The path to a specialized medical degree is never a short or easy one. But having spent over a decade to eventually become a radiologist, Dr. Holly Wells is content to have taken what she calls “the long way around”. Born in Prince Edward Island into a military family, Dr. Wells settled on the west coast as a teenager. After graduating from high school in 1974, she started at UBC, but says, “I didn’t like it much—and I got terrible marks.” So she took a break from university, joining the RCMP for a couple of years and then working as a roughneck on the oil rigs in Alberta.
In her mid-20s, with some savings put away, she wanted to give university a second chance. So she enrolled in pre-med in Regina. This time around, her student experience was completely different. “I’d had to drop calculus at UBC, but this time, I got 90s in everything,” says Dr. Wells. “I wasn’t any smarter, but I had more maturity and I was focused, and it worked out very well.”
The University of Saskatchewan became her home for medical school. Now that she had found her academic calling, everything else fell into place. “It was a whole new world,” Dr. Wells says. “I never understood what my friends meant when they said they loved university until the second time I went back. Everyone was so open-minded and there were so many different things to take, and I just loved it.” Keeping her nose to the grindstone with classes and summer jobs, and with the help of tuition scholarships and a small amount of student loans, she graduated in 1987 and earned her Royal College Certification in Diagnostic Imaging in 1992.
Dr. Wells went to work in Calgary, but found that she didn’t particularly like a large practice or big city life. An accomplished equestrian and competitive show jumper since childhood, she was also keen to start keeping her own horses again, so she returned to Saskatchewan to find a suitable farm. Twenty years later, she’s still here, running a radiology practice that she describes as “lumps and bumps and babies and gallbladders—and emergencies”. Outside of her busy office hours, she competes as a triathlete and owns two horses, one of which is currently training with the US Olympic equestrian team.
Dr. Wells has taught many medical residents headed to small communities how to do their own ultrasounds, and has had others do job shadowing. She enjoys her time with students and finds it rewarding: “They’re not going to get that exposure otherwise, so it’s worth it.” Five years ago, she decided to make a planned gift in her Will to support both the College of Medicine and the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the U of S. “I would have liked to have been a vet too, but I was allergic!” Dr. Wells explains.
What was her major motivation for this donation? “I had to work hard to make enough money for the year as a student, but I didn’t suffer any real hardship,” she says.
“Nowadays it’s a very competitive job market, and very competitive academically. And there is the cost challenge.” She doesn’t know how she would have managed without the scholarships she received: “I was banking on the fact that it would work out somehow! But part of the reason I was able to do it at all was because of people’s endowments for me.” Thanks to her generous gift, future students will also have the same opportunity.
– Susan Pederson