Alex Lepage-Farrell: Medicine and adrenaline ~ Passion/Patin/Vitesse - Passion/Speed/Skating


30 janvier 2019

Alex Lepage-Farrell: Medicine and adrenaline

A text by Catherine Mailloux
Translated by Jackob Savard
Photos: Sébastien Cadorette, Dominic Tanguay and Alex Lepage-Farrell’s personal collection

I crossed Alex’s path for the first time many years ago during a speed skating camp in my hometown: her uncle was my coach at the time. At that time I didn’t know I had a future Doctor and an accomplished speed skater in front of me. Born in Sherbrooke, Canada and raised in an active family, Alex Lepage-Farrell started doing sports at a young age. She recreationally practiced tennis and soccer, but it was speed skating that  turned into a passion when she was 10 years old. "I had to work hard because speed skating wasn’t innate for me." says Lepage-Farrell. It’s when she reached Quebec’s Elite circuit that the now Pediatric resident realised she had potential in this sport.

Cegep’s years
While in Cegep, Alex Lepage-Farrell studied health science full time knowing she was aiming for medicine at the university. She continued mixing school and skating but it started getting harder. In her second year of Cegep, she decided not to compete at the National qualifier to concentrate on school. As a result, she was not able to compete at the Canadian championships even if she could have got good results there. "It pretty much ended my first speed skating career. I was young and I had a hard time managing my on-ice and off-ice goals. I wanted to be good at everything. I felt it was unfair that I was going to school twice as much as my rivals on the ice and it affected my motivation and my focus. It was frustrating. When I think about it now, I believe it would’ve been possible to study while skating but I think I wasn’t mature enough to do it at the time."

Medicine’s years
The next year, she started her medicine studies at the Sherbrooke University and she felt something was missing. "I missed skating, but not to the point of getting back to it. I had no regrets about my decision." A new challenge also appeared: she had to understand that she would not always be the best student in the class considering that everyone entering medicine has to be strong. "I decided to keep a social and active life so I had to be at peace with my choice and the fact that I wouldn’t be the best all the time." Lepage-Farrell worked on herself while studying medicine. "I can’t be mad at the fact that I stayed true to myself."

Wanting to stay in shape, keep the adrenalin of sports and release stress, she practiced CrossFit, jogging and swimming during her four years studying medicine. Without competitive intention, she even ran two half-marathons as a personal challenge.

The skating comeback
After receiving her Medicine diploma, Lepage-Farrell took part in a speed skating camp in Sherbrooke for fun and she also competed at the inline speed skating 24h of Montréal with her friends, a weekend she deeply enjoyed. That year, the first Quebec Elite circuit competition was held in Sherbrooke and Lepage-Farrell was designated as the doctor in charge at the competition. "It brought back memories of my first speed skating career. It was pretty much the turning point that made me want to skate again." She then started skating for fun when her schedule made it possible. "My trainers and my teammates accepted me whenever I was showing up. When I was skating I was a skater and when I was working on becoming a doctor I was 100% focused on that. I was able to separate the two" said Lepage-Farrell who was supported by her family a lot. After a while, her trainer asked her if she wanted to compete again. After some thinking, she decided to go back to it and go back to basic. "Now a weekend of competition is like a break where I take time for myself and where I have fun. Years later I simply accept my reality as a doctor. No matter what happens at the competition, I’ll go back to help my patients on monday morning." The same fall, she qualified for the Canadian national qualifier. She was ranked 39th at the start of the competition. She had no expectations, but finished 21st which was a big surprise for her. The first 16 had the chance to skate at the Canadian senior championships. "I was so close!" added Lepage-Farrell who finished the season ranked 37th.

The family medecine year
The same year that she went back to skating, Dre Lepage-Farrell started her residency in family medicine after being refused for the pediatric residency. "It was the first time that I was told ‘no’ because my grades weren’t good enough and I started questioning myself." Even if she was in a great team in family medicine, she didn’t like some aspects of the practice and wanted to concentrate on pediatric medicine: "Kids are resilients and full of hope. Sick kids will draw until the morning of their death and are always supported. It’s in that domain that I feel I can have a long term impact and where I can accomplish myself more."

During that year, she went through the process of applying to make the switch to pediatric the following year. A change that is rarely seen since there is a high demand in family medicine. Her chances were almost non-existent, but she finally received a call that changed her professional career: the Sainte-Justine university hospital center in Montreal, the biggest mother-children hospital in Canada and one of the biggest pediatric center in America had opened up a place for her. "My life took an exciting turn, a 180o turn. It was a huge learning opportunity."

The first pediatric year
After moving to Montreal, Alex Lepage-Farrell started her pediatric formation at the Sainte-Justine hospital. She had a few classes, but most of the time she was working and had bigger responsibilities. Sometimes, like when she had her pediatric intensive care rotation, she had to train less because of her 7am to 7pm, 5 days a week schedule. "I was able to train most of the time and still do because I accept the fact that sometimes I have to eat in my car while going to training and because I am an intense person." Since her arrival in Montreal, the young doctor trains at the Montreal Gadbois speed skating club. "I'm training less than my teammates, but just like in Sherbrooke, they accept me when I show up and they respect what I bring to the ice."

At the end of her first year in pediatric, Dre Lepage-Farrell finished 23rd overall in the Canadian short track ranking. "I couldn’t have predicted that. I need a certain detachment to enter my competing routine, but I’m happy to have that back in my life ! The stress of competing is now fun for me. It’s a lot different than in my 'first' skating career. At 17 years old, I thought my best years were behind me."

The second pediatric year
Alex Lepage-Farrell is now in her second year of pediatric residency. Last September, she placed 18th at the Canadian senior championships and she had the chance to represent Canada at the AM cup in Salt Lake City, an awesome racing experience. "It was a bit stressful to race on an ice as fast as that one and I crashed a few times, but I am happy that I had the chance to skate in my first international competition at my age! It wouldn’t have been possible without the support of my colleagues at the hospital who backed me up so I could pursue my dream!"

The close future
In less than three weeks, the application process for the pediatric subspeciality will begin. Lepage-Farrell particularly likes the pediatric intensive care "I’ll give it a try almost everywhere in Eastern Canada, but it will be really hard to get a spot." She’s also highly motivated for the end of the speed skating season. "We’ll see the results! I still have no idea where I will be next year since I 100% want to pursue my two careers."

We can’t speak of such accomplishments without mentioning her family who always supported her. Skating is a family thing for the Lepage-Farrell. Her younger sister Elizabeth is also skating, and her parents were always there for her. "When I was young they pushed me, now they bring me back to reality, the reality I chose to live. Everything is in the choice we make."

"People often ask me if I am curious about where I would be if I had not stopped the first time. Nobody knows. What I know is that in the next Olympics period, I will be doing my very last exam. I’ll graduate as a pediatric doctor no matter what. I would switch that for nothing in the world."

What tips would Alex Lepage-Farrell give to young skaters who are trying to successfully mix sport and school? "We have to choose for ourselves, for what we really want to do and make sure that we deeply believe in our choice so we have no regret. Nobody should be scared of the process when they do what they love. Having something else in our live, other passions, can become a powerful asset, a hidden card even!" says the 25-year-old doctor, currently in her second year studying pediatric care while skating at a high level.

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