Northern Medical Program student Michiko Maruyama was presented the Rising Star Health Service Award at the Dr. Bob Ewert Memorial Lecture and Dinner on Saturday.
But judo, art and design, not medicine, were Maruyama's first callings.
"Before I started medical school, I was a national judo champion. Judo has always been a large part of my life," Maruyama said. "I was diagnosed with a tumour in my left leg. That ended my dream of going to the Olympics for judo. [But] it was my illness that got me interested in medicine. Just being a patient I was inspired by my treatment."
Maruyama said she continues to volunteer with local judo clubs, even though she can no longer compete.
Before attending medical school Maruyama studied industrial design at the University of Alberta, with an interest in designing toys and children's furniture. She did some industrial work before starting her own design studio with someone she knew from school.
"We did mostly websites, logos, product development," she said.
When she was accepted into the Northern Medical Program Maruyama said she was, "fearful I might not have time for art."
"So I incorporated artwork into my studies. I started to medical illustrations," she said.
Those daily doodles, as she calls them, turned into the website www.artoflearning.ca, where she showcases her work.
As her artwork started to get attention, other opportunities to combine her art and industrial design skills with her medical education. She was invited to paint a mural based on the four food groups in the University Hospital of Northern B.C. pediatric wing.
In 2012 she spent a summer working with the Office of Pediatric Surgical Education and Innovation at B.C. Children's Hospital working on a student-lead program to develop teaching toys for children undergoing medical procedures.
"That's how children learn, through playing with toys," she said. "There is a huge role for toy design in the education of pediatric patients."
During her second year in the Northern Medical Program she wrote a children's book, Dirty Paws, in partnership with Haida artist Clarence Mills about the importance of hand washing.
Currently she's working on a project to develop an inexpensive, compact burn treatment kit for rural first responders and use in developing countries, Maruyama said. The project is in partnership with a plastic surgeon and the UBC engineering program.
"We're working with the nano-tech lab at UBC. They're developing a gauze that has the [burn] medication spun into it," she said. "I'm using my industrial design background."
Maruyama said the faculty at the Northern Medical Program have been highly-supportive of her creative work.
"I chose Prince George for the program, for the small classes. They are so supportive with my art and my health," she said. "Unfortunately last year my tumour came back. I had to quit classes... and do six weeks of radiation therapy. But fortunately I'm healthy now."
She said the quality of education and amount of one-on-one time with faculty and teaching physicians is incredible.
Even though she grew up in Lethbridge, Maruyama said she plans to come back to practice in Prince George and be part of the Northern Medical Program, she said. Maruyama said she hasn't decided what area of medicine she'll specialize in yet, but is has a strong interest in surgery.
"There is so many opportunities here," she said.