When I started at McGill in 1996, I was like most people in undergrad: I had a very vague and split interest in two very different subjects (Medicine and Computer Science), and I had very loose and ill-formed plans about my career and personal future. And so I started off by taking the generic route - a Biology major, and a Computer Science minor, thinking that by doing this I would get an adequate science background to prepare for medical school, and yet still get a chance to delve into Computer Science. However, as the semesters went by, I realized that – quite honestly – Computer Science (the subject, faculty, the lifestyle) was just way more fun than Biology was. I enjoyed that it challenged and trained my analytical abilities, that there was very little memorization involved, and that it taught me not just how to solve a particular problem, but to solve it efficiently and elegantly. I found great camaraderie in my interesting classmates, and generous support from my professors. It taught me to take pride in everything I ever created (ranging from computer code, websites and math proofs, to outside interests in music and art) – that everything that was worth doing, was worth doing well. There was a great energy in the faculty, with new and exciting projects being unveiled on the internet, (it seemed) almost every other day. It was all so exciting that none of it ever felt like actual work. And so, before not too long, I switched my major to Computer-Science after completing the core basic science courses required for medical school. With respect to Medicine, I decided to keep my options open, and continued to further explore my interest in Computer Science.
After graduating in 2000, I worked for Matrox Imaging (in Montreal) for 2 years as an Applications Engineer. It was here that I first got exposed to the tremendous relevance of Computer Science in modern Medicine. I got a first-hand look at the nuts and bolts behind Endoscope machines, as well as Ultrasound and MRI imaging systems. I saw how Computer Graphics, Computer Imaging, Computational Geometry and various other CS fields were directly applicable to a radiologist's ability to diagnose disease pathologies in patients, or a surgeon's ability to locate and resect a potentially fatal tumor mass. Finally, I saw how I could perhaps combine both of my academic interests.
I returned to McGill Computer Science in 2002 to do a Master's degree in CS. I took courses in Computer Imaging, Artificial Intelligence and Computer Graphics, and graduated with a thesis in Computer Graphics in 2004 under the supervision of Dr. Allison Klein. Again, as I had found in undergrad, I found tremendous support and guidance from the faculty when I told them that I was interested in a career in a Medicine. With their help, and a bit of work from my end, I got accepted into Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia in the fall of 2005.
Today, in my second year of medical school, I often think about the path that led me here. In class, when the radiologists show us the latest imaging techniques, while my classmates sit there baffled, I know exactly how that image was created, its advantages and disadvantages. In the hospitals, when looking at electronic patient charts, I am at ease with all the database modalities. While reading medical literature, when I see an estimation equation, I know immediately how I could improve upon it. When learning to manage patients, I automatically start to formulate the most efficient algorithmic approach in my mind. Above all, during all those late nights in the library, I think back to all the long hours I have spent in the computer labs at McGill. It makes me glad to have had a background in Computer Science, for it is the analytical skills, technological prowess, stamina and work ethic that I have gained from it that I think will ultimately make me a better physician for my patients.