Chenille Wong is a Beedie Luminary from the inaugural 2019 Cohort. Throughout the four years Chenille has spent in the Beedie Luminaries Scholarship program, we’ve gotten to know her pretty well. Here are some fun facts about Chenille: she has two dogs, she is an avid piano player, and she’s a multi-athlete in sports like ice hockey, badminton, and basketball.
Another fun fact about Chenille? After completing three years of her undergraduate studies at the University of British Columbia where she studied Physiopharmacology and Public Health through the Integrated Science program, Chenille was accepted into UBC’s Faculty of Medicine. In this article, Chenille gives us insight into the life of a first year medical student and shares wisdom beyond her years. Scroll down to read more!
Hey Chenille, can you introduce yourself?
CHENILLE WONG — Hi everyone! My name is Chenille, and I am a first-year medical student at UBC. More than that, I’m a lover of pretty mainstream anime (anyone watching Farmland Saga atm??), a budding distance runner, owner of two super cute dogs, Instagram Reel addict, and water enthusiast (caffeine who?). Most importantly, I am SO glad you’re here to read my highly intellectual, highly stimulating, and hopefully highly helpful blog post about my journey to med school (and maybe a bit more about me along the way)! So, buckle in, sip that water, and get excited to embark on a few minutes of reading to learn more about why I decided to go to med school, how I got there, and how it’s currently going. 😉
Thanks for sharing! We can’t wait any longer to ask: when did you know medical school was the right path?
I don’t even have to be a psychic to know that you’re probably asking yourself – Chenille, why did you decide to go to medical school? What made you think 9+ years more of school and residency was the right decision for you? You do know Grey’s Anatomy isn’t real life, right?
I know, I know, it does seem like a big commitment to make – and it is! More than people tend to realize, going into medicine is a life changing choice and until medical school starts, it doesn’t really sink in that you will be pushed to your limits, not just academically, but physically, mentally, and basically for the rest of your life to varying extents. At the same time, you will get to pursue your dream of helping others in a healthcare setting, make advances in research if you so choose, and learn fascinating information that is applicable to real life.
So, did you always know then? Or was there a deciding moment?
So back to the original question of, why med, Chenille? For me, it stems back to when I was nine years old and standing beside my grandpa, who was lying in a hospital bed with stage four lung cancer. I remember it was a very difficult time for my family and I felt so uncertain of what was going to happen, if my grandpa was going to die, and whether he would be here long enough to see the Canucks play in the 2011 Stanley Cup final just like I always knew he wanted. Unfortunately, he passed before the series commenced, but I came away from this experience with not just a new understanding of grief, but a desire to be someone who could provide the excellent care he received in the hospital, and ultimately, a doctor who could help families through arduous times.
After that, it was history. She became a doctor.
Continuing through middle and high school, I explored a lot of different subjects. I really liked English and not to brag, humbly of course, it was one of my better grades. However, I knew I enjoyed human physiology as well, and that my future career goal was to become a doctor. I was also fortunate to have done a project researching the path to medicine and decided that pursuing a Bachelor of Science would allow me to keep my options open to careers related to science in general.
At UBC, I completed three years of undergraduate studies majoring in Integrated Sciences, specifically in Physiopharmacology and Public Health. I had a blast during my time in undergrad and took advantage of many cool opportunities on campus such as intramurals, fun clubs and going out with friends in general! (Hot Tip #1 – Get out there and have fun while you can!)
What drives you on the daily?
We know it’s not easy… how do you motivate yourself?
Hmmm time for reflection… on an everyday level, I’m driven by the desire to be the best person I know I can be. It’s not easy all the time, and to be honest, there are days where I feel like I’m the furthest from where I want to be; this means that I’m probably not doing the lectures I should be doing, saving class prep for the last minute, or mindlessly scrolling on Instagram for the umpteenth time that day. And I hope that saying this helps give you the perspective that no one can be perfect – not even med students! It isn’t realistic to expect the best from yourself all the time and it is important to acknowledge how you are feeling, recognize bad habits you can work on changing, and approach life with a positive mindset.
I might be crazy, but sometimes it really takes looking in the mirror and saying “wow, I really am amazing” or “you can do it” as a form of motivating self-talk to light a fire under your butt to keep working. (Fun fact: my roommate literally heard me mumbling “I love school” while I was studying for a midterm – we shared a good laugh about it XD).
It is also important to set short- and long-term goals, keep in touch with friends and family, and to always remember to reach out for help when you need it. Always! ☺
Can you tell us more about applications? Were they as scary as you thought?
Oh boy… applications…still got water handy to sip? You might need it…
The applications were long. Really long. As in the whole medical school admissions process is basically one year, including working on your written application, waiting to hear back about whether you got an interview, doing the interview, (crying about your interview), getting reference letters, and waiting months for the actual admission decision. Out of breath already? Yeah, me too… and I haven’t even gotten into it yet! 😉
Overall, I felt the UBC application was similar to the personal profile that you would have to write to get into undergraduate studies at UBC, so while it does take a good amount of time (and I would not recommend cramming if you can avoid it y’all), I felt fairly okay about the end product I had.
What exactly did you feel when you were applying? Nervous? Excited?
I wouldn’t say I was very nervous starting out during the application process, because it was only my third year of undergraduate studies, so I knew that I would just finish my degree first if I didn’t get in. At the same time, I was applying widely so I hoped that I would at least get an interview and the chance to see what it was like! However, as time progressed and I advanced through the stages, there were definitely feelings of uncertainty and doubt – especially when I was prepping for interviews and then post-interview, when I was waiting for three months for the final decision.
As someone who has always been more of an introvert, interviews have never come easily, and I have always admired people who could naturally talk with charisma, confidence, and certainty while I sometimes struggled with articulating my thoughts and stammering. But as they say, if I could do it, anyone can! For me, it took a lot of practice over five weeks basically every other day for 2-4 hours with random people interviewing from all over Canada on an online platform called Kumospace, as well as with friends or family. Funnily enough, a lot of the people I met through Kumospace ended up becoming my classmates, so shout out to them – you know who you are! 😉
I have to say, though, the worst part was right after the virtual interview when you’re thinking about all of the things you could have said or should have said instead, how maybe your lighting was too orange, or how you are most certainly NOT getting in after messing up several MMI stations. (Oh dear). But if it brings any relief, the emotional rethinking faded for me a few weeks later, when I had to recentre my focus onto the courses I was pretty behind on. #iloveschool #positiveselftalk
Take us back to the moment you received your acceptance. What was it like?
Visceral. I don’t know how else to describe it. I was sitting on the side of my bed on a hot day in June, just finishing up a mini vlog about my life talking about how I probably wasn’t going to get into med school that year because I had been on the waitlist and still hadn’t heard back after 3 rounds of offers had been sent.
Despite that, I was in a good mood because I just finished my midterm for a summer course and had already gone through the five stages of grief after receiving both rejection and waitlist notifications the month prior. You might think I’m kidding about the five stages of grief, but I can honestly say that receiving a rejection email from med after months and months of hard work and waiting was truly devastating. All of a sudden, I thought, what if I never get into medicine? What would I do then? Would I ever be good enough?
After a while, I came to accept that I would have to wait another year to chase after my dream of medicine. It was going to be fine; I was going to get my degree, have fun living my best life in fourth year and get the chance to try new things. So, when I ended that vlog and saw an email notification pop up a few minutes later saying: UBC Undergrad Admissions: Offer of Admission, everything flew out of my mind at once.
I reread the email multiple times, trying to rationalize that maybe I was dreaming this all up, that maybe they sent the email to the wrong person – perhaps another Chenille Wong?? With my exact email too??
After a few minutes, I realized that my dream had come true – that I was indeed going to medical school that year!!! Like a switch had been flipped, I suddenly broke down in tears, had big body-wracking sobs (that I never knew I had in me), and just cried because after everything I’ve been through and done, I was good enough, I was never going to have to write the MCAT again, and someday, I truly was going to be someone’s doctor.
Alright, now you’re in. Was the first day of medical school any different than your other first days?
The first day of medical school was one of the happiest moments of my life! In fact, that first week of med school at UBC was truly something to remember. Every day, I thought about how lucky I was to be there with such amazing people, how I looked forward to the years ahead, and how there was nothing else I would rather be doing.
While some of the novelty has worn off since then, I can still say with certainty about 7 months in, that there really is nothing else I could picture myself doing other than medical school. I really enjoy the community I have here as well as the opportunity to learn so much from not just lecturers, but the real patient interactions I’m fortunate to have, the body donors we have the honour to dissect during the gross anatomy lab, and my awesome classmates during small group sessions.
Is it really like Grey’s Anatomy? How much sleep do you get?
Great question. Sadly, no – it isn’t like Grey’s Anatomy. I mean, to be fair, I haven’t been on rotation through hospitals yet so I can’t speak to the hospital culture, but I think the consensus is that if you go into medicine because you’re looking for a McDreamy, you probably have a rude awakening waiting for you. Hey, I got to be honest here everyone…
Sleep? Sleep is for the weak! Just kidding, I have never loved sleeping more than I do now in medical school. I have to say, the transition to waking up at 6:30am for 8am classes most of the week and finishing at 5pm was tough and continues to be a challenge in and of itself. I’m naturally a night owl and during undergrad, I slept around 2am on average and woke up at 9am, so needless to say, it’s still a work in progress – but I manage! As for caffeine, as indicated above, I’m more of a water girl (Katara anyone?) and a fun fact about me is that I’ve never had a cup of coffee in my life! #weirdflexbutok
Med school can take a point though, because in dire times when my eyelids are drooping involuntarily, I do splurge and get a London fog sometimes at Perugia!
What surprises you about being a medical student?
I think I had this notion that in order to survive medical school, I would have to do a little Pokemon evolution and suddenly become the best student ever, make a million Anki cards, study 24/7 every day and that I would not have the time to see friends or do things outside of school. And I’m here to tell you – that isn’t necessarily the case! I feel like I’m the same student as I was before but have adapted small things here and there to suit the faster and sheer amount of content that comes at you in medical school. Unlike undergrad, you don’t have the pressure of achieving the highest grades because it’s all pass/fail so as we say all the time: P=MD!
My point is that everyone does things differently, and you are just going to have to find the balance and methods that work for you! There are many things to do outside of studying, such as clubs, going on hikes with friends or even hitting the slopes on a good day during the week. There is something for everyone and there are people for everyone too. ☺ I’m quite happy with where I am and what I’m working towards; I think one of the greatest things about medical school is realizing every day how much there still is to know and having a cohort of people around me to go through the highs and lows with!
Epilogue: Stay Tuned
Thank you so much for embarking on this journey with me, I hope you are now fully hydrated and feeling happy that you’re closer to reaching your daily recommended reading time! I hope I’ve given some insight on my experience to medical school and maybe a hint to my quirks as well. 😉 To my hopeful premeds, remember that there is no one formula to medical school and if I’m a testament to anything, I hope it’s that you can be weird and do things you genuinely enjoy and still make it to med school!
All the best,
P.S. Shameless plug, but if you’re interested, do check out this year’s UBC Admissions video that I helped make!! (you won’t regret it) https://youtu.be/OnwC-TdztIQ
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