A wild road to medicine

By George Ardy, BA'15

Picture this scenario. You and about 10 others are dropped off in the Arctic with only canoes and camping gear.

You're given a destination approximately 1,300 kilometres away from your current location and told there are no check-points along the way. Any and all medical emergencies will be up to you to handle.

Are you panicking yet? Well North de Pencier, Medicine Class of 2019, would most likely be celebrating, because it means another summer as a canoe trip guide for Camp Wanapitei is about to begin.

De Pencier has been involved with Camp Wanapitei since 2007, as a participant and a leader of canoe trips that can last for up to two months. She has held a Wilderness First Responder certification since her first summer with the camp, which enables her to provide basic medical care, such as reducing dislocated joints.

“The thing that really got me interested in medicine were the emergencies and injuries that happen on these trips,” de Pencier explained. “When things go wrong I’m often the only emergency response until a helicopter or boat arrives, and that can take a really long time. It was a great way to get a lot of hands-on medical experience.”

The trips have given de Pencier more than just experience providing emergency care. She is grateful for the lessons about responsibility and teamwork.

“It has been the most intense and powerful teamwork experience I’ve ever had,” she remarked. “Participants are 17 or 18 years old and on the cusp of adulthood, so we can make a really great team.”

De Pencier was attracted to Schulich Medicine & Dentistry because she had been studying away from Canada since 2007 and wanted to be close to home for a change.

“I was really excited to have the opportunity to come back, just to be around my family and my support structure again,” she said.

To date, her most impactful experience at the School has been an observership with urologist Dr. Nicholas Power. She observed at two of his clinics, which gave her a chance to sit in with him while he saw a diverse group of patients.

“Dr. Power talks a lot about the human aspect of medicine and how to be a more caring physician,” said de Pencier. “I really appreciate that level of mentorship and it was a really great reminder of why I’m here. I love being in the hospital, helping and talking to patients.”

De Pencier, much like other first-year students, is keeping an open mind in regards to her future. “I think my primary job at this point is to absorb as much information as possible,” she said. “I think I could be happy doing many different things in medicine, so during my clerkship I just want to find what calls to me the loudest.”

Whatever that turns out to be, it will most likely have to shout over the call of the wild.