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Help me fund my way through medical school- it's expensive!!

Organized by: Brittany Salter

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THE STORY:

Hi Everyone! I will try to not to write a long drawn out story here but I still think it's very important for everyone to know about the journey that I have gone through to get to this point. My amazing mother is a "single mom" and over the years she has made a great deal of sacrifices to give myself and my sister the best lives possible. Unfortunately, financial hardships come with the territory of being a single mom (providing for your whole family is a huge burden to put on one person) and I have had to learn from an early age the value of working hard to be able to support the ones you love. I love my mother for everything she has done for me and the values she has instilled in me. For as long as I can remember I knew I wanted to become a doctor but there was always the overhanging issue of paying for the education that was needed to get me there. My mother was always adament about my not coming out of school in debt, so I was never allowed to take out OSAP. She worked very hard to save up enough money to pay for my first undergrad year of tuition and living expenses and I am forever grateful to her. But life loves to throw you curve balls and my mother lost her job when the economy went sour a few years back at the same time that I was going into the second year of my undergrad degree. My mother made the ultimate sacrifice to move by herself to another city 4 hours away to work at a job and try to keep two households afloat- but that of course doubled the number of bills at a fraction of the income she was making before so it become understandably very difficult to pay for everything, including my education. So I was forced to make some tough decisions and step up to the plate to help the family out financially. I got not one- but three jobs (personal training, retail, and bar tending) that added up to about 35 hours a week of work... and here's the kicker- it was when I was already in school full-time. I moved back home from Guelph to Hamilton, bought a car and commuted to school everyday. This crazy work schedule combined with school was to allow myself to afford my education and pay my own bills and the household utilities to help my mom out with expenses. My life was utter chaos. I would personal train 4 am to 9 am then speed on over to Guelph and try to stay awake in class from 10 am to 4 pm, then race on home to bar tend from 5 PM to 1 AM. When the weekend came around there wasn't much of a relief because I had to pack in all of the studying that I could and work at a retail job. This process continued for another 3 years. I got no sleep and my health was suffering for it. At first- it was very very hard to get into a "groove" or find a balance between work and studying. I will admit that my marks suffered significantly in the second year of my undergrad. But as time went by I got pretty good at multitasking everything and I continued to work hard because all I could think of was the end goal of becoming a doctor. Finally things started to pay off...in the last two years of my undergrad I was on the Dean's Honor Roll and had a stellar GPA. Score! I was so excited to complete my journey to medical school by writing the MCAT and applying. But of course it wasn't that simple... To excel in the MCAT you need to study... A LOT and you should probably take a prep course. Problem- I needed to work to pay bills, etc... I needed to work to pay for a prep course! So my solution was to cut back to working 25 hours a week, while still doing school and studying for the MCAT. Unfortunately I could not afford a prep course (these are thousands of dollars!!) but my amazing friends supplied me with some hand me down prep books from previous years. I managed to pull off a respectable mark on the MCAT (33)- despite not spending a full time commitment towards studying. When it came time to apply for medical school I was super excited but I was not prepared for the disappointment that would come along.... Even with my last two years of undergrad being amazing (3.8 GPA)- the 2nd year where my marks suffered pulled down my GPA quite a lot to 3.4...my thoughts are that the schools just didn't see me being competitive. SO rather then being crushed and giving up- I needed to work on a "back up" to make me more competitive for medical school... so I shifted gears and did my Masters of Medical Science at McMaster University. I took a few research courses and did an undergrad thesis so I realized pretty quickly that in addition to medicine I loved research and it just made sense to do a Masters. During that time I re-did courses from my undergrad to improve my GPA... I helped out people around the lab to get my name on extra papers... worked at two other jobs in addition to being a grad student (so that I could save up money for med school)... and re-took the MCAT to boost my mark up even more. I really thought that I was making a difference to the competitiveness of my med school application. Two rounds of medical school applications later... still no interview. So I reached the end of my masters and thought to myself- well clearly someone will HAVE to say yes to me if I have my PhD. I especially thought that Toronto would like that. So I carried on doing a PhD. And I would like to add- that I love research and doing these extra graduate degrees was as an amazing experience and if anything this was helping my career along regardless. I have always had a firm belief that your back up is just as important as your primary goal! I didn't solely do these degrees to upgrade my competitiveness for med school. Throughout my PhD I applied three more times and re-wrote the MCAT again. Nothing. Zilch. I even took on two MORE jobs as a clinical research associate, shadowed doctors, volunteered, and became a MCAT biology instructor for a prep course!!! In the last year of my PhD this brought me to a cross-roads... do I give up??? do I just go into industry and hope I can make it in pharm?? OR do I find another way? I chose to ignore the naysayers that said to give up and decided to apply overseas to Ireland and Australia. I was definitely annoyed with Canada but I didn't want to give up on my dream. To my surprise- I got into 15 schools! 15! I went from 0 to 15. These schools made it seem like they genuinely appreciated the attributes that I brought to the table and were excited to have me join their team. This was so different from Canada... where they might as well just draw names out of a hat because there are 1000's of competent applicants out there that would make great doctors and only a finite number of spots. I know that going overseas isn't without its risks but I am confident that if I continue to work hard throughout the years I will be able to return to Canada to do a residency. I chose University of Queensland because of the opportunities to do amazing cutting edge medical research at the same time as my medical degree. I also have the opportunity to do my MPH. This school will open a lot of doors for me and I have finally realized exactly what I would like to do with my life. Given that my MSc and PhD was in respiratory disease... I want to continue this on and combine my skills as a medical doctor and researcher. I want to be a leading clinician with a research facility to aid in developing individualized treatments for respiratory disease. I want to be a strong figure in WHO and aid in preventing respiratory disease in third world countries. Maybe these dreams are unrealistic... but I wont know until I try! I realize now that I am OK with Canada not accepting me... it is THEIR loss! I am meant to go overseas and do something great with my life... and historically with me this road will definitely not be easy. And when I mean not easy... I mean going overseas will cost me a whopping $279,000 in tuition alone plus living expenses. Even with a LOC and OSAP it doesn't cover everything :( As much as I'd like to work while I am in medical school... for once I think it is wise to not do that and focus on my studies. So I am asking for some help- no matter how small it is... to get me to Australia! I need to finish the last stretch of this journey to arrive at my goal. You can be assured that I will carry this kindness forwards in my work as a medical doctor.

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Brittany Salter

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