Dr. Mary Gaudet: Anthropologist, photojournalist, and now doctor
For Dr. Mary Gaudet, her path to medicine was a winding one with stops in academia and photojournalism along the way.
A new graduate, Dr. Gaudet just recently began her residency at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto following her graduation from McMaster University in May.
“I’d always been interested in medicine,” she said. “I read science journals for fun and I was the person all my friends came to with their medical questions.”
First she began a PhD in anthropology at York University, but decided she wanted a career path that would allow her to interact with people more so she changed course and began a college photojournalism program in 2010.
She loved taking pictures and it had been a dream to make a living doing so but changes in the news industry made earning a living challenging.
“What I loved about photography was you get to meet so many different people and hear their stories and build relationships,” she said.
As she was applying to medical school, Dr. Gaudet said she would explain how her background in anthropology and photography had prepared her for the next step as they taught her how to listen and how to adapt to constantly changing situations.
“I was gratified to learn it was true,” she said with a laugh. “All of those things have been incredibly helpful.”
The path to medicine became clearer in 2013 when she met Lwam Ghebrehariat, a lawyer and actor (and now resident).
“He said, ‘people think I’m crazy, but sometimes I wish I’d gone into medicine.’ And I said, ‘sometimes I wish I’d gone into medicine’,” she recalled.
He investigated MCAT spots and they researched schools and filled out applications.
“We drove each other through the process.”
They both ended up at Mac (the only school she applied to, as it is more suited to unconventional applicants).
“For me, it was a perfect fit,” she said. “The actual learning was fun and made perfect sense to me.”
Dr. Gaudet was set on family medicine from day one.
“I knew from the start that I wanted to do family medicine,” she said. “Family doctors seem to have the most diversity of practice. They deal with patient’s whole lives, which includes the social determinants of health, and that really interests me.”
As part of medical school, she did a number of electives including on Gabriola Island in British Columbia, in a rural clinic in Mexico, and as a hospitalist in her native Prince Edward Island.
She feels her education prepared her well for the road ahead and she’s excited.
“The best part of being a doctor is hearing stories from people who aren’t doing well that day and being able to actually do something about it – and that doesn’t mean a cure – but being able to make that moment a little better or that day a little better is such a privilege,” she said.
As for her initial concerns about starting over a little later in life, she says the additional decade or so of life experience she had actually made medical school easier.
“I just had to learn to be a doctor. I’d already learned what I liked in life and who I was,” she said. “I just focused on medicine and that made it easier.”
This article originally appeared in our monthly e-newsletter, Spotlight on Health.
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