I like living in the north, and Cambrian had the most intuitive and appealing paramedic curriculum. The class sizes were small enough to have more time with professors, but big enough to have a range of colleagues.
John Tuinema is something of a master at keeping cool in high-pressure situations.
Six years of balancing work as a paramedic, school demands, and being a parent will do that.
Tuinema, 28, graduated from Cambrian’s paramedic program in 2006. He spent six years working as a primary care paramedic for both Algoma EMS and Sudbury EMS while also going back to school in 2009 to study social sciences.
After teaching part time in Cambrian’s paramedic program and, at the same time, getting an honours degree in sociology and law and justice from Laurentian University, he is currently training to be a doctor at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM).
Asked why he chose to study paramedicine at Cambrian, Tuinema says the class sizes and passion of the professors made it an easy decision.
“I like living in the north, and Cambrian had the most intuitive and appealing paramedic curriculum,” he says. “The class sizes were small enough to have more time with professors, but big enough to have a range of colleagues. Also, the faculty was very excited about the profession and involved in developing the profession beyond the classroom.”
The program was very intense, Tuinema says, but prepared him well both to become a paramedic and, later, to continue his studies.
“The preparation to become a paramedic was unparalleled and fully prepared me for life on the trucks. You needed to be able to switch your brain from studying hard sciences in the morning to social sciences in the afternoon and still find time for the gym in the evening so you can pass your physical tests,” says Tuinema. “By the time I got to university, I had developed my learning skills immensely and was able to excel in that academic environment. Now that I am in medical school, the blend of clinical experience from Cambrian and my academic preparation at Laurentian has made it much easier to succeed in my studies.”
Tuinema was driven to go back to school after seeing firsthand the harsh realities of life for many in the north.
“I was confronted with the brutal realities of poverty, homelessness, chronic disease, and more on a daily basis,” he explains. “I wanted to do more and decided a degree would be the place to start. Studying the social sciences helped me understand why these things occur and, most importantly, taught me that it doesn’t have to be this way.
“I wanted to continue my education and medical school seemed like a good fit,” Tuinema continues. “I chose NOSM for its strong social accountability mandate and am now studying to be a physician.”
He suggests new and upcoming grads should make long-term goals, but stay open to taking different paths and exploring new options.
“Don’t focus on an end goal. Pick a path you enjoy. Choose a general direction instead of a set plan. If you decide where you want to be in 25 years today, you’re probably going to change your mind before you get there and either give up or end up there but be unhappy. Focus on a general idea like helping others, creating knowledge or being innovative, and pick a path that relates to that.
“Regardless of what your path is, education will always make it easier and more rewarding. Whether your education is formal or informal; from college, university, the workforce, or life in general, you need to keep learning.”