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An Artist in Medicine Learns the Power of Palliative Care

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If you asked Maisie Ogata five years ago about her future plans, she would have talked about working for an artist or studying in an MFA program.

Back then, applying to medical school wasn’t on her radar.

After graduating in 2014 from Middlebury College, where she studied studio art, Ogata explored her options for graduate school. She moved back home to the Chicago area, worked for a motel chain, and passed the time reading artist biographies and researching MFA programs.

One biography that stood out to Ogata was about Yayoi Kusama, a 91-year-old Japanese artist, who for more than 40 years has lived voluntarily in a psychiatric hospital.

“She’s all about communicating her pain,” Ogata says. “What she does is raw and direct.”

That biography planted the seed for Ogata to explore health and medicine. She got a job at a crisis hotline and took psychology and art courses at a local community college.

“I was trying to figure it all out. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I wanted to go to med school,” says Ogata, whose parents were physicians. “I never thought I was smart enough, and I didn’t see myself taking that path. Both my parents had direct paths to medicine as they went from college pre-med right to medical school. I looked at them and wondered, ‘did I miss the boat?’”

She didn’t.

In 2018, Ogata enrolled in the UVM Post-Baccalaureate Premedical Program, a 12 to 24- month customized program to help students prepare for acceptance into medical school and other health professional programs.

UVM Post-Baccalaureate Premedical Program

Offering specialized tracks and a high acceptance rate into medical school, students in the UVM program receive personalized academic support and access to the UVM Larner College of Medicine and UVM Medical Center Level 1 Trauma Center.

“One of the biggest things I found when I came to UVM is that I’ve made good friends. What we have in common is that we’ve made this career transition later in life,” Ogata says. “My mom says the fact that we’re non-traditional students will ultimately make us good physicians. We all have different paths, we’re older, more mature, and we’ve made this decision as adults. I think there is something to be said for people who have different backgrounds and experience in different areas. It will help us become more well-rounded doctors.”

An Interest in Primary and Palliative Care

Ogata completed the UVM Post-Baccalaureate Premedical Program in December 2020. Now a licensed EMT, she is studying for her MCAT and applying to medical school.

In July 2019, Ogata began an internship at BAYADA Hospice in Colchester.  Sitting vigil, writing to hospice patients, and supporting families were part of her routine.

Her interest in hospice and palliative care arose after the unexpected death of her father, who died of a massive stroke more than two years ago.

“After being removed from life support, it took my dad five days to die. It was the worst five days. My sister was there, my stepmother was there, and I was there with him. I learned what it meant to not want someone to die alone,” she says. “Before my dad died, we never talked about death in my family. It became my goal to read about it and learn as much as possible.”

Ogata picked up a copy of “On Death and Dying” by Dr. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, and threw herself into learning more about palliative care, a specialization that provides relief from the symptoms and stress of the illness. Its goal is the improve the quality of life for both the patient and family.

As she studies for her MCAT and applies to medical schools, Ogata is still figuring out her path. But she sees her future involving a combination of primary and palliative care.

“There’s so much to death, and everyone responds to it differently,” she says. “But I like the idea of forming a relationship with a family and an individual, and caring for them over a long period of time.”


Learn more about the UVM Post-Baccalaureate Premedical Program