Why Not Be a Doctor?

February 24, 2015

Dr. Jillian DeCosse, BSc’05 (Photo: Monica Truffyn, Prarie Mountain Health)

Born in rural Manitoba and raised in Brandon, Jillian is small-town modest but brilliant, earning a medical degree in six years compared to eight to ten for most Canadian doctors.

“At med school,” she says, “you meet all these people who have wanted to be doctors since they started walking. That wasn’t me. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to be a doctor. I just knew I needed more mental stimulation.”

Jillian started her post-secondary education at Brandon University, graduating in 2005 with a three year Science Degree. “I didn’t have a real plan in mind,” she recalls. “The idea of being a physician was there, but it wasn’t a determined goal.”

After working for a year in New Brunswick, Jillian decided to return to school. “I scored really well on the Medical Colleges Admissions Test (MCAT),” and enrolled in the accelerated medical program at McMaster University in 2007.

“McMaster is the home of problem-based learning,” she points out. “It’s really where self-directed learning started. McMaster’s School of Medicine incorporates clinical encounters very early in the program, versus the more traditional approach where you spend two years in lectures before seeing patients.”

In 2010, Jillian graduated with her medical degree and accepted a two year residency at the hospital and medical clinic in Dauphin, MB. A chronic hard worker, she struggled with the rigors of being a young doctor. “In the midst of residency,” she remembers, “the hours were overbearing and I felt like I couldn’t balance my work and education requirements with my life. It was all-consuming.”

Initially pursuing family medicine, Jillian came to appreciate the activity and the rhythm of the emergency room during her residency. “It can be a crazy place. You see a lot of people and you’re the first to decipher what is happening with a patient. That appeals to me.”

Joining Brandon Hospital as an emergency room physician in 2012, Jillian feels she has now achieved the right work-life balance. “I have a decent schedule and work with great people,” she says. “One day, I may return to family practice but right now I am very happy in emergency.”

“People had always suggested I pursue medicine—professors and friends and guidance counselors—but I didn’t know anything about it. No one in my family is a doctor. I now work in the emergency department but I had never set foot in one until I was a student. It’s strange,” she remarks, looking down once more at her shoes, “but it’s been worth it.”

This article first ran in the Winter 2013 issue of Alumni News, a bi-annual publication produced by the Department of Institutional Advancement.