Home-grown doctor in the making

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Life is hectic for recent high-school graduate Anchaleena Mandal. She’s off to study science, then medicine, in the south.

photo courtesy Anchaleena Mandal
Recent Inuksuk High School graduate Anchaleena Mandal will soon leave her Iqaluit community to attend Queen’s University Accelerated Route to Medical School program in Kingston, Ont. She plans on entering the ranks of Nunavut doctors in six years.

Mandal “respectfully declined” a $50,000 scholarship at Western University in London, Ont. when she learned she was one of 10 students accepted to Queen’s University Accelerated Route to Medical School program. She wants to get this done, and get back to Nunavut to practise medicine.

“It first struck me when I heard one of my friends, we were talking and they were from a community. They talked about how they didn’t have doctors. They had a nurse practitioner and nurses there,” said Mandal.

“Where are the doctors? I later on looked into it and found the statistics that there were 27 doctors in Nunavut per 100,000, compared to the national average of 228 per 100,000. I was quite shocked,” she said.

The accelerated program means in six years she can be a resident at Iqaluit’s hospital. The accelerated program cuts two years from four years of an undergrad degree, and she doesn’t have to write the entrance MCAT exam. Her medical school interviews have already taken place.

She did earn two other scholarships, the Queen’s University Chancellor’s Scholarship and the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame scholarship.

“Another thing is doctors who come are often from the south. What I felt I could give as a doctor, since I grew up here, I know the culture here, the heritage, the people, what the food styles are. I know the social problems here. I know what they’ve been through. I can give a special touch to my treatment that southern doctors may not know because they haven’t lived here for that long,” said Mandal.

Mandal attended Joamie School and Aqsarniit Ilinniarvik before graduating from Inuksuk High School.

photo courtesy Anchaleena Mandal
Anchaleena Mandal, who will be attending Queen’s University Accelerated Route to Medical School program in Kingston, Ont in the fall, says playing music, such as violin, piano and trumpet, comes from the heart as does practicing medicine.

Mandal’s only regret is that she didn’t apply herself to Inuktitut enough to be conversant. But she’s got that covered, too. Queen’s offers an Inuktitut-language course, and she’ll be taking it.

“I’m really devoted to learning it now. I see it’s beneficial and I feel a great urgency. I will overcome that barrier,” said the young woman, who brought herself up to Royal Conservatory of Music Grade 8 piano by teaching herself from YouTube videos when she no longer had access to a teacher.

She also plays violin, and she is a junior instructor this summer at Iqaluit Music Society’s Fiddle Club and its 22nd Annual Summer Music Camp. And last but not least, Mandal plays trumpet with the Inuksuk band and was a member of the Inuksuk Drum Dancers.

“I loved learning throat singing.”

Eventually juggling music and studies became onerous.

“I couldn’t keep both up, but from time to time I accompanied the choir on the violin. And if I could I would sing the songs that I knew,” she said.

Her father Arnab says her musical training began when she was in kindergarten, and he calls his daughter “very focused and very goal-oriented.”

Asked if she sees similarities between her choice of medicine as a career and music, Mandal said: “It all comes from the heart.”

Her engagement with her community also comes from the heart. Mandal volunteers at the Nunavut Kamatsiaqtut Help Line, and recently played at a suicide prevention awareness concert at St. Jude’s Cathedral. She also volunteers at the Qayuqtuvik Food Centre and the food bank, and helps out at community events. She was also a French story-time coordinator at the library.

“I just really like being with people – the communication, the interaction,” she said.

“I feel I’m giving back to my community that’s given me so much. I wasn’t raised just by my parents. I was raised by my coaches, my mentors, my teachers. They did so much to raise me and I want to give back in my way.”

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Michele LeTourneau first arrived at NNSL's headquarters in Yellowknife in1998, with a BA honours in Theatre. For four years she documented the arts across the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Following a very short stint as a communications officer with the Government of the Northwest Territories, Michele spent a decade at a community-based environmental monitoring board in the mining industry, where she worked with Inuit, Chipewyan, Tlicho, Yellowknives Dene and Metis elders to help develop traditional knowledge and Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit contributions for monitoring and management plans. She rejoined NNSL and moved to Iqaluit in May 2014 to write for Nunavut News. Michele has received a dozen awards for her work with NNSL.