Like many other Canadians that have decided on a career in medicine, I spent the last 5 years studying medicine abroad. In my particular case, because I have strong family ties in Ireland (my parents are both from there), I decided to complete medical school at Trinity College Dublin, a medical school with a rich academic history of over 300 years. I’ve just graduated from Trinity, and I have secured a competitive residency position in the Emergency Medicine program at the University of Toronto.
Going to Ireland was a big step for me, as I had never lived abroad before. The move was made easier because of the fact that I have a good deal of family in Ireland, but nonetheless I had many doubts during my first year there. I wasn’t sure if I had made the right decision, I missed my friends and family back in Canada, and I missed being involved in extracurricular projects like music, reading, writing, and art. For those of you who don’t know, medical school can (at times) become an all-encompassing commitment which kind of rules out a lot of other activities. However, it is still definitely possible to have fun in medical school, and Dublin was certainly a great city for nightlife, pubs, and shows, and it provides a great launching pad for exploring the rest of Europe.
At times, the program at Trinity is fairly intensive. They have a very traditional approach to medical education, and the first 2 years include great pre-clinical preparatory courses in the foundations of medical education: Anatomy, Biochemistry, Physiology, and Behavioral Science. As a resident doctor now, I can honestly say that my training during these years is still helping me; the foundation I built at Trinity has given me the knowledge I need to be successful in my career, and I am getting very positive feedback from my preceptors and supervisors. At times, the learning process was difficult, and the curriculum does not cater to lazy students; you have to be self-directed, you have to work hard to keep up with the course-work, but ultimately you come out with a great education.
Matching to a residency program back in Canada was certainly a challenging process. You have to plan ahead in securing electives during your summers; you have to study hard to make sure you do exceptionally well on your American and Canadian Medical Board exams, and during your clinical years you need to prove yourself to be a competent, compassionate, and well-trained medical professional.
Thankfully, for those students who are motivated and determined to get back to Canada, the training in Ireland certainly does its part to prepare you for the road ahead. The courses are thorough, the foundations are strong, and when you need to have fun or blow off some steam, the Irish are always up for a bit of mischief.