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Winner of $100,000 prize fulfills promise

Maggi Gyuricska - Photo submitted
Maggi Gyuricska
— image credit: Photo submitted

Four years after Abbotsford residents helped win her $100,000 to attend medical school, Maggi Gyuricska is getting used to answering to a slightly different name.

“My students call me Dr. Gyuricska,” she said with a laugh, a day after returning home to Abbotsford from Dominica, the tiny Caribbean island where she studied for four years at Ross University School of Medicine.

In 2010, Gyuricska parlayed thousands of online votes into a $100,000 win in Old Navy’s “Super Modelquin” contest. The company wanted a female whose features they would use to create new mannequins; Gyuricska needed the money to help her pay for medical school, which she was otherwise unable to afford.

This July, Gyuricska graduated from Ross’s medical school. She has already begun teaching first-year students at Ross while she applies for residency jobs at hospitals in the United States, where she did her clinical training.

The 29-year-old Yale Secondary grad said the trust and faith of those who voted for her four years ago helped spur her on during the long days demanded of medical students.

“It made me have so much gratitude,” she said. “I will pay this forward the rest of my life serving others.”

Only a tiny percentage of those who apply to British Columbia’s only medical school, at UBC, get into the program. So four years ago, Gyuricska turned to Ross University, a well-respected program that was cheaper than American colleges. However, the bill was still too high for Gyuricska and her family, and Canadian student loans wouldn’t cover the out-of country program.

Gyuricska’s big Old Navy win helped get her to medical school, but didn’t bankroll her entire education. She took out bank loans, and employees at the Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Cancer Centre – where Gyuricska used to work and where her mother is a clerk – held fundraisers for their former co-worker. But Gyuricska still needed an extra financial boost after her third year. Her saviour was an acquaintance, who volunteered to cosign for a bank loan that helped pay for the rest of Gyuricska’s college.

Rather than feel pressure, Gyuricska said all the support from back home gave her reassurance.

“I have a whole community of people helping who know that I can do this,” she said. “I’d be going five days, 25-hour shifts and I’d wake up and remember why I’m here and the people and the support I have.”

One of Gyuricska’s most memorable moments came when, two weeks into her clinical training at a hospital in New Jersey, Hurricane Sandy hit. The storm flooded large areas of New York, including the subways she counted on getting her from her home in Brooklyn to the hospital.

“It was really crazy,” she said. Despite causing three-hour commutes to and from the hospital, she said the hurricane “really reinforced the reasons why I wanted to be a doctor.”

Even now that she has earned the title, Gyuricska’s not on easy street. Resident doctors – who work under the guidance and supervision of attending physicians – make paltry sums and work long hours. But although her Kraft Dinner-eating days may not be behind her, medical school and the toughest exams she will ever take are, which has Gyuricska excited and grateful.

“It’s been really overwhelming,” she said. “I feel so blessed.

“I get to do my dream, but at the same time I get to make a difference.”

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