Celebrating the Medicine Class of 2015 with Erica Lee
The beat-up ’95 Pontiac Grand Am pulls off the Michigan highway in defeat, lost in an endless patchwork of road closures and poorly signed traffic detours.
Behind the wheel, Erica Lee glances at the time and a wave of panic rips through her chest. She is on route to her first official attempt at the MCAT, and she is starting to realize it might not happen.
She’d studied hard for months and even practised the route to the test centre twice ahead of time, just to be safe. But through a series of unfortunate events – temperamental border guards and a vehicle search among them – her unwavering faith in becoming a physician is now shaken.
Maybe she’s not meant to be a doctor. Not meant to tack on the letters MD to her name…
That was eight years ago. And the only thing that now stands between Lee and those much sought-after post-nominal letters is a Convocation ceremony.
She is one of 165 students graduating from the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry as the Medicine Class of 2015 on Friday, May 15 at Western University’s Alumni Hall.
Lee will graduate with an impressive legacy. She was Class President throughout all four years at the School. “I’ve been so happy to serve my class in this role,” she said.
A strong advocate for student health and wellness, one of Lee’s biggest accomplishments was the development of a clerkship kit. Given out at the beginning of third year, the kit includes personal hygiene products, a mindfulness meditation CD and useful tools to use in clinical practice.
“I wanted to provide something small, but helpful at this stressful, uncertain time in a medical student’s life,” she said.
The Ontario Medical Students Association (OMSA) soon jumped on board with her idea, and the kit is now distributed to every clerk in Ontario.
Another self-described claim to fame for Lee was her appearance on Schulich Medicine’s hit mock morning show “Samer and Amrit in the Morning”, the brainchild of two classmates (the aforementioned Samer and Amrit). Based on a spoof from NBC’s comedy show Community, Samer and Amrit interviewed classmates between lectures at various points during the school year. Part infomercial, part public service announcement, the show created a sense of camaraderie among the class.
“I was their first guest,” Lee remembered with a grin. “It was such an awesome way to get to know everyone and find out more about the people we sat beside every day.”
This type of originality and imagination wasn’t unusual for the Medicine Class of 2015 during their four years at the School. The group’s Tachycardia performances were legendary.
And scrolling through the dedicated class Facebook page reveals a treasured archive of video clips, dramatic essays and photos, showcasing a common penchant for the arts. Everything from music to dancing to poetry is now forever memorialized in the Class of 2015’s digital history.
One post in particular stands out on the page – a group of Lee’s classmates appearing in a humorous ode to her presidency, all to the tune of American Pie by folk rocker Don McLean.
“That’s the spirit of our class – fun, easy going, supportive,” Lee explained. “Everyone is incredibly creative and talented. And they’re involved out of interest or passion, not because they want to pad their CV or win an award.”
In her role as Class President, Lee fostered this sense of community. “I’m glad I was given the opportunity to lead the class. Although I don’t think I really did lead them; they don’t really need leading,” she said with a laugh. “Sure I’m ‘el president,’ but my class did a lot of the work.”
Lee is no stranger to hard work. She completed an undergraduate degree at the University of Windsor, followed by a master’s in biomedical engineering at Western.
The 27-year-old was the first in her family to graduate from university, followed closely by her siblings. To support her pursuit of higher education, Lee worked two or three part-time jobs throughout her high school and undergraduate years.
It was a high school mentor that first planted the seed about a career in medicine. Mr. Kelly, a biology teacher, started calling her Dr. Lee in Grade 11 due to her inquisitive nature and fondness for asking tenacious questions.
“He recognized my potential even when I didn’t,” she said. “At that time medical school seemed like such a big hurdle.”
Come this July, Lee will be conquering another hurdle. She is starting a five-year residency in emergency medicine at the University of Ottawa. “I like to be busy and I like the variety of patients. There’s never an empty emergency room,” she said.
Her residency includes a special year designated for additional training or educational pursuits, a unique feature of emergency medicine programs in Canada. Lee is planning to use this opportunity to pursue a master’s in public health and health policy. “Mr. Kelly also used to tell me that I’m going to change the face of Canadian health care someday,” she noted. “And I’d like to prove him right.”
At the conclusion of her well-earned medical degree and whirlwind experience at Schulich Medicine, Lee is reflective yet optimistic.
“Ending this chapter and saying goodbye is very sad for me,” she said. “But my classmates are all amazing human beings and I know we are moving on to bright futures.”
The Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry congratulates Erica and the entire Medicine Class of 2015 on their incredible achievements during the past four years and on their graduation.