News at Medicine - November 2020 - The cost of living: Faculty of Medicine students get pandemic help

The cost of living: Faculty of Medicine students get pandemic help
November 15, 2020
Dr. Dave Lundrigan (B.Sc.’05, MD’17) is a busy guy. Like most of us, Dr. Lundrigan has a mortgage and bills to pay. But the fourth year psychiatry resident is also working 50-60 hours a week while he and his wife wait for baby number three to arrive.
He’s still finishing his education and does regular call shifts and moonlighting to make extra money. But Dr. Lundrigan, whose children are nine and two, says finances are still a challenge.
That’s why he’s very grateful to the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) Foundation for a recent bursary. The Faculty of Medicine received $250k from the CMA Foundation, a gift that has helped more than 90 medical learners so far with bursaries ranging from $200 to $1,000.
The CMA Foundation COVID-19 Support for Medical Learners Bursary came at a time when many medical learners were struggling with job losses, reduced work hours, unexpected travel and family responsibilities.

Life happens
“I have a family of four with a fifth addition coming in about seven months. I also have a home I pay a mortgage on and a place I rent with my family,” Dr. Lundrigan said. “Prior to this bursary I had to spend several thousand dollars unexpectedly on my home due to situations related to COVID-19 and needless to say, this was challenging. This bursary helped me out significantly during this difficult time and I will be forever grateful.”
Having started medical school at 29 after several attempts, the Burin, N.L. native gives a lot of credit to his parents for their support. “They both worked in a fish plant in Burin and supported me in every way they could.”
And Dr. Lundrigan plans on paying it forward. He has a passion for helping people in need who might otherwise feel hopeless. “I always felt I had good communication skills and empathy. I saw that there were gaps in the health care system and I wanted to become a doctor to help fill areas of high need such as mental illness.”
Hidden stress
Jack Kerr, another recipient of a CMA Foundation bursary, is in his third year of the doctor of medicine (MD) program. Managing a chronic illness during the pandemic made it difficult for Kerr to find regular employment. COVID-19 posed an extra risk to his health and being out in the workforce made him uncomfortable.
“We had little to no knowledge of the long term effects of the virus on the body and considering I had a chronic illness, that made me potentially more susceptible to some of those effects,” Kerr explains. “It added a certain stress on top of the already stressful situation because I did not know how I would respond to the virus if I were to get it compared to a fully healthy individual.”
 So, Kerr lived off his savings and says the CMA Foundation support has been instrumental in helping him manage financially and gives him the flexibility to go home to New Brunswick for Christmas to see his family.
Supporting future doctors
Second year MD student Leah Aitken works as a registered nurse in her spare time to help fund her medical education but ran into the same problem many others did.
“During the height of the COVID pandemic the clinic I work for closed and my partner had reduced hours. With mortgage payments that needed to be made, along with other life expenses, it resulted in our savings being depleted and further debt accumulation. The CMA Foundation bursary really helped to take a bit of financial stress off of our shoulders during this crazy time,” Aitken said. 
Aitkin moved to N.L. as a child and plans to stay in the province to practice. “After spending most of my life here, I definitely consider myself an honorary Newfoundlander,” Aitken says. “I want a career that ensures I’ll be making an impact on people’s health and quality of life every single day.”