Welcoming UBC’s largest group of first year Aboriginal medical students

Dexter James (Metis) and Kelly Lynn Soros (Metis) always dreamed of attending medical school. Motivated by both family members and practitioners in their communities, these two young Aboriginal students realized their dream and were admitted as part of the UBC Faculty of Medicine’s MD class of 2019.

On Saturday, August 29th, James and Soros, along with 12 other Aboriginal medical students, one midwifery student and one physiotherapy student, attended the Aboriginal Admissions Orientation at the First Nations Longhouse This annual event is part of the larger MD program orientation. The morning started with an ice breaking game followed by words of wisdom about the drum and a drum making workshop led by Shoshone Elder Oldhands of California. They day ended with a traditional feast shared with a few faculty members and senior medical students.

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Students participate in a traditional drum making session led by Elder Old Hands.

“Making the drums was by far the highlight for me,” says James. “I have had several hides in the freezer for quite some time that I intended to make drum from but had never been shown how to do so. Now, because Oldhands shared his knowledge, I will be able to utilize those hides. It really excites me to finally have learned a technique that is so engrained in our culture.”

Soros agrees. “I love my drum so much (although) I am sure my neighbours don’t,” she jokes. “I really appreciate being able to learn from Elder Oldhands. That was amazing. The entire day was a great experience.”

James and Soros are part of UBC’s largest group of first year Aboriginal medical students. This year, 15 first year students were admitted. The previous record was 12.

“Part of our mandate is to admit a student body who is representative of British Columbia and the diverse communities our future doctors will serve,” says Dr. Bruce Fleming, Associate Dean of Admissions. “However, our admissions process is competitive and entrance standards are closely comparable for all students.”

37 Aboriginal students applied to the UBC MD program this year. Of those applicants, 33 qualified for interviews and 17 were sent offer letters.

James can’t wait to begin his studies and, in particular, is looking forward to getting out into the community and working with patients. “I am really looking forward to getting some hands on experience,” he explains. “The preceptorship, clinical experiences and FLEX portions of the curriculum should provide a good foundation of clinical procedures and applications.”

Soros is equally excited. “I am really looking forward to learning the science behind medicine and then being able to start applying it in clinical settings. I also can’t wait to begin interacting with patients and getting to know them.”

Both students say they hope to live and work in British Columbia, once their studies are complete.