This volunteer could be your next family doctor

865

Gang Zhou dreamed of becoming a doctor, but he didn’t know where to start.

It was 2013 and Gang had just moved to Canada. It was a new experience for Gang, who was born and grew up in China. Fresh out of medical school, he’d decided to join his mom who had immigrated in 2011.

But now Gang was in a new country with no idea how to make his dreams come true.

“I wanted to be a doctor in Canada but I had no information,” he explains. “I didn’t know how to follow the steps. A friend of mine told me to be a volunteer at the hospital and get to know the procedures. So I applied.”

MORE: USING EVIDENCE TO EXAMINE THE SAFETY OF GARDASIL

‘The hospital’ turned out to be Lakeridge Health. One of Ontario’s largest community hospitals, Lakeridge Health is located just east of Toronto in Durham Region. It boasts a strong volunteer program with opportunities for students and adults.

Wanting to help people and learn more about the medical system in Canada, Gang submitted his application.

“I applied for a long time,” Gang says, explaining that the hospital didn’t have any open opportunities at first. “It took me five months to start.”

Eventually, a spot opened in Lakeridge Health’s cancer centre. Gang eagerly accepted. Each week, he’d show up to help cancer patients sign in for their appointments using the centre’s computer kiosks.

“Each time a person needs help or has a question, I prefer to smile first then give the answer,” says Gang. “A smile means I would love to help from inside of me. They always smile back to me, therefore we both feel very good.”

MORE: MOVING TOWARDS DIFFERENT HEALTH CARE FUNDING MODELS

Being in the hospital environment strengthened Gang’s resolve to become a doctor in Canada. With some research, he learned there were two exams to pass followed by a residency.

“My next step is to take the Medical Council of Canada Evaluating Exam,” says Gang. “It’s the first exam to be a doctor and it’s on May 16th of this year. I’m excited and nervous!”

After some time in the cancer centre, Gang switched to a new role serving coffee, tea and baked goods in the hospital’s volunteer-run Auxiliary Café. It was a better fit with his schedule, and Gang enjoyed helping the many patients, doctors and hospital staff members who were customers of the café.

Through his volunteer shifts, Gang befriended one of the hospital’s doctors. “He always buys a tea there so I talked with him,” explains Gang. The doctor extended an unexpected offer: would Gang like to shadow him and see first-hand what it was like to be a doctor in Canada?

Gang accepted enthusiastically and began shadowing the doctor every Monday morning. “I’m learning a lot from him,” says Gang. “Lakeridge Health is a wonderful place. The doctors, nurses and all of the employees who work here are all very nice.”

MORE: VOLUNTEERS HELPING PUSH RESEARCH FORWARD

Although he has a challenging road ahead of him, Gang is more confident than ever with his decision to become a doctor in Canada. “I really want to help people,” he says. “I want to be a family doctor. Family doctors work hard for their patients and they need to know a lot.”

And is there a place for Lakeridge Health in his future?

“I’ve met a lot of friends at the coffee kiosk and the cancer centre and I have a wonderful time with them. I would love to keep volunteering if I have time,” says Gang. “But if not, when I retire I would love to go back to volunteering.”