Taking the first step towards becoming a doctor is what approximately 250 students did Tuesday at the annual White Coat Ceremony at Western University's Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry.

And it’s the day Gabby Schoettle has been dreaming of - an emotional day - becuase she has dreamed of becoming an doctor since losing her mother at the age of eight to breast cancer.

It was shortly after that her father became ill as well. He died less than ten years later when she was 17.

“He was pretty much home ridden and didn’t have much energy to work or do anything so my brother and I were definitely involved with taking care of him, but also picking up the slack in the home doing the cooking and cleaning,” she says.

Schoettle believes it’s her life experience that helped make her application for medical school stand out, especially since this year the application criteria changed.

Associate Dean of Admissions at the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry Dr. Tisha Joy explains how they've updated the process.

“Our previous admission process heavily relied on [Grade Point Average] and [Medical College Admissions Test] scores determined who would get an offer for an interview and this year we decided to move forward and open our doors a little more by allowing applications to tell us what they value their lives experiences shape who they are.”

There are approx 250 students - a mix of dentistry and medicine - receiving their white coats Tuesday and Joy says because of the new application process about 23 per cent of the incoming class are from low socioeconomic status and 19 per cent are from rural or small-town communities.

“We want to look at more than academic metrics. We know that a great physician is not defined by their knowledge but their non-academic traits of respect, maturity, resiliency and compassion.”

Schoettle says she never expected to get into medical school so soon after completing her undergraduate degree in medical sciences, but is thankful to be following her dreams and making her parents proud.

"I’m a little bit nervous, but I’m thrilled, I’m absolutely so excited. This has been a dream of mine for a number of years so I think it will be very rewarding to go up there."