My journey has been characterized by significant milestones, both academically and professionally. 

In 2022, I graduated from Health Sciences at Wilfrid Laurier University with high distinction, which solidified the foundation for my pursuit of medicine. In the same year, I joined U of T’s medical school, marking the beginning of a transformative chapter where I am seeking to not only excel academically but also pave the way for future Black students interested in medicine. 

Exploring the field of cardiac surgery

My journey into the world of cardiac surgery has been fuelled by a profound passion that took root during various moments in my life. During my first month as a student in the Temerty Faculty of Medicine, under the guidance of Dr. David Latter — a cardiac surgeon at St. Michael’s Hospital — I had the privilege of encountering my first surgical experience: a cardiac operation.

During the operation, the profound impact of life-saving cardiac surgeries in enhancing a patient’s quality of life became strikingly evident. From witnessing the transformative impact of cardiac surgeries on patients to the intricate dance of precision in the operating room, I discovered a calling that resonated with my deepest aspirations. 

The summer of 2023 marked another turning point in my medical education. That summer, the cardiac surgery division at St. Michael’s Hospital awarded me the Edwards Life Sciences & Temerty Faculty of Medicine & St. Michael’s Hospital Black and Indigenous Cardiac Surgery Research Summer Scholarship. This scholarship is awarded to support students who are interested in cardiac surgery. 

The scholarship provided me with a unique opportunity to immerse myself in groundbreaking research alongside Dr. Subodh Verma, a distinguished cardiac surgeon. Working alongside Dr. Verma crystallized my understanding of the profound impact cardiac surgery could have on individual lives and intensified my commitment to becoming a cardiac surgeon. Exploring innovative approaches toward cardiac surgery and gaining insights into the intricacies of the field strengthened my resolve to contribute to this transformative field.

Navigating cardiac surgery as a Black medical student

As a Black medical student aspiring to break into the traditionally underrepresented field of cardiac surgery, challenges have been an inherent part of my journey. Navigating a path that lacks role models requires resilience and determination. Thankfully, the Division of Cardiac Surgery at U of T has provided me with mentors who have both helped me develop professionally and personally. 

That said, the journey to cardiac surgery is marked by rigorous academic demands and intense competition. As a Black student, I have faced additional challenges in navigating a field where achieving diversity remains an uphill battle. However, each challenge became an opportunity to defy expectations and contribute to endeavours toward inclusivity within the medical community. Each challenge became an opportunity to show that it is possible to contribute to the field of medicine, despite the lack of diversity. And in the future, I hope to change the field to include more diversity, as a cardiac surgeon. 

In 2022, Dr. Bobby Yanagawa, U of T’s head of the Division of Cardiac Surgery and program director, created the Next Surgeon Program to inspire high school students from Toronto Community Housing to consider a career in medicine. I have had the great honour of contributing to this program by being a mentor to an enthusiastic group of children. As a mentor, I delivered talks, taught basic surgical skills, and built genuine relationships with some of the youth. 

Inspiring others to take a challenging path despite a lack of representation is a goal that I would like to keep at the forefront of my endeavours as I continue my journey through medicine. In doing so, I hope to also motivate others to break barriers. 

On breaking down barriers

The milestones in my journey to becoming a cardiac surgeon are not only personal triumphs but also represent a broader narrative of breaking barriers in the field of medicine. Each accomplishment contributes to reshaping the landscape of medicine, striving for inclusivity, and fostering an environment where diversity is celebrated. 

The recognition bestowed upon me by the Edwards Lifesciences Scholarship and then later The Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS) Looking To The Future Scholarship have been instrumental in propelling my journey forward. These scholarships have not only provided financial support but have also served as powerful affirmations of my dedication to cardiac surgery. 

The Edwards Lifesciences scholarship, and the immersive research experience that working with Dr. Verma has provided me, deepened my understanding of the potential to transform patients’ lives by applying my medical knowledge acquired through school and research endeavours. 

Winning the STS scholarship not only validated my aspirations but also opened doors to invaluable networking opportunities and connections within the cardiac surgery community. This scholarship allowed me to connect with cardiac surgeons from all over the world, gave me a chance to meet them in person, and created a great opportunity to share my passion and interest in such an exciting specialty. This further motivated me to continue going down this long but rewarding career path. 

My journey to cardiac surgery is more than a personal narrative. It is a testament to the resilience, determination, and passion that drive individuals to overcome challenges and break down barriers. As I navigate a path toward becoming a Black cardiac surgeon in Canada, I hope my story inspires future generations and contributes to a more inclusive and diverse landscape within the medical profession.