I am a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist working in Comox, Vancouver Island.
After brief careers in politics, journalism and consulting, at age 32, with no science or health background, I applied to go to medical school. After a year of volunteer work and perfecting my application, I applied to and was accepted to McMaster Medical school.
I look after children and teenagers with depression, anxiety, suicidal thinking, autism, psychosis, and problems stemming from trauma and neglect. I see kids when they are admitted to our psychiatry unit, as outpatients at my office at the hospital, in schools and at community mental health agencies. I travel once a month to Northern Vancouver Island to consult to First Nations communities.
I work a lot on teams in a leadership role and do a lot of teaching, including training programs for family doctors about children’s mental health, and teaching medical students and residents from UBC’s medical school. I am very involved at the community level, trying to improve the lives of children, including chairing a Local Action Team for Children’s Mental Health. Recently I applied for and was awarded a $1 million, three-year research grant to design and develop a new model to help heal children who have experienced neglect and trauma.
- Previous careers didn’t feel meaningful and I wanted an area of expertise.
- Two family members had changed careers into medicine with no science background
- Desire to have a career with autonomy and portability and that provided a decent income but also had a positive impact in the world
Action in terms of further education/lifestyle
- To get into medical school with no science background I needed to build a case that I could be good at medicine, so I volunteered in palliative care, an emergency room, planned parenthood
- I became an expert in how to write a really good application and took a lot of time and energy writing it
Coping with decisions (ex. same as above, university, relationships, expectations, stress)
- I chose a medical school program that would suit me and that I could enjoy, knowing that this would be a long haul… no lectures, self-directed, problem-based, small group, lots of unstructured time
- I chose a specialty that suited my personality …deep and narrow not broad and shallow
- I chose Psychiatry because mental health seemed but more interesting and challenging than family medicine, my original idea
- I chose Pediatric Psychiatry because children are a vulnerable population and working with kids seemed more hopeful and fun… plus I got to have all sorts of toys in my office!
- I wanted a balanced lifestyle (not surgery or hospital work) and a specialty that tapped into my real strengths in communication
“What obstacles did I encounter?”
- There was a HUGE amount to learn! And always people studying more than me
- I surrounded myself with people who had balance and were non-competitiv
- I see children and teenagers with depression, anxiety, suicidal behaviour, ADHD, autism, psychosis, and problems stemming from trauma and neglect.
- I see kids on our psychiatry unit, as outpatients at my office at the hospital, at community mental health agencies and travel to Northern Vancouver Island to consult to First Nations communities. In the past I’ve worked on an in-patient unit for kids in crisis and consulted to a adolescent addictions program.
- I work a lot on teams including nurses, social workers who look after kids in foster care, counselors and therapists, and school staff. This puts me in a leadership and teaching role which I really enjoy
- I have complete control over my schedule including where and when I work and when I take time off and this is really important to me.
- I also spend a lot of time out of my office in the community, in schools and programs where kids are.
- I do lots of other interesting things like chairing a Local Action Team for Children’s Mental Health; teaching family doctors, medical students and residents; and leading a research project to help heal traumatized children
“What is there to consider when preparing for employment?”
- Pick a program and career you can love, don’t rule anything out
- Do bold and exciting things that stretch yourself and make you stand out… I led bike trips in Europe and my interview to get into medical school really focused on this!
- It’s never to late to consider a new career!!