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Group aimed at helping students get into med school returns to Cape Breton University

Mykel Denny of Eskasoni First Nation has revived a pre-med society at Cape Breton University for students looking to enter the medical profession.  (Erin Pottie/CBC - image credit)
Mykel Denny of Eskasoni First Nation has revived a pre-med society at Cape Breton University for students looking to enter the medical profession. (Erin Pottie/CBC - image credit)

A Cape Breton University student has revived a peer group aimed at getting more students into medicine.

Mykel Denny of Eskasoni First Nation is studying biology at the Sydney, N.S., campus in hopes of one day becoming a doctor.

The 40-year-old previously worked as a massage therapist, but saw a chance at doing more to help Nova Scotia's health-care system.

"There was always this small bit of me that says, 'I want to do more, I want to be able to help people more,'" said Denny.

Last summer, Denny stumbled across a web page that mentioned a CBU pre-med society and later approached his lab instructor about the peer-support group — only to be told it had been left in a lurch by COVID restrictions and a lack of interest.

Denny started spreading the word about the group and it soon grew to about 40 members. Most students need support to enter the medical profession because it requires following so many protocols and procedures, Denny added.

Daunting process

"It is a very scary and tedious process. But having a team or a group of people you can fall back on is such a huge benefit for anybody.

"What we're trying to do is be able to offer prep material for the MCAT [medical college admission test] so that people will be a little bit more confident once they walk into write ... as well as giving students opportunities to practise interview skills."

Kellie White is a senior lab instructor at CBU who has helped guide pre-med students since 2005. Since she started as a faculty adviser, White has seen at least 25 students go on to study medicine.

White said being prepared helps students overcome their fears.

"I think knowing those supports are in place might make people see this as something that's achievable," she said.

White said students have not formally met to discuss plans, but are considering launching a podcast that could offer interviews and mentorship from people who have already navigated the medical school process.

Community outreach

Denny hopes the group will become involved in community outreach by visiting local high schools and encouraging teens to consider medicine as a profession.

In October, CBU launched its own media campaign in hopes of drumming up support for the creation of a medical school at its campus.

The university's president has said that the initiative would help address the shortage of doctors in Nova Scotia, where tens of thousands of residents don't have a family physician.

Currently, students who want to study medicine in Nova Scotia must enrol in classes offered by Dalhousie University.

Denny was ecstatic to hear about CBU's proposal as it would mean more students studying medicine on the island with the potential for a new learning hospital in the future that would allow more local patients to access emergency care.

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