For Student from Canada, UK Clerkships Offer Another International Experience


Justin Blaauwendraat

Justin Blaauwendraat

Justin Blaauwendraat, a third-year student at Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM), has already amassed a wealth of global experience. Originally from Canada, he completed two years of study at RUSM’s campus in Dominica, in the Caribbean, and is currently completing three clinical clerkships in the United Kingdom.

“I chose to do clinicals in the UK because it allowed for the opportunity to experience another perspective on the approach to medicine and to the treatment and care of patients,” Blaauwendraat, 25, said. “Because I would like to return to Canada to practice, I chose to go to the UK for clinical rotations because of the similarities in health care systems between Canada and the U.K. By the time I graduate I will have had clinical exposure in Dominica, the U.S., UK, and Canada. How many medical students can say they have experienced so many health care systems?”

In June of this year, RUSM established an affiliation with Queen's Hospital in London, offering an opportunity for students to complete core clerkships in surgery, pediatrics, internal medicine and obstetrics/gynecology. Queen’s Hospital is a new, 850-bed acute care facility providing complex care and specialist services for the population of Outer North East London and Essex. The hospital serves a very diverse patient population.

At Queen’s Hospital, one of busiest hospitals in the UK, Blaauwendraat has had a rich clinical training experience. “I have received one on one teaching, been first assistant during many surgical procedures, and have been able to perform a number of clinical procedures that I may not have had the chance to do in the US,” he said.

Blaauwendraat has also taken advantage of other benefits offered by the UK clinical experience. “London is a gateway to the rest of Europe, and I have been able to travel on the weekends. I have been to Scotland and Ireland while my in-laws were visiting. My wife and I took the train to Paris, and we also went to Holland to visit my Dutch relatives,” he said.

It was a family tragedy that ultimately led Blaauwendraat to pursue his dream of becoming a physician. Growing up on his family’s dairy farm just outside Truro, Nova Scotia along the Bay of Fundy, Blaauwendraat enjoyed doing farm work and playing hockey and soccer. But then, when he was in the eighth grade, life as he knew it was changed forever. “My dad was in a farming accident, and had to have his leg amputated six inches below the knee,” he said. “It was during his recovery and rehabilitation that I fell in love with the healing powers of the body and the field of medicine.”

He completed the first two years of undergraduate studies at Dalhousie University Agricultural Campus in Truro, while playing junior hockey. “My hockey schedule was very demanding, and I knew that if I wanted to become a doctor I was going to have to make sacrifices,” he said.

Blaauwendraat gave up one dream to pursue another. He transferred to Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he graduated with a degree in biology. After not securing a seat in a Canadian medical school, he applied to RUSM. “The Caribbean route was recommended to me by a local doctor,” he said. “I chose RUSM because of its respected and established reputation as a top tier Caribbean medical school.”

Today Blaauwendraat is well on his way to earning his medical degree, with plans to pursue a career in family medicine, with additional training in emergency and sports medicine. As he nears the home stretch of his medical school experience, Blaauwendraat sounds like someone who is confident he made the right choice. “If you know that you really want to become a doctor, and will let nothing get in your way, and if you are prepared to work hard, then RUSM will equip you with the tools and resources to succeed and achieve your dream,” he said. “Medical school is tough no matter where you are. I think that what separates RUSM students is that we are prepared to go the extra mile as trainees and future physicians to make a difference in the lives of our patients.”