In this latest edition of our alumni spotlight, we are excited to introduce you to Trinity alum Dr. Kirk Vannitamby. With a background in engineering and a passion for medicine, Dr. Vannitamby stayed the course. And it paid off. He is excited to let everyone know he matched with his number one choice, Western University located in London, Ontario, Canada. You can join Dr. Vannitamby for an online information session May 27th – Click here to register.
What’s your academic background?
I always had a passion for Engineering in its most basic form, which is why I went to the University of Waterloo in Ontario for Mechanical Engineering. After scoring one of the best co-op placements in the country for Aeronautical Engineering, I quickly came to realize that a significant part of an Engineer’s career is spent behind a desk. That simply wasn’t the life I had envisioned for myself. Having always had a deep hunger to learn, I ended up switching into a science major at UW instead.
What brought you into medicine?
Truthfully, I sort of stumbled upon it. My story isn’t your typical tale of realizing I wanted to be a physician by the age of five.
After graduating with my Bachelor’s degree from the University of Waterloo, my father and I founded a plastic bag company in the Caribbean. Once our business was up and running, I realized that I simply wasn’t done learning. I discovered there was a local medical school nearby that would allow me to pursue an education in medicine, all while tending to business.
Why did you choose Trinity and what ultimately helped you make the decision?
The trouble with some of the Caribbean medical schools out there is that not all of them have their students’ best interests at heart. I was in the middle of clinical clerkships when my former school was going through some serious accreditation issues. These issues could have severely impacted my medical career and prevented me from entering the Match. Having rotated with Trinity students at the time, who raved about their experience, helped solidify my decision to transfer to Trinity.
The difference in Trinity’s leadership was immediately apparent. I was able to complete core clerkships seamlessly and apply for away electives at competitive residency programs both in the States and Canada without any issues. The support students receive from Trinity’s faculty is merely outstanding. You get the sense that they genuinely care about you – not just as a student but as a person.
St. Vincent is a big transition from Canada. How was it?
While I’ve never been to St. Vincent, I spent my first two years of medical school in the Caribbean, nonetheless. As I mentioned previously, I had already spent a considerable amount of time on the island before starting school. So in that regard, I was slightly better adjusted than most other students. But at the end of the day, you’re here for one reason only, medical school. Your classroom settings are small, and you have an immense workload, so find activities that relieve stress and bring you joy. My classmate (and future wife) and I used to train like maniacs in a dingy little island gym if you could even call it that. However, that place quickly became our sanctuary. Whenever we weren’t studying or exploring the island, you could find us in the gym. Being in the Caribbean sometimes means that you don’t have access to some of the things you’re used to back home. But we would make do with what we had, and it was a blast! From finding an old tire on the side of the road and rolling it all the way back home to use for workouts to running to the beach and back before school, we had the time of our lives!
Any particular memories of your time at Trinity?
Possibly the most humbling and proud moment of my life happened as I was completing my surgical core clerkship at Northwest Hospital in Baltimore. The hospital staff threw a pizza party in my honor to show their appreciation of how I treated everyone with kindness and respect – traits they felt had been lost by many medical students over the years. Something as simple as smiling and saying “Hello!” to everyone I encountered had impressed the administration more than any scores or clinical skills ever could have. It doesn’t matter whether somebody is the chief of surgery or the custodian cleaning the hallways, everyone appreciates a simple smile and a helping hand. This is a recognition that I’m most proud of to this day because it was completely unexpected – I had simply been myself.
Where did you match?
I matched into Orthopedic Surgery at my #1 choice – Western University in London, Ontario.
What drew you to your specialty?
Some might say I am the stereotypical “orthopod”: Tall, athletic, and good with tools. But what drew me to orthopedics is much more than that. Growing up with a mechanic and handyman as a father, there was always a problem that needed solving, a process that needed optimizing or a system that needed enhancing. From an early age, I was forced to think outside of the box and come up with innovative solutions – things that textbooks can’t teach you. Those traits translated into various creative outlets for me – from creating music and art to excelling academically, I have always actively sought out challenges.
Orthopedic Surgery is much more than just playing bone crusher or hammering in a nail or two. You have to be able to think mechanically and use or create tools to achieve functionality and well-being. It is one of the most rewarding fields of medicine. Patients report improvement and enhanced quality of life very soon after surgery – the instant gratification you receive is unlike any other specialty.
Orthopedic Surgery was simply the perfect match for me.
Any specific advice for Canadians looking to head back home?
Away electives, away electives, away electives. I can’t stress that enough.
If you want to come back home to Canada, you have to actively seek opportunities to stand out from the rest of the pack. Away electives at university programs are a way to get your foot in the door. The rest is simple: Outwork the competition.
Do you have any advice for current or future Trinity students?
Realize that it’s going to be hard – simply because you’re a Caribbean medical student. Work harder than the person next to you. Show up earlier than everybody else. Leave later. Treat people with respect. Be kind. Show compassion.