for around 4-5 hours of studying over the course of the afternoon and evening. Once a week, we have a physicians’ skills development class where we learn about certain physical or history taking skills in a small group setting. There are also practice clinics which take place every two weeks where we get to practice our learned clinical skills on simulated patients in a safe environment. During the evening, I either play intramural sports, do clinical placements or study some more. Then it is bed time and the cycle starts all over again the next morning.
5. Did you receive any guidance or mentorship during your premedical journey?
Unfortunately, I received little mentorship as I did not have any friends or family members which had gone through the medical school path or that even worked in the health field. Nevertheless, I now try to give as much advice to aspiring medical students as possible because I know firsthand how complicated and possibly confusing the whole process can be.
6. What was the most challenging part of filling out medical school applications?
I think it was twofold. First, it was the time commitment and then it was making everything I wrote down sound good. Luckily for me, I received some great advice from a classmate which had previously applied and so he helped me tailor my responses to various questions so that my experiences could really jump of the page as they say. A prime example of how important making good connections can be.
7. If you could give any piece of advice to a prospective medical student, what would it be?
Simple, don’t do extracurricular just to fill up your application. Get involved in activities you genuinely care about because, it will be easier to commit yourself to these activities. This way, your enthusiasm will really show during the interview process.
8. Any closing remarks?
Medical school is a difficult but extremely rewarding path and I have absolutely no regrets in choosing it. I wish you all best of luck in all your future endeavors. Most of all, don’t give up, because if you truly love what you do, all the sacrifices you will have made along the way will have been worth it.
A huge thank you to Sebastien Robert for taking the time to answer our questions. We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors at U of Ottawa and very soon, as a practicing physician.