Jumping into the pool that day, Megan Van Gorp did not expect that the next hour would play a major role in changing her life.
The Bachelor of Medical Sciences student had been a lifeguard and swimming teacher for more than six years but wasn’t sure what to expect with her newest student. The young girl splashing around in the water before her had cochlear implants and hearing aids which were removed when in the pool.
Van Gorp knew that building trust was paramount as she searched her mind for the best way to communicate with and teach her enthusiastic student.
“She really inspired me. I wanted to find common ground between us so she could learn,” said Van Gorp, who ended up creating laminated instruction sheets with diagrams to connect with her student.
On June 19, Van Gorp will join more than 300,000 Western alumni living around the world as a newly minted graduate and member of the Western Class of 2020.
A native of Southwestern Ontario, Van Gorp grew up on a farm in Denfield, Ont., located about 20 kilometres north of Western’s campus. The second eldest of four children and with an adventurous spirit, Van Gorp always loved science and spent her summers seeking out unique experiences that allowed her to connect with the communities around her.
For as long as she could remember, she wanted to be a doctor.
“All through school, I stuck with biology, chemistry and physics and applied to Western and the medical sciences program because it sounded like it would be a great entry to medicine,” she said.
Focused on her goal to attend medical school and admittedly consumed with grades, Van Gorp chose the Interdisciplinary Medical Sciences module.
Completing courses in biochemistry and pharmacology and expanding her knowledge of histology, biochemical assays and medical imaging, Van Gorp didn’t expect she would also develop her critical analysis, problem-solving and communications skills.
“I like how the program taught me how to critically analyze problems from a multifaceted viewpoint and perspective; I was taught why something was occurring in a lab and to also understand that failure is an opportunity to learn and grow,” she said.
She says the two capstone faculty members, professors Sarah McLean and Nicole Campbell, worked as a team to ensure the success of their students and to appreciate the learning experience.
“The program is integrative, foundational and unforgettable,” she said.
Determined to attain her lifelong goal, Van Gorp wrote the MCAT twice. She fully expected to feel excitement after receiving a strong result after her second attempt but was left feeling numb.
“I thought I would be relieved,” she said. “I remember the day that I got the score and I didn’t feel happy or excited. I wondered if maybe medicine wasn’t for me.”
For Van Gorp accepting that medical school wasn’t the only pathway forward was one of the biggest challenges she had to overcome in the past four years.
It was around this time that Van Gorp met young her young swimming student. She says the experience helped her to realize that there were other opportunities to work in health care. With support and guidance from her mother, she began to investigate the Master of Clinical Science in audiology program.
The more she learned about the program, the more enthusiastic she became about her future. After shadowing an audiologist, she applied and was accepted into Western’s two-year program.
“It all came together,” she said. “I knew I wasn’t excited about medical school, and I was so inspired by my students, and I really didn’t even know about audiology, but it really all worked out.”
Reflecting on her experience, the new graduate is proud of the academic confidence she has gained during the past four years. She says that in her first year she was terrified to talk to professors or to participate in her classes. Her program and the past four years provided the lessons she needed to grow personally and professionally.
“I feel extremely fortunate, honoured and humbled to have had four years at Western,” she said. “I’ve met so many people and enjoyed the incredible sense of community that exists on campus. I feel fortunate and blessed to be a Western alumna.”