Gabby Schoettle, a first-year medical student at Western University, was 8 years old when she lost her mother to breast cancer. In high school, when her father’s health started deteriorating, she took on the role of making meals for her younger brother and caring for her father. In her final year of high school, her father passed away. She and her brother had to work to pay the mortgage. “We had to learn a lot of things on the fly,” says Ms. Schoettle.
The experience of losing both her parents far too early was one of the reasons that drove Ms. Schoettle to want to be a doctor, to prevent and relieve suffering. During her undergraduate years, she took a research position at a lab at Victoria Hospital and waited tables at a pub evenings and weekends. She wrote the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) with little time to study, nor the money to spend on an MCAT preparatory course.
She applied to every medical school in Ontario and was accepted at one – Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. In 2018, the year before Ms. Schoettle applied, the school lowered its threshold for MCAT scores and introduced an autobiography section into the application process, giving students like Ms. Schoettle an opportunity to highlight aspects of her life that a CV doesn’t normally reveal – like her experience caregiving, her resiliency and her maturity. She’d made it this far without many of the family supports taken as a given by other candidates.