By Karen Chung, HBSc, MD

Karen obtained her HBSc (Health Sciences) at McMaster University in Hamilton and her medical degree from Queen’s University in Kingston (Class of 2016). She will be pursuing surgical residency in Toronto (Class of 2021). She has been involved in and has co-founded numerous impactful student organizations.

Here she discusses the importance of sharing one’s passion with others.

Medical schools want to see a genuine person who excels at their commitments. Your undergraduate career is a time for exploration. Discover what you love and work on it. Then, take it a step further. One critical foundation for a medical career is a desire to help others. Use the knowledge and skills that you have gained from cultivating whatever hobby or interest you have and share it with others. Are you a soccer star? Mentor others who may not otherwise get the opportunity to play soccer. Are you a secret master chef? Consider volunteering at a soup kitchen or community nutrition program. Are you a social media expert? Some NGOs can likely use your expertise to advocate for the needs of the community. Are you musically inclined? Share your talents at a local nursing home, hospital, or school.

Are you excited yet? Here are three steps you can take to make sure your new initiative is effective:

1. Provide needs-based service
Most students intend to be helpful, but never ask how they should do it. Do not be that person. Before you go and change the world, take the time to figure out what needs are present in the area you are committed to. Do your research and talk to experts in the field. Talk to the people who will be impacted by the change. Share your ideas, especially with trusted friends and mentors. Go online to check if anyone else has had your idea and what he or she did to make it successful. Then troubleshoot! What problems did they come across? What problems will you encounter? Identify solutions before moving forward.

2. Work with others
The bigger the idea, the more likely you will need help. One risk of working with others is that they may not be as invested as you are, physically and emotionally. Therefore, take the time to share your vision to help them share it or identify those who have the same interests as you, and genuinely ask if they want to use their gifts to help others as well. People bring different skill sets and ideas to the table. If you have a solid idea of what you want to do, you should also be aware of the tools needed to make it a success. Look for people whose strengths can complement your weaknesses.

3. Make it sustainable
Congratulations! At this point, you have a feasible idea that will be useful to your community. What happens after you leave? This underscores the importance of working with others. You have the opportunity to be a mentor in addition to being a leader. Pay attention to someone who can potentially carry on this project if or when you leave and share what you learned. Follow up with that person occasionally and see if you can provide any further guidance.

Leadership and problem-solving skills are extremely useful in a medical career. These are transferable skills you should continue to enhance and need to be highlighted in your applications and interviews. Investing time in an altruistic cause is an excellent way to develop those skills, while simultaneously pursuing your passion and having fun!

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