The Med School Diaries: Sophia Bachilova

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Sophia Bachilova grew up in Massachusetts, but came to McGill University to complete her undergraduate degree in animal science at the MacDonald campus. She graduated in 2009 with a BSc. and worked in Montreal for a couple of years in order to try to build a life with her partner—whom she met at university. Bachilova first applied to the Faculty of Medicine once as an International student, though she was wait-listed after her interview. The following year, after achieving Quebec permanent residency and applying a second time, she was accepted into the program.

McGill Tribune: Why did you decide to work in between your undergraduate and applying to medical school?

Sophia Bachilova: “I really did not want to have any help from my parents at that point—I wanted them to focus on their own finances for a while. The first job I got, I was helping to track ships [and] freighters in international waters for a company. It had nothing to do with my undergraduate, but it was really a job to make ends meet. Luckily enough, I could after that job take the time to volunteer and do other things as well. Most of the time I only worked part time, partly because it was hard to find full-time jobs in the sciences with just a bachelors, and partly because I really valued the time I spent volunteering with organizations. I think I found that the volunteering skills that I could cultivate were things that I really value in my interaction with people.”

MT: What type of medicine do you want to pursue?

SB: “I used to think I would like to get involved with people in family practice and working with people in a long-term setting. I think now I am also excited to do maybe more hands on stuff. So I am not sure if that will end up shifting. I think my excitement right now is learning skills that have a hands-on component to them.”

MT: A lot of students worry about having the “perfect package” to get into medical school, what do you think about this?

SB: “During the interview process, they are not expecting you to know a lot of medicine, but they do want to see a lot of social understanding. If you can work with organizations that can teach you skills before that and about active listening to patients and working with them long term and working with communities, these are skills that will be really helpful in dealing with patients [….] Of course, volunteering at whatever organization you are volunteering for, if you are passionate about it will make the process easier. However, just because you volunteer at a hospital will not make it easier. The skills that you learn from an organization can make it easier. These are things you can write about and will make you a better doctor.”

MT: What happens if you don’t get in the first time?

SB: “I had a hard time once I graduated figuring out how to place values outside of school. I think in your undergraduate [studies], it is very easy to feel like you are achieving because you are getting grades, and once you graduate you sort of lose that. You have to learn to sort of have an extrinsic value of self worth, so I don’t actually think that a year off is a bad idea. You can go ahead and apply, and if you don’t get in most medical faculties don’t have a problem with you calling up and asking, ‘What don’t you like about my application? What can I improve on?’”

“You could take that really to heart and get down on yourself, or you could ask, ‘How can I grow to be a better person?’ Just take it as a learning opportunity, which […] the whole process of medicine will be like, anyways. You will always be shot down and receive negative feedback and [you] have to approach it as a learning opportunity.”