With a Bachelor of Arts under her belt, Kristen Edwards made the short trek up from Regina to Saskatoon in 2011 to start her medical studies at the College of Medicine.
Studying at the University of Saskatchewan was a given for Edwards, a Regina native, because in falls happily within her personal creed:
“I think you have a certain responsibility to give back what your community has given to you,” Edwards explained. “I think you have a strong duty to the community that you were raised in, so I really wanted to stay here.
“I was open to moving to another place, if that was what the cards dealt me, but I always knew I’d move back.”
And it was here that Edwards studied microbiology and psychology before deciding that her future lay in psychiatry. It’s a field that she believes is about to not just see growth, but see a drastic change as to the technology used in diagnosis.
“They really don’t use imaging for any diagnosis or treatment, we base it a lot on symptoms and I think we’ve got a long ways we can go,” Edwards continued. “I think we’re one of the only specialties that isn’t using technology just yet, and the science isn’t there yet – we’re on our way.”
It was some time spent in the United States that helped her come to this conclusion, and more specifically the experience she gained seeing the science and technology in action in some Californian clinics.
“In some clinics they’re using SPECT brain imaging to help with certain diagnosis like schizophrenia and depression. I mean it’s got a long way to go,” she stressed. “I can’t see it coming here for quite a few years – but I think it’s one of the options we can use.”
Her studies at the CoM came at a period of upheaval for the college, something Edwards sees as having been a good thing.
“I’ve been really involved with the college of medicine – it started in second year I was Vice President Academic, so I sat on everything from the accreditation group to budget and planning groups and faculty council meetings,” Edwards admits. “There’s been a lot of ups and downs with the college, and I’ve kind of seen them up close and personal being on all those committees.”
Edwards wanted to be able to understand the problems the college was facing, and to lend a students’ voice to the discussions because the only people who could provide an accurate perspective from their point of view is the student themselves. And during her period of time at the college, she believes she’s seen positive improvements to student life – improvements she believes stems from suggestions made by her peers.
“I’ve seen better faculty engagement, even between second and third year, and I think a lot of that was due to the administrative efforts,” Edwards explained. “I would have to say that changes aren’t a quick thing, but they’re receptive to suggestions, that communication is there. Part of me thinks that because there has been a lot of ups and downs with accreditation and we’ve been in the news, I think it has kind of opened the eyes of the students as to what it really takes to run a medical school and all the pieces that are in play to get a proper education - so I think it has given our students a really unique experience.
“I think it’s a very unique experience, and not everyone would agree, but I see it as a very positive thing in the end.”
And she believes that some of that experience may have contributed to the fact that so many of her peers chose to stay in the province – and Edwards is no different, matching back for psychiatry was her ideal outcome, and it means that she’ll be one step closer to giving back to the community that helped to raise her.
“I think for a long time Saskatchewan wasn’t actually a hip-and-happening place (but) with the economy and people moving back I think it’s a fantastic place to be right now. Saskatchewan is finally having its’ time to shine moment.”