VIU Science Degree Provides Solid Foundation for Medical School

January 23, 2014 - 1:30am

There's no doubt in Nathan Stefani's mind that small universities offer quality education for students.

Stefani graduated from Vancouver Island University (VIU) with a Bachelor of Science (major in Biology) in June, 2013. Now he's pursuing a lifelong dream to become a medical doctor.

With top marks from VIU, Stefani was accepted into the Island Medical Program (IMP) of the University of BC’s (UBC) School of Medicine. He spent the first semester in Vancouver at the UBC campus, surrounded by 287 other first year medical students.

Living in the big city was “life-changing” – his first experience living away from the familiarity of Nanaimo and Vancouver Island.

“The greatest thrills of my first semester came in the anatomy labs where the mysteries of the human body were revealed before our own eyes and scalpels,” he says.

“It’s difficult to express the awe you feel when you have the privilege of looking inside a human cadaver. The intricacies of the human form are truly astounding.”

Stefani moved to Victoria earlier this month where he’ll spend the next three and a half years following the UBC curriculum in a more intimate and community-based setting.

With a smaller class (only 32) and strong support from IMP staff and second year students, Stefani feels like part of a family.

“This concept of a supportive, family-like learning environment is not strange to me,” he says. “It was much the same at VIU, where I was provided with the best undergraduate education I could have hoped for.

“My preparedness for the reality of medical school is due to the support and expertise of VIU staff and faculty. It wasn't merely the subjects that were taught, it was the enthusiasm and skill with which they were taught that made learning at VIU so valuable,” he says.

“I have said it before, I am thankful that I called VIU home for four years, and it is an honour to now be considered VIU alumni.”

Stefani, a graduate of Dover Bay Secondary School in Nanaimo, recommends high school students consider attending a small university to complete their undergraduate education.

He chose VIU because it was close to home. As a top high school student, he received a VIU President’s Entrance Scholarship available to students on Vancouver Island. By maintaining a high grade point average, Stefani's scholarship was renewed for four years, totalling more than $20,000.

Stefani also enjoyed student life at VIU by serving as a student ambassador and student rep for the Faculty of Science & Technology. He also co-founded the VIU chapter of Students Offering Support (SOS), a student run organization that tutors first and second year science students and funds community development projects in Latin America.

Stefani says he appreciated VIU’s small class sizes, abundant lab time and student research opportunities that were “well beyond what undergrads could hope for at bigger institutions.”

A highlight for Stefani was winning an Undergraduate Summer Research Award from the Natural Sciences Engineering Research Council of Canada, and spending a summer working alongside VIU faculty researchers in the Centre for Shellfish Research studying shellfish and genomics.

“This opportunity provided me with exposure to cutting edge science, quality instruments and advanced lab skills,” all of which provided an excellent foundation for medical school.

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