Voices of Acadia | Dr. H. Penney Gaul (’80)

Acadia varsity swimmer Dr. H. Penney Gaul (’80) helped make sports history during her time at Acadia. As a member of two national championship teams, she learned the value of teamwork and dedication, lessons that would serve her well throughout her medical career.

After Acadia, Dr. Gaul got a medical degree at the University of Ottawa in 1985. She practiced Family Medicine in Calgary for five years. In 1991, she began a Diagnostic Imaging residency at University of Calgary, finishing in 1996 and going on to do a Pediatric Diagnostic Imaging Fellowship at University of Calgary and University of Toronto. She has been practicing Diagnostic Imaging in Calgary since 1996.

“Being a varsity athlete is so multi-faceted. I had been a competitive swimmer for a long time and it had been part of my lifestyle to be on a team, have a coach, and travel. It really is a lifestyle because you have to learn that balance between schoolwork, swimming and life. For me, the biggest thing that I took from Acadia was my time with Jack Scholtz. It’s funny, but it gets even more important to me as I get older and although I knew it at the time, I didn’t really appreciate what Jack had given to me until I left Acadia. He positioned me to be the success that I am today. He gave me the skills to be independent, to be a leader and to know the importance of integrity and respect. He taught me what hard work would get you. All of those life tools have played such an important role in my personal and professional life.

“I think sports make students proud to be a part of something, whether as a participant or a supporter. My fellow athletes at Acadia were like family. My first year was 1976-77 and the women’s team repeated as Atlantic conference champions. We then went on to win the Nationals (CIAU) – a first for any Acadia swim team. We were up against big powerhouses like the University of Toronto and UBC and for us to pull off a win was incredible.

I remember Jack had calculated all the points we could get per event and thought we had a very good chance of winning if we could all do what we were supposed to do. And we did it! It was so great. We successfully defended the title the following year, which confirmed our strength and depth. We did it because of Jack. His style of coaching and his leadership made us want to win. I don’t remember any part of it not being fun: hard work, but fun.

“I knew I wanted to be in science but I wasn’t really sure of anything more. My professors at Acadia were so great that I remember my first year in medicine being a bit easier because I already knew a lot of the material. I silently thanked them many times. Some of the professors I remember the most are Dr. Toews, Dr. Basaraba, Dr. Stiles and Dr. Ness.

“Acadia was my home-away-from-home, my new family. It made me feel like I was somebody even though I was one of 1,800 people. I still talk about Acadia as a place where you can grow – you can maintain who you are and you can grow within a community that’s very close, but diverse. In big universities, you’re a number and no one knows you.

“At Acadia, an international group of students learns alongside students from across Canada. Together with all the different faculties – from fine arts to engineering to business to biology – it offered diversity. I felt it was where I belonged. I was comfortable. I wasn’t from the area, but I was made to feel at home right from the start. When I left, it was like leaving home all over again.”

Originally published in Voices of Acadia, Vol. III

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