When Anchaleena Mandal received her acceptance into the Queen’s University Accelerated Route to Medical School (QuARMS) program, she was both ecstatic and genuinely surprised.
“Being from a small, isolated Arctic community, where I didn’t get the same spectrum of facilities and opportunities as other students in Canada, I didn’t think I had a chance against the numerous applicants,” Mandal told The Journal via email.
Every year, QuARMS only offers 10 students the opportunity to fast-track their undergrad and enter the School of Medicine without taking the MCAT. Upon completion of the six-year program, students earn their medical degree.
“I am mostly looking forward to the experiential learning component of the program,” Mandal wrote. “In Iqaluit, I did not get the opportunity to volunteer or work in a medical facility, as this option wasn’t available in our small local hospital, which is also the only hospital in Nunavut.”
According to the recent Inukshuk High School graduate, Queen’s alumni in Iqaluit played a significant role in her choosing the university.
“When asking my community members about their experiences, I discovered that there were more Queen’s alumni working in Iqaluit than I had expected,” she wrote. “However, what touched me the most was that Queen’s alumni had a uniquely strong sense of connection with Queen’s, which was something I did not see in the alumni of other universities.”
Mandal’s desire to pursue medicine can be traced back to her childhood.
“In elementary school, I learned about traditional Inuit herbal medicines, which I found fascinating. In high school, I learned about the agony of my community members due to the lack of culturally-appropriate physician services in the North.”
As a volunteer for the Kamatsiaqtut Help Line following the Nunavut suicide crisis in 2015, Mandal felt that her community’s healthcare services were inadequate. She cited a 2015 Canadian Institute for Health Information database that recorded that per 100,000 residents, Nunavut had only 27 physicians.
“I have come to believe that this acute healthcare system is not appropriate for the Inuit people,” Mandal wrote. “A territory like Nunavut cannot achieve self-determination because of a lack of doctors wilful to live and work in the North.”
For now, Mandal hopes to specialize either in family medicine or mental healthcare. Following an opportunity to shadow a local Iqaluit doctor, Mandal wrote that she “realized [she] really enjoyed the doctor-patient relationship.”
“I may not be Inuit, but I grew up in Nunavut and can hope to provide the culturally-appropriate care that my community needs.”
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