Filipina cements legacy at Medical School in Calgary with Inaugural Violet King Engaged Scholarship

 Yvette Ysabel Yao  Violet King Scholarship
Yvette Yao dons a white coat at the University of Calgary. The background is a compilation of cities she’s lived in throughout her life. Edited by Qjiel Mariano

Yvette Ysabel Yao is minted a Violet King Engaged Scholar at the University of Calgary (UoC) Cumming School of Medicine. The inaugural scholarship was created to recognize the unique barriers, challenges, victories, and lived experiences of Black, racialized, and Indigenous students at the University of Calgary.

Yao is no stranger to achievements since her time at the International School Manila. Equipped with the aspirations of a global citizen, Yvette spent her pre-med at the University of California Berkeley, where she graduated with a degree in Molecular and Cell Biology. Having a lived experience in the Philippines and understanding its social issues, she added a Public Health degree to her arsenal at the same university.

“Applying to med school is not a straightforward process” Yao shared advice to Filipinos. “You put a lot of time and effort plus the financial risks to become a doctor,” she added. Prior to taking the Medical College Admission  Test (MCAT), Yvette did research in Pathology at Stanford University. She was also a chemistry tutor at UC Berkeley, and she attributes these experiences to help her prepare for medical school.

Unique to her experience, Yvette took the National Medical Admission Test (NMAT) and MCAT in the same year. “It is tiring to take two exams almost at the same time” she recalls. These exams differ in their test procedures and rigorous preparation is needed for both.

While Yao was offered admission to Philippine Medical Schools, she ultimately chose the University of Calgary. “The spots are very limited and schools in the provinces would prefer their residents over other applications” she shared.

Unlike other medical schools in Canada, the Cumming School of Medicine offers an accelerated three-year medicine program. A similar program is also available at the Michael DeGroote School of Medicine at McMaster University in Ontario. “It is definitely a grind as we have less vacation than other medical schools” she shared.

Yvette loves the academic environment of UoC as it intertwines with the vibrant city life and natural wonders Calgary is renowned for. “There is a dedicated team of staff for wellness for students” she shared proudly. Her classmates would occasionally go to Banff National Park and participate in fun extracurricular activities.

Yao is also one of the co-founders of the Calgary Asian Medical Students Association, which advocates important causes like immigrant health, medical school preparation, and Asian representation in health.

Her message to Filipinos is that they should never underestimate their abilities. “You are never incapable of your aspirations. You may just need time to build those skills.”

Take it from a global citizen like Yvette Yao, who continues to break barriers and create spaces for Filipinos abroad. Her legacy is here to stay, but be aware that every Filipino can do the same wherever they may be.

This scholarship isn’t just a nod to academic excellence; it’s a powerful statement acknowledging the hurdles and triumphs that Black, racialized, and Indigenous students navigate through. Yvette’s story is a beacon of inspiration, illuminating the paths for countless others. Let’s spread the word and let her story empower us all to break barriers and build bridges!

READ MORE from Qjiel Mariano here:

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Qjiel Mariano is a Youth Council Member of the Joint SDG Fund and a Global Public Health advocate from the Philippines. He is passionate about amplifying the voices of young people and bridging opportunities for them to contribute to the greater good. Like every other youth, he enjoys anime, pop culture, food, and sitcoms. His favorite quote is by sir Allen Saraza “Sa bawat padayon, huwag kalimutan mag-pahuway” which translates to "Whenever you keep going, do not forget to rest.”