Celebrating the BMSc Class of 2015 with Madison Turk

Madison Turk laced up her skates and donned the purple and white jersey one last time. She was back in familiar territory – her hometown of Calgary.

The stakes were high, and there was a definite note of tension in the air, as Western University’s women’s hockey team took to the ice for the championship game in pursuit of the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) women’s hockey title.

In the final year of her undergraduate studies, Turk knew her hockey career was coming to an end. It had been a great ride. What she didn’t know, as she took those first strides around the rink, was that it was about to get even better.

During the past four years, Western had become Turk’s second home, her teammates had become her soul mates, and she had successfully completed the Bachelor of Medical Sciences (BMSc) program at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry.

While attending Western hadn’t always been part of the plan, studying medical sciences and hockey had figured prominently in Turk’s life for some time.

Following in her big brother’s footsteps, Turk started playing hockey when she was five years old. She played on the boy’s teams until the age of 12, when she switched onto a girl’s team.

Her passion for the sport grew. “I love being on skates, and I love the team aspect of hockey,” she said. “There’s great camaraderie with the team and you can make such great friends.”

Turk is just as passionate about medical sciences as she is about hockey. “I began to develop an interest in science when I was in grade seven,” she said. “I had some really great teachers in middle and high school who encouraged me, and I have loved science ever since.”

With a dream to complete a university degree, and an end-goal of medicine, Turk set her sights on universities in Ontario.

Her coach, Chris Higgins, remembers Turk’s first visit to Western. According to Higgins, Turk arrived in London late one Sunday evening. “I came to the airport to pick her up,” he said. “There was this young 17 year-old, by herself, in a strange town and she handled it all so well. I knew then she was special.”

Turk fell in love with Western. Not only was the BMSc program more than she had hoped for a few weeks later she was offered a coveted spot on the women’s hockey team.

Turk immediately felt at home at Western. And the distance from her family only helped to increase her self-confidence. “I felt so comfortable on campus and even though I was so far away from home, I didn’t ever feel home-sick,” she said.

She also excelled academically. “I loved the program,” she said. “I just got into it, the lectures were amazing for all four years.”

Being a member of the hockey team and maintaining her studies wasn’t always easy, especially during her first year. However, she drew on the skills she had developed in high school and found the balance to having a great academic, social and athletic experience.

The Dean’s Honour Roll student often found herself doing her homework in her hotel room during away games, or on the bus, as the team travelled to games. She wouldn’t have given any of it up. “I don’t think I could have gone through university without playing hockey,” she said.

Turk’s training and hard work in hockey culminated this past season. “This was by far the best year for us,” she said enthusiastically. “Everyone just clicked, both on and off the ice. And we just kept winning.”

Despite their solid record this year, however, the team wasn’t considered the favorite to win the CIS championship.

Buoyed by the cheers of family and friends, Turk and her teammates were determined to prove the doubters wrong.

At the end of the game, Western stood victorious with a 5-0 win over the McGill Martlets. Western had become the CIS Women’s Hockey Champions. In doing so they became only the third OUA team to win the championship, and the first in 10 years.

Being home in Calgary for the championship was the perfect ending to what had been an incredible four-year experience for Turk. “It was very cool to have people watching the games,” she said.

For Turk, all the sacrifices – the missed parties, the late nights studying, and the busy schedule – had been worth it in the end. It was somewhat bittersweet, however, as she knew she had just played her final game.

“I’ll miss everything,” said Turk wistfully, during a phone interview reflecting on her four years at Western. “The campus is amazing and the program was great; I will miss the connections; I will miss the hockey

“She was very special to me,” said Higgins, “and I loved watching her mature during the past four years. Although she has retired from the team my fond memories will remain.”

Now back home in Calgary, Turk is finalizing the details for the master’s program she’s hoping to pursue, working full-time, and volunteering at one of the emergency rooms at a Calgary hospital.

She’s also looking forward to the Calgary Stampede – which just happens to coincide with her birthday.

Turk’s life is changing, but she remains passionate about hockey. And although her jersey and skates now rest comfortably in a back closet, it wouldn’t be surprising if they will once again touch the ice.

The Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry congratulates Madison and the entire BMSc Class of 2015 on their incredible achievements during the past four years and on their graduation.