Arnav Agarwal is an Internal Medicine Resident (R1) at the University of Toronto. Check back the last Thursday of each month for a new featured piece as part of his series (Doc Talks: Reflections to Reality)!
Pieces of a puzzle inherit meaning not by their individual qualities, but by being pieced together into context. Good medicine — and good healthcare — are similar: they rely on understanding patients as people, and clinical presentations as brush-strokes forming part of a bigger picture. ...continue reading
Maggie Hulbert is a medical student in the Class of 2020 at Queen's University
First Year Out: A Transition Story
(Singing Dragon, 2017)
Earlier this fall, over the course of a tense dinner table discussion, it came to light that a dear relative of mine held some blatantly transphobic beliefs. I was greatly distressed by this — not only because these beliefs were at complete odds with my own, but because I had no idea what to do. I felt that it was my responsibility to educate them and keep communication channels open... but having had little success with blunt confrontation, I was at a loss.
Then I read First Year Out: A Transition Story, the second graphic novel by Vancouver-based author Sabrina Symington. First Year Out describes the story of Lily in her first year as an openly trans woman, and covers everything in Lily’s life from the basics (such as how she gets dressed and her first experience with online dating) to the harder conversations (like confronting her mother about her TERF [trans-exclusionary radical feminism] attitude and telling her boyfriend that she wants sexual reassignment surgery). Through the incredible medium of graphic story-telling, we get to literally see how Lily grows into herself. ...continue reading
Shubham Shan is a medical student in the Class of 2019 at the University of Toronto
How to read a cleave poem:
- Read the left hand poem as a first discrete poem.
- Read the right hand poem as a second discrete poem.
- Read the whole as a third integrated poem.
Rashi Hiranandani is a medical student in the Class of 2019 at the University of Ottawa
Medical school is a stressful time in students’ lives. There are emotional, physical, and mental stressors; particular daunting is the stress of being in new clinical environments on a weekly or even daily basis and having patients’ lives in our hands. Medical students are sleep deprived and over-worked. We have the stress of not matching to the residency of our choice or even not matching to a residency program at all. Medical students also experience significant burnout and compassion fatigue, with burnout rates ranging from 27 to 75% . It thus comes as no surprise that medical students suffer from rates of mental illness higher than the general population. This is not ideal for the health of the medical students, nor is it optimal for the health of the patients they care for.
A 2016 systematic review published in JAMA reported that, on average, 27.2% of medical students deal with depression or depressive symptoms . Among students who suffer from depression, only 16% receive help . ...continue reading
Welcome to this week's edition of Dear Dr. Horton. Send the anonymous questions that keep you up at night to a real former Dean of Medical Student Affairs, Dr. Jillian Horton, and get the perspective you need with no fear of judgment. Submit your questions anonymously through this form, and if your question is appropriate for the column, expect an answer within a few weeks!
Dear Dr. Horton,
Over the past month, much of what is occurring in our political and social climate has been serving as a constant reminder of inappropriate behaviours/sexual harassment I've experienced as both a patient and a medical learner.
Do you have any advice in navigating these feelings?
Domhnall MacAuley is a CMAJ Associate Editor and a professor of primary care in Northern Ireland, UK.
Research conferences should be an opportunity to gain insights from discussion and collegial debate about new research. At times, though, I have seen debate become adversarial and counterproductive; questions can be aggressive and speakers defensive. But one of the great attributes of the North American Primary Care Research Group annual meeting (NAPCRG) is the culture intellectual rigor yet respectful and collegial discussion, and the support for early career researchers. Researchers with impressive track records in publication in international journals are always keen to share their knowledge and help their colleagues. David Meyers, a long time NAPCRG supporter unable to attend the conference this year due to illness sent a video message in which he said, "May you find meaning in your work and friendship in your colleagues." ...continue reading
Mohamad Matout is a Psychiatry Resident (R1) at McGill University
The debate regarding what should future doctors be learning during medical school is sensitive and convoluted. During the four years in which students learn basic sciences and acquire basic clinical knowledge, due to lack of time, little is taught with regards to major topics such as nutrition1, lifestyle changes, oral health2 and basic computer literacy3. One could argue that psychology is another field in which future physicians lack structured education. Our curriculum is usually centred around understanding the biology of pathophysiology and, when possible, the neurobiology of psychopathologies. While we may be introduced to the area of psychology and an understanding of pathologic defense mechanisms, the world of psychotherapy remains mysterious to medical students and physicians in general. ...continue reading
Dr. Dhruvin Hirpara is a General Surgery resident at the University of Toronto
Dr. Nancy Baxter is a colorectal surgeon at St. Michael's Hospital
Dr. Fayez Quereshy a surgical oncologist at the University Health Network.
Colorectal Cancer (CRC) is the second leading cause of cancer-related death amongst men, and the third leading cause of cancer-related death in women in Canada. Although screening has contributed to declining incidence in the elderly, recent epidemiological data reflect a rise in CRC among young adults. Data from the Canadian Cancer Registry suggest a steady increase in young-onset (15-49y) CRC, from 745 cases in 1969 to 1475 cases in 2010. In Ontario, the incidence of CRC has been increasing in young adults (30-49y) since 2005, from 6.17 per 100,000 to 9.08 per 100,000 for colon cancer, and 4.31 per 100,000 to 6.29 per 100,000 for rectal cancer. Evidence from other jurisdictions, including France, Australia, and the United States reflects similar trends in the rise of young-onset CRC. Why this apparent increase in CRC among younger people? We don’t yet know the cause but theories point to an interplay of several potential factors.
Giuliana Guarna is a medical student in the Class of 2019 at McMaster University
I pulled back the large door and stepped into the room. It was early in the morning — just after 6 am. She was lying in bed, awake, with a smile on her face despite the fact that she was post-op. The evidence of surviving rounds of chemo were borne out in front of me. Her hair was peach fuzz, peeking through a silk turban wrapped around her head. Her cheeks were like little Timbits, but her frame was swallowed by her hospital gown.
“Oh, hi. Come in. Let me turn on the light.”
I walk to the foot of the bed. The sun had not yet peeked out from under the shades. The room was illuminated by a yellowish-white hospital glow as she pressed the switch.
“How are you today?” ...continue reading
Stephanie Hinton is a medical student in the Class of 2019 at Queen's University
It’s August 17th. My grandmother died today. She never made it to palliative care. Instead, she was kept in the corner of a hospital room surrounded by empty walls and a window looking out over a parking lot. She was confined to her bed, barely conscious, and at the mercy of those with little experience in end-of-life care because she had not quite been deemed “palliative.” I sat by her bedside for 12 hours a day, 3 days in a row, leaving only to sleep. I watched her grimace in pain and counted down the hours to the next dose of pain medication. It would finally come — four hours late and barely offering the relief she was looking for. We waited for a doctor to come check on her and answer our questions. We were told they didn’t know where the doctor was or when the doctor was coming, or — my personal favourite — “Doctor’s don’t need to keep you informed of every care decision.”
She had been refused IV hydration and kept NPO, and her vitals were never checked. When they were finally checked, she was saturating dangerously below 90%. On August 17th at 8:00 am, we received a call telling us she would be moved to palliative care. At 8:15 am, we got a call telling us she had died. She was alone. We had been given empty promises the night before that she “might pull through,” and we were unable to stay the night. We were given the “privilege” of seeing her 45 minutes after she had passed, the “privilege” of calling family members to ask them if they would like to come and say their final goodbyes. We had the “privilege” of sitting by her bedside and waiting for family to arrive long after she had transitioned between life and death, doctors and nurses nowhere in sight to offer the support we desperately needed. We sat with a dreadful feeling, wondering how we could have better advocated for her and knowing she was not given the dignified death she deserved. This feeling would linger and creep up months after her death. ...continue reading