April 1, 2017

Berchman Wong | Ready for the next step

“Everything is finally connecting,” says Berchman Wong when talking about the path that led him to the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine (CSM).

“Everything is finally connecting,” says Berchman Wong when talking about the path that led him to the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine (CSM). “The stars have aligned, and I’m ready for the next step.” 

When Berchman moved to Calgary four years ago, he was unsure of what life would look like, but decided to just follow his heart. Now, looking back on how he arrived at this point, there’s nothing he would do differently. 

Berchman graduated from the University of Saskatchewan (USask) in 2005 where he studied microbiology and biochemistry. “I was originally interested in USask’s veterinary medicine program because of my interest in medicine and animals, but instead decided to focus on microbiology and biochemistry,” says Berchman. “That’s how I learned of my love for genetics; I even did my honours thesis on the genetics of aging. I've always had a scientific mind, but didn’t realize how much that would influence my future.” 

Eight years later, Berchman is a research assistant at the CSM and is helping with the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA). CLSA is a large, national, long-term study of more than 50,000 men and women who were between the ages of 45 and 85 when recruited. Participants will be followed until 2033 or until they pass, in hopes of finding ways to help Canadians live long and well, and understand why some people age in a healthy fashion while others don’t. The CSM is one of ten sites across Canada involved in the study, and is overseen by Dr. David Hogan

“There are about 3,000 Calgarians participating in the study, and I help manage the many aspects of the study data that’s collected,” says Berchman with a smile. “I work with participants to collect information through questionnaires and assessments. I really love what I do – I love working with the public, and we have a great team.”  

Every day, Berchman finds himself inspired by the life stories and resilience of Calgarians, but he is ready for more. He wants to nurture his love for medicine and be in a position where he can truly make an impact on the health of our seniors. 

“I’m ready to go back to school and am considering applying to the Cumming School’s Undergraduate Medical Education program during the next application cycle,” Berchman says with excitement. “I feel I needed the time to build my confidence and knowledge, and now realize how much I have to offer my future patients. I’ve learned so many more skills and gained so much more life experience than I would have by going straight into medical school. My plan is to go into internal medicine with additional training in geriatric medicine.” 

When Berchman isn’t working or studying for the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test), he is spending time outdoors, travelling, volunteering and drawing. “My favourite place to be is outdoors; I love how accessible the natural beauty is to us. I also draw portraits of animals and people. I have done quite a few commissions and even sold a piece I did after visiting the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary in Cochrane,” says Berchman. 

Berchman’s love for the outdoors is evident when he speaks about Calgary. “I’ve experienced big cities like Toronto and smaller cities like Saskatoon, but Calgary is just perfect. The energy here is unlike anything I’ve seen before; Calgary’s can-do attitude is so motivating. Plus, it’s so beautiful – I can’t get enough of exploring the many different hiking trails just beyond our city.” If medical school doesn’t work out, Tourism Calgary may want to consider recruiting Berchman. 

Tidbits from Berchman:  

Fun fact: Originally from Hong Kong, but grew up in Toronto. 

Favourite colour: Teal blue. “The deeper blue of Grassi Lakes is the perfect colour.” 

Favourite food: “Pasta. Anything Italian, really! I think I was Italian in a previous life. And black forest cake for dessert.” 

On medicine: “I’m a naturalist – I love nature and I have roots in natural medicine. When in Hong Kong, I was exposed to Chinese medicine, which is how I learned about naturopathic medicine. The topic of medical doctors versus naturopathic doctors can be a controversial one, but it doesn't have to be one or the other. I believe that a combination of both evidence-based approaches is what can be beneficial.” 

On the Cumming School’s 50th anniversary celebration: “The University of Calgary and the Cumming School of Medicine have a great reputation. An outstanding community for students, faculty and staff has been created. Everyone is so passionate and generous. We have something great here, and that should be celebrated.” 

What the Cumming School of Medicine should do in the next 50 years: “Other than admitting me to the MD program, the school should continue to attract quality people. The Cumming School will continue to be a leader because of the people who work and study here.”