From Management to Medicine: McGill Medical student’s career change has an interesting connection with The Montreal Children’s Hospital

Twenty eight year-old Leigh Chantal Pharand didn’t always have plans to become a doctor. The fourth year McGill Medical student with a previous degree in commerce had her sights set on a career in business consulting before she ever donned scrubs and a stethoscope.
But during a team-building volunteer day that she organized in her former role as a business professional at a management consulting firm, Ms. Pharand recalls feeling a new sense of satisfaction. She and her colleagues spent the day with young oncology patients, creating a Harry Potter themed event. It became more than just a volunteer exercise for Ms. Pharand; it was a glimpse into the future.
After two years in the business consulting industry, it became clear that although she enjoyed the challenges of her current job, something didn’t feel quite right. It was time for a change.
Soon afterwards, Ms. Pharand, a Montreal native from a family of business professionals, decided to go back to school to complete a number of science classes. She also applied for a volunteering position at the MCH, where she worked on 6C1 and 6C2 two half days per week.
The experience, she says, only reinforced her wish to study medicine at McGill, and she was admitted to the Faculty of Medicine in the spring of 2008. “What it came down to was a question of values,” she says of her career change, “in business, your values may not always be aligned with your client’s, but in medicine, the bottom line is that everyone wants what is best for the patient.”
It’s in chatting about this steadfast commitment to putting patients first that stirs up the most passion in this ambitious soon-to-be doctor, as she recalls some of the patients she has met along the way that have taught her some of her most valuable professional and personal lessons.
One experience she recalls fondly was during a recent rotation in pediatrics at the MCH in the Short Stay Unit, which she completed this past September. “I had the opportunity to work with very inspiring physicians, in particular, on a somewhat challenging case with a three-year-old boy who required several hospitalizations for respiratory distress and asthma-like symptoms; he needed a series of investigations and tests from many of the MCH departments,” says Ms. Pharand.
“One of the physicians I worked with demonstrated strong patient-centered approach to medicine and really took the time to comfort the patient’s mother, which I thought mirrored what medical students should aspire to do as physicians…and it really inspired me.”
Now in her final year of medical school, Ms. Pharand says that working at The Children’s was unlike any other clinical experience she has had to date. And while she admits having toyed with the idea of specializing in pediatric medicine, she says she hopes to devote her residency to family medicine, balancing adult care “with a lot of peds!”