Dr. Aaron Hoo is the first-ever UMHS graduate to match in the second iteration of CaRMs (Canadian Residency Matching System) Family Medicine residency. Originally from Malaysia, Dr. Hoo moved to Canada as a child in the 1980s. Like many students at Caribbean medical schools, Dr. Hoo took an unusual path to becoming a doctor. He earned an undergraduate degree in Psychology and a diploma in Naturopathic Medicine. He worked as everything from a banker to a Naturopathic Doctor in private practice in his hometown of Vancouver, Canada before entering the M.D. program at UMHS.
The UMHS Endeavour initially contacted Dr. Hoo in May. He had just completed the MCC-QE1 (Medical Council of Canada Qualifying Examination Part 1) and spent three days driving across Canada from Vancouver, British Columbia to Winnipeg, Manitoba to move into a new apartment before starting residency at the University of Manitoba. He emailed us while on vacation in Europe and contacted us later from Winnipeg as he was about to start a month-long orientation for IMG residents. In this latest installment of Class of 2016 interviews with UMHS graduates, we discussed everything from why Dr. Hoo decided to go to UMHS to his interest in Family Medicine to the challenges facing Canadians studying medicine abroad and returning for residency in Canada.
UMHS Endeavour: Tell us a little about yourself and where you are originally from.
Dr. Aaron Hoo: I am from Vancouver, Canada (I emigrated from Malaysia in the 1980s.) I have a diploma in design, an undergraduate degree in Psychology, and a diploma in Naturopathic Medicine. I was a banker for approximately eight years. Prior to returning to medical school, I had my own private practice as a Naturopathic Doctor in Vancouver
Why did you decide to go to UMHS?
I was interested in the Canadian affiliation at Ontario Shores Mental Health Sciences and was pleased to know I could complete my core rotation in Psychiatry at that facility. I was impressed with the investment in the St. Kitts campus and was assured by the fact that UMHS was founded by Dr. Ross and a team of staff with an established track record for managing and growing a Caribbean medical school
What was the greatest thing about learning you matched?
That I matched back in Canada.
Is there anything in particular that interests you about Family Medicine?
The realm of Family Medicine is about lifelong therapeutic relationships with patients; by extension, building healthy relationships with individual patients contribute to a healthier community.
What advice do you have for current UMHS students, and medical students in general, about the Match process?
I would encourage students to attain Letters of Recommendations from preceptors in specialties within which they wish to match. Not withstanding the timing of attaining these letters should be emphasized. Additionally, these letters should also be derived from a hospital/medical school in which they wish to match – letters from preceptors with relationships to the Dean of a particular faculty is always an added bonus.
The Match process is tenuous and requires extreme attention to detail. Time management and planning ahead to meet application deadlines is absolutely essential – this includes getting all the required documentation (i.e., CV, personal statements) prepared in advanced.
Any advice for Canadians regarding the Match process?
From my own personal experience, I would encourage students to have as much of their rotations completed by December at the latest.
For Canadians wishing to match in their country of origin, I would encourage them to research provincial programs for IMG clinical preparedness (i.e., the BC Clinical Assessment Program) – having completed these programs would certainly improve applicants’ prospects.
Was there anything specific about your medical education at UMHS and clinical rotations that prepared you well for matching?
I believe my clinical rotations in major teaching hospitals prepared me well, especially in core rotations. Having my OB/GYN core rotation in Augusta, Georgia was an excellent opportunity for hands-on procedural and clinical skills training, much more than some of that experienced by my peers, both in Canada and the U.S.
With the above in mind, one’s experience gained is just as much a function of one’s willingness to go the distance in attaining hands-on clinical experience as it is the role of the preceptor to teach, however, I believe students should not expect to be “spoon-fed” anything.
Did you do any clinicals in Canada and if so, did it help?
Yes. I believe it was instrumental in my gaining valuable Canadian clinical experience as this is as much of an emphasis in applications to programs as it is in the U.S.
The LOR I received from my last Canadian preceptor (and final rotation) was, I believe, instrumental in my attaining residency in Canada. The letter was uploaded in concert with the timing of my applications for the CaRMS matching process.
Does the preparation for USMLE at UMHS apply to Canadian exams as well?
Absolutely! I would encourage preparing for both the USMLE Step 2CK and the Canadian MCCEE at the same time, and writing both exams within weeks of each other; I cannot emphasize enough, how much the preparation for the USMLE aided in my Canadian board exams
I would also encourage taking the USMLE Step 2CS and the Canadian NAC-OSCE within a similar time frame.
Do you have any specific goals for your residency?
I matched into a Family Medicine Northern Remote community – this experience will, I believe, facilitate my skills in full spectrum care and allow me to be a more well-rounded clinician.
My goals are to simply get as much out of these next few years in residency as it will likely be my last opportunity to work under close supervision before having to make those challenging clinical decisions on my own.
Built in the tradition of the best U.S. universities, the University of Medicine and Health Sciences focuses on individualized student attention, small class sizes and recruiting high-quality faculty. For these reasons, UMHS is quickly becoming the school of choice among Caribbean medical schools.