Growing up on a dairy farm and pursuing a career as an obstetrician-gynecologist (OB/GYN) may seem like two very different paths. But to Julie Vermeer, the two aren’t all that different.
“I feel that I come by it pretty honestly, since dairy farming is all about pregnancy and lactation after all!” Julie laughs.
Julie ended up in a medical career not by chance, but through her persistence, hard work, and simply pursuing what she is passionate about. Growing up on a dairy farm in St. Andrews, N.S., Julie was exposed to agriculture throughout her life. When it came time for her to choose a post-secondary institution, she was naturally drawn towards studying at Dal's Faculty of Agriculture. Julie had visited the Ag Campus many times through 4-H and was interested in everything the campus had to offer. Although she wanted to study at Dal AC, Julie did not have her career path set in stone.
“When I graduated from high school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do but I knew I wanted to go to university and further my education and keep as many opportunities and options open as possible by working hard,” Julie says.
Making a shift
So how did she go from studying agriculture to medicine?
“I started seriously considering medical school in my third year of my undergrad at Dal AC,” Julie explains.
A passionate sailor, Julie had been sailing on the tall ship Picton Castle on their fifth world circumnavigation when one of her shipmates had an accident while exploring a remote island in the South Pacific. Fortunately, he made a complete recovery but it was then that Julie began considering medicine as a career choice.
“This was the catalyst for my decision to pursue medicine, although it took me a couple years of self-reflection to realize it.” she explains.
Following her newfound appetite for medicine, Julie began to explore her options. She spoke with friends, classmates, family and professors before deciding to apply for medical school.
Now a graduate of University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Medicine, Julie is pursuing her residency in obstetrics and gynecology, a five year program through the University of Saskatchewan in Regina. For Julie, a career as an OB/GYN is exactly what she was looking for.
“It wasn’t until February 2017 that I truly decided that OB/GYN was my calling,” Julie says. “Although I had been mulling over it in my mind for about a year. For me, it’s about the patients I get to work with, the moments I get to share with families and the hands-on aspect of surgery.”
While Julie is truly happy with her career choice, it certainly didn’t come without its fair share of hard work. For Julie, medical school at University of Ottawa was much different than studying science at Dal AC. One of her biggest challenges, and something she urges other graduate students to be aware of, was having to re-develop her study habits.
“I had to learn to study every day instead of just before the exam,” Julie explains.
Rather than taking multiple courses in different areas each semester, medical school at the University of Ottawa was one continuous learning experience with each lecture taught by content experts with different teaching styles and objectives. That meant only writing one exam at the end of each semester but that exam covered a vast amount of material.
“Medical school is often compared to trying to drink from a fire hydrant because there is so much material to learn,” Julie says. “I had to change my study strategy because the strategies I had used at the AC couldn’t keep up with the volume of material I had to learn.”
Embracing challenges, seizing opportunities
Although the road to medical school was not an easy journey, Julie has embraced every obstacle and seized each opportunity which has led her to where she is now. Looking forward to the future, Julie’s goal is to complete her residency program. She ultimately hopes to aim to focus her services on smaller rural communities.
“By the end of my residency, I hope to have developed the skills required to be a competent and confident rural OB/GYN. I hope to be able to provide services to women in smaller communities, where they have support systems in place, instead of requiring travel to larger centres for care,” Julie says.
To future graduates, Julie also emphasizes the importance of networking and seizing opportunities. Julie credits the journey that brought her to medical school to seizing any opportunity that was presented and the support of family, friends, classmates, and professors. Hard work, commitment, dedication and passion, along with an interest in trying new things helped her realize and obtain her dream.
“I encourage everyone to follow their passions, embrace new opportunities that are presented, and to apply themselves 100 per cent,” Julie says. “It might not seem relevant right now, but if you’re passionate about it, you never know what you will learn or where it will take you.”
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