When hundreds of Ross University School of Medicine (Ross Med) students celebrated on Friday, March 17, 2023, Digney had to wait five more days for the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS) to post their results online on March 22.
Though the CaRMS process differs from the National Resident Matching Program® for US-based residencies, the significance of the moment meant all the same to Digney when she learned she would be returning home to practice family medicine in her native Regina, Saskatchewan.
“I didn’t receive the traditional email reveal through CaRMS, so I just had to keep refreshing their website until the results were posted,” Digney recalled. “Once I saw I would be coming home, I was overjoyed and sort of in disbelief at first. A lot of hard work and perseverance had gone into getting that result. My daughters and I were on FaceTime crying together at the realization I was coming home permanently.”
Digney began working with the Office of Career Advisement around her second semester in Barbados to ensure she remained on track when it came time to apply through CaRMS. “It was always about coming back to my house, my family, my kids, my everything. My support system is all here. I needed to be here.”
Pursuing Her Dream
Becoming a physician is a dream Digney had since she was about 17 years old. She went to the University of Regina to complete her degree in medical technology, but her career path took her toward medical lab technology at locations like Saskatchewan Disease Control Laboratory, Regina General Hospital, Royal University Hospital, among others. Throughout her 20s, she also shifted her focus to her family, getting married in her early 20s and having her son and two daughters shortly after. Three kids and motherhood translated to many visits to their family doctor, so the desire to become one herself kept a close presence alongside her established career in the medical laboratories.
Around 2008, Digney was about a decade removed from considering early retirement when she started reconsidering her application to medical school. She was introduced to Ross Med through affiliations they had with the University of Saskatchewan at the time. Her youngest daughter was only 12 years old and wanting to be there for her formative years, Digney chose to wait until all her children were fully grown before resuming her dream toward becoming a physician.
“Even through a career and raising my family, it was something that I always felt the need to accomplish. I thought being in the lab so long that my dream would diminish, but it just seemed to grow and grow.”
The Journey Home
As the decade passed and her kids were all off to college, Digney enrolled at Ross Med in 2018. She had hoped to complete her core clerkships in Canada after she completed her medical sciences courses, but the COVID-19 pandemic eliminated opportunities for students outside Canada to do so. Needing to shift her plan, she began clerkships in the United States but kept in close contact with connections in Regina and the University of Saskatchewan hoping to keep her name top of mind while she finished her academic training and ultimately applying for residency through CaRMS.
Digney was continuing her clerkships virtually in the United States when, in December 2020, a call came from home that her husband had been admitted to the hospital with a 99% blockage in one of his coronary arteries. Digney remained in Regina to help with his recovery, but the same day he was discharged from the hospital, another call came that her son had been involved in a severe car accident. Separated by just a couple of days, these two moments completely altered Digney’s journey.
“They would not even tell us if our son was dead or alive over the phone,” she recalled. “Once we were back at the hospital and moved to a private area, the trauma doctor met with us. He was phenomenal and walked us through everything their team was doing to save him, but he was not sure he would make it through the night.”
Digney later learned that at the scene of the accident, an ambulance happened to be waiting at the red light of the same intersection, and EMTs were there to offer immediate assistance. Had they not been so close when the accident occurred, her son would not be here today.
The accident left her son with a broken neck and traumatic brain injury, which has resulted in facial reconstruction surgeries, ankle reconstruction, and vertebrae fusion surgery to stabilize the area where the spinal column meets the skull.
“He is doing remarkably well in his recovery,” she shared. “If you met him today, you probably wouldn’t notice anything wrong. He no longer has full mobility of his neck, but we have had some medical miracles.”
Digney took a four-month leave from Ross Med and resumed clerkships in Michigan, which allowed for the easiest travel between home and the United States. On her internal medicine rotation, she just so happened to be assigned to physiotherapy and a physiatrist who chose to spend his free time between patients offering advice, reviewing test results, and helping Digney provide care for her son from across the border.
She also credits many people at Ross Med who were instrumental in ensuring she could take time off and remain on track to graduate in 2023 with her original classmates.
“Everyone at Ross Med could not have been more supportive of my situation,” Digney said. “As soon as I told them about my son, they were contacting people in Michigan to arrange for time off. It’s hard sometimes to open personal struggles up to professional relationships, but it was a great feeling to know the school I had chosen to go to was so supportive and accommodating at a time when I needed it most. I couldn’t have made it through without taking a break to be with family, and Ross Med did everything in their power to make it work.”
Though her timeline may have been thrown off on multiple occasions, Digney never wavered despite the unimaginable hurdles placed along her path to her dreams. She finished her rotations, passed the Canadian board examinations, and will begin her family medicine residency at home in Regina with her children close by and a renewed purpose for the next stage of her career.
“It’s a surreal feeling reaching this point, but there is a massive amount of relief knowing I did it. I have doctor in front of my name all thanks to Ross Med and the chance I was given to live out my dream.”
To get started on your own path to Match Day, learn about how you can be hands-on from the start at Ross Med here.