Laura Wells

Health Studies Alumni
Laura Wells

What has been your pathway since graduation?

After graduating from the University of Waterloo, I started medical school at Queen’s University the following fall of 2019. Throughout medical school I was drawn to primary care and preventative healthcare, which led me to pursue a specialty that combined both of these passions.

Throughout the last few years of medical school I was involved with a research project looking at the emergency department care experiences of equity-deserving groups in Kingston, Ontario. The goal of the project is to improve the care experiences of groups that have been traditionally disadvantaged in the healthcare system. I was involved in data collection, an independent project looking at the experiences of youth with a mental health concern, and co-authored a publication on perspectives of care experiences for people with a mental health concern. It was such a privilege to learn from individuals who continue to work towards improving care experiences of equity-deserving groups. 

I just completed my final year of medical school, and I will be starting my residency program in Public Health and Preventive Medicine including Family Medicine at Queen’s.  

How did your time in the School of Public Health Sciences (SPHS) help you get to where you are today?

My degree at Waterloo has been extremely influential on my career. It was really the combination of co-op experiences, coupled with the coursework unique to the Health Studies program at Waterloo, that led me to pursue medicine.  My co-op work experiences exposed me to the opportunities within the field of healthcare, and the coursework exposed me to topics like the “Advanced Studies in Social Determinants of Health”.  These experiences motivated me to become a physician to understand and influence health through a biopsychosocial lens.

During my time in medical school, I was able to build on what I’d learned about health at Waterloo, which led to an early interest in family medicine as a specialty.  Additionally, my passion for preventative medicine, health promotion and various determinants of health motivated me to pursue additional training in public health and preventive medicine.

My background in Health Studies motivated me to pursue this specialty, and I hope to have an impact on health both at the individual level as a Family Physician, and at the population level as a Public Health Specialist.  

All this to say, my degree prepared me and influenced my career decisions, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without everything I learned at the University of Waterloo! 

What advice do you have for students interested in your field?

I did not realize I wanted to become a physician until my 3rd year of undergrad, as it was mainly my work and volunteer experiences that made me realize it was the field for me, but I learned it is never too late to pursue a career in medicine.

My advice to students interested in going to medical school would be:

  • Reflect on your career goals and what it means to you to be a physician and let that shine through on your applications
  • Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get in the first time! I know many people who applied to medical school multiple times before getting in, and had extremely rewarding experiences in graduate school, working, and more during the time between graduating and getting in
  • Medicine is a career of lifelong learning, so if it is the career for you, try to view it as a marathon and not a sprint
  • Keep an open mind throughout your journey.  Your path won’t necessarily be straightforward, and there is nothing wrong with that.  Remember you are exactly where you are supposed to be at a given moment.  

After medical school, I think one of the most important skills for a physician to possess is great communication. Having the ability to ask the right questions while providing patients with a safe environment and therapeutic validation is one of the most important things doctors can do to help people. Additionally, doctors have a lot of documenting to do, so it is essential to be able to write a clear and concise patient notes.  Having the opportunity to develop these skills early on through work-terms and coursework at Waterloo allowed me to easily communicate with a variety of patient populations and other healthcare providers. 

What has been the greatest lesson learned since graduation?

The greatest lesson I have learned since graduating is to enjoy every moment along your journey, whatever that looks like. In my career thus far, I have found that it is very easy to get caught up in looking at the next hurdle to overcome and forget to enjoy the milestones along the way. For me, it was always “I just need to get into medical school then I can relax” which then became “I just need to finish this rotation”, and then “I just need to get into residency”. Now, as I prepare to graduate again and move onto the next stage of my career, I’ve learned to enjoy living in the moment.  I’ve learned how important it is to celebrate each milestone, and to savor moments both on the job and outside with the people who matter most. 

Learn more about me!