A Blog About An Asian Medical Student. Yes that's redundant.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

An International Student's Road to Medical School

When we think of Asian medical student, we usually think of highly pressured shells of social liveless calculators, who are able to find a sustinance on rice, Spam, and piano lessons.

Then they kick our ass on the MCAT and become the best damn Internists and Surgeons possible.

The more liberal ones? We do family medicine through the shamed whispered tones under our family's beguilment.

Today I tell you the story of another type of Asian medical student.

The kind you don't usually think of.

The kind - from Asia.


Growing up, I was told about a young kid who was born in mainland China. During that time period, certain goverment policies made living difficult for people of particular educational backgrounds.

Anyone notice how politically sensitive I wrote that?

Toyin's family was unable to make a good living where he was born, so they subsequently left the small town he was born, relocate in Hong Kong when he was a child.

As the only male child in an Asian family of four children, his destiny was clear: medicine.

Bring face to the family, take them out of poverty. Medicine is to Asian people what sunlight is to flowers - life itself.

And that is where Toyin's story begins.

By the time he was 16, working multiple jobs and keeping together the shattered remains of a broken family, Toyin was sponsered by an uncle to go to Canada.

He had some family in Alberta - his grandfather came during the end of railroad construction and owned a restaurant. He was told Canada was full of gold. Full of opportunity.

That was where the future would be.

Toyin's uncle sponsered him to go to Edmonton. Shortly after he arrived, the uncle passed away.

And then the young man was alone.

Poverty stricken and alone, he worked odd jobs at restaurants and put himself through school. For a time he took work in camps, but ultimately his focus was on the same dream it had always been.

The dream of being a doctor.

He sent back what money he could to his mom back in Hong Kong, to take care of his sisters. He worked and he worked, but in an all too familiar plight,

his marks through high school were not that great. His university marks were adequate, but not super strong.

So he did what any aspireing medical student would do.

He went into pharmacy.

Complething his degree, he worked as a pharmacist for a few short years. He made good money, had a good life.

But he knew he had a dream. He knew it wasn't money or lifestyle that draws people to what he wanted to do.

He wanted to be a doctor due to the passion he had for it.

And that didn't change.

His relatives scoffed at him. As a wealthy pharmacist, why throw away time on another career?

He still fought on.

His relatives laughed at him. Was he stupid? He had a great career already, the money he needed. What else could he want.

He still fought on.

The Road to Medical School continues, irrespective of adversities. The heart of someone who wants to be a doctor, is the heart that drives someone to become a doctor.

He still fought on.

So as is dictated for a pharmacist, he did the logical - applied to medical school.

And he didnt' get in.

As if the fates were using him as a case study for medical students, his path

that had him struggle through university

that had him rejected from medicine

that had him become a pharmacist

that had him rejected from medicine again

led him to what we all know is the unshakable natural progression;

pay a lot of money to go to an International Medical School.

Having gone back to Asia, Toyin applied his work ethic to complete his MD. He found a doctor wife, and she travelled back to Canada with him.

They became married, and they started a life together.

As they were completing their residencies, an unexpected turn of events rocked their lives.

A baby boy was born.

And their lives stopped for a moment. The wife stopped her psychiatry residency, the husband stopped training to be an internist.

Family medicine. Pun and all.

Their world expanded, a beautiful daughter was introduced, their careers bloomed to be professionals well loved in their homes.

Honour was brought to their families.

A great life was built.

So much thanks to the Road traveled in medicine.


He became the director of a large Canadian medical organization. His family's medical business expanded.

And then...

His life took another turn.

His family broke apart.

His business went under seige.

His credibility questioned.


He still fought on.

And he will never give up.


My father's full name is Dr. Edward Toyin Poon.

An established doctor for 25 years.

He currently is under trial for sexual assault.

He has lived a life that has spanned the world, started a family, built an empire, and helped countless lives.

All from one dream.

To be a doctor.

Today is Father's Day - a time to reflect on the male role models we have had in our lives. Whose stories have affected us in particular ways, sometimes for the better, sometimes elsewise.

Regardless of how difficult, challenging, and changing times we have in our lives, there are some unshakable truths.

We are alive. We have a mother. We have a father.

Dr. Edward Toyin Poon is my father.

He is my dad.

He will always be.

- David

1 comment:

  1. I was thinking about you yesterday David. Thanks for posting.