McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Mom followed her dream to become an MD

By Thana Dharmarajah and Suzanne Morrison
Published: May 16, 2012
Michelle Matthews
Michelle Matthews graduates as a doctor from the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine.

Fulfilling a lifelong dream took a mother of three across four provinces for three years. On Friday, May 18, Nova Scotia resident Michelle Matthews graduates as a doctor from the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine at age 47.

It was "a cross between insanity and a mid-life crisis," says Michelle Matthews of her decision to enter medical school in her mid-40s. She is not only the first member of her family to become a doctor, but also the first Mi'kmaq woman from Eskasoni First Nation in Nova Scotia to do so.

She has wanted to be a doctor since she was seven, "not a nurse because I'm too bossy". She was born in Toronto and grew up in Northern Ontario. Her mother, aunt and grandaunt had been nurses, but after finishing two years of a Bachelor of Science degree at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, N.S., she was diverted into communications and completed a master's degree in New York City.

But, she says, "I never recovered from having to withdraw from pre-med." Her husband Ron Leach encouraged her to return to school and she graduated from Acadia University with a double major in biology and history.

Matthews said she went to McMaster's Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine because of its well-established reputation in family medicine and she chose the school's Niagara campus based in St. Catharines because of its similarities to the Annapolis Valley where she and her family live.

Her family, including Nicole, 12; Sean, 14, and Jason, 26, remained in Nova Scotia during her three years in the medical program in Ontario, but there were frequent flights home and she was able to do all her elective programs in Nova Scotia.

On July 1 the new Dr. Matthews will begin her residency program in family medicine at Dalhousie University in Halifax and will work out of a site five minutes from her home. Her desire is to eventually practice rural medicine. A large family reunion is planned after the 2:30 p.m. convocation ceremony at Hamilton Place.

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