Nekhil Govender on stage at graduation

This story is part of a series of articles from our University Counsellors highlighting the stories of alumni and the paths they have taken after graduating from SMUS. This final article in a three-part mini series focuses exclusively on pathways to direct-entry medicine not offered in Canada. You can find links to other stories in this series at the bottom of this post.

Nekhil is studying medicine across the Irish Sea at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI). After graduating from SMUS, he began a Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Victoria (UVic). While studying general sciences, Nekhil discovered that his interest lay in the human body and medicine. To learn more about healthcare, Nekhil started working at a community pharmacy on weekends. He discerned that "despite some overlap, pharmacists and doctors play very different roles in patients' lives." While he enjoyed his time at the pharmacy and developed a high regard for pharmacists, Nekhil realized that he actually wanted to learn more about the pathologies behind the prescriptions.

While considering his options for medical school, Nekhil's neighbour recommended the Atlantic Bridge, a centralized application system which allows international students to apply to six medical schools in Ireland. From his research, Nekhil gathered that Irish medical programs range from four to six years and that admissions committees determine which program students are eligible for based on their academic standing. With AP courses and a year at UVic under his belt, Nekhil qualified for a 5-year program. Additionally, the MCAT and GAMSAT were not required.

Nekhil put time and effort into his application, starting with an essay on why he would be an asset to the school of medicine and the medical profession. Like Dave, he opened with a personal story to make his essay more engaging and memorable. With a strong essay, exceptional letters of recommendation and excellent UVic grades, Nekhil landed an interview with RCSI, a health-science-focused university, which is ranked #1 in the world by Times Higher Education based on their contribution to the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goal “Good Health and Well-being."

Nekhil says that balancing academics, athletics and arts at SMUS taught him about time management and instilled a work ethic that prepared him for the intensive pace of medical school. He is enjoying RCSI's curriculum, which includes a case-based learning model, early patient contact, and a simulation lab where he can practice clinical skills in a safe learning environment. Like Dave, Nekhil appreciates RCSI's smaller learning communities, which facilitate close ties between students as well as teachers. 

Beyond lectures and tutorials, students at RCSI can deepen their educational and social experiences through various events, clubs and societies. As the co-founder of the SMUS Green Team, Nekhil gravitated to RCSI's Environmental Society as soon as he arrived on campus. Now serving as the Vice President of the Environmental Society, Nekhil frequently draws on his experiences running the Green Team and is grateful for the foundational leadership skills he acquired at SMUS. 

Nekhil stands in front of the main entrance to the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland

Like SMUS, RCSI is home to a close-knit community. Nekhil shares that "personal tutors check on students to ensure they are doing well, and students support each other." Exams can be pretty grueling, but "RCSI students tend to be well-rounded; they lead a healthy lifestyle, make time for exercise and eat well." They also do get to have their fair share of fun. Nekhil has enjoyed discovering Dublin and exploring other European cities with his peers.

Ireland's medical training is world-class but not inexpensive. Be prepared for tuition fees upwards of 50,000 Euros, not including travel, accommodation or living expenses. Is it worth it? That is an individual decision. For Nekhil, he likes the certainty of the direct entry route and the sheer joy of studying precisely what he is interested in, sooner rather than later. When asked about returning to Canada, Nekhil said, "RSCI understands that most Canadian students wish to return home to practise after graduation." While Canadian medical graduates are given preference for residency spots, current trends show that the number of international medical graduates (IMGs) matching is rising. In 2023, the Canadian Resident Matching Service reported that 555 IMGs matched to residency positions, a significant increase from previous years. The rate is even higher for students who want to work in the US. According to the Atlantic Bridge, the US first-round residency match rate for the RCSI Class of 2020 was 92%.

What was clear was Nekhil's contentment with his choice of degree and place of study. Nekhil believes "medicine is not a career path, but a calling." He recommends that any SMUS students confident about pursuing a medical degree consider a direct entry program in Ireland.

Other stories in this series

Maggie Helmke '18: Food for Thought

Ariel Khoo '21: SMUS Connections, Lessons Continue to Run Deep

Paul Mueller '21: From the BC Rainforest to Germany's Black Forest

Alikhan Seisembekov ’21: Working to Make an Impact with Nanotechnology

Fay Hoefer '23: A Perfect Pathway to Medicine in The Netherlands

Dave Duru ‘22: Journey into Medicine at the Pinnacle of Academia