Author Archives: CMAJ

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Mohammad Jay is a medical student in the Class of 2020 at the University of Ottawa

 

Dear Mohammad,

As you open this letter, you will have completed the first day of your orientation week. You’re sunburnt and tired, but beaming with excitement. You have met so many people and revelled in your shared enthusiasm about medical school. Remember to hold on to this excitement — not just today, but for the rest of your medical journey.

Although much of this journey will be rewarding and filled with exhilaration, there are going to be days when you’ll feel inadequate, exhausted, or frustrated. Remember the excitement of the first day of O-week during these difficult times. Open your admission email and replay the screams of excitement and the hugs from your family and friends. Despite the challenges of medical training, you are privileged to be on this journey. Remember that you are training to save lives. What could be a greater honour than this? ...continue reading

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Sarah Hanafi is a Psychiatry Resident (R1) at McGill University

 

I started my Geriatrics rotation on the Restorative Care unit. Having trained mostly in acute care, I found myself perplexed by this care model. On the surface, many patients seemed to suffer from maladaptive personality traits that hindered their graduation to primary care. It felt like a bizarre blend between an internal medicine ward and a long-term care facility; this mirrored the disorientation I felt in managing patients who had few medical problems, per se, but lacked the means — whether intrinsic or extrinsic — to cope. ...continue reading

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Jenna Webber is a Public Health & Preventive Medicine Resident (R2) at Queen's University

 

It’s 1 AM. The call comes in: VSA en route. Your team assembles.

Efficient, empathic, skilled — the team prepares for arrival. Roles are assigned, facts are reviewed, and questions are posed. The team is ready. You wait.

The patient arrives. Pulse check — asystole.  On to the chest. Transfer the patient to the bed. The team knows what to do — whether through simulations or past cases, everyone knows the algorithm. Everyone knows their role. With heads, hearts, and hands, everyone works on.

The clock marches. Tick. Tock.

 The skin is mottled. Bagging is going well, but intubation is tricky. Paeds and Anesthesia are on their way. Keep bagging. ...continue reading

Alexia De Simone is a medical student in the Class of 2021 at McGill University

 

In our first year of medicine at McGill University, each student is paired with a member of the community who has had an experience navigating the healthcare system. Upon meeting Mr. H, a 62-year-old man from Montreal, I expected to quickly understand the chronic pathology leading to his kidney transplant while discussing his co-morbidities and medications based on my first-year courses. However, after visiting Mr. H, I learned that medicine goes beyond a patient’s diagnosis, and that illness impacts many people in one’s life — including mine.

As part of our course, we were responsible for meeting our patient four times throughout the year. Initially, it was very challenging to elicit Mr. H’s perspective on how his illness had altered his life. ...continue reading

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Mei Wen is a medical student in the Class of 2019 at the University of Toronto

 

“Intersectionality” was always a term that I saw in academic discussions, but never something I consciously thought of as it pertains to my own identity as a person of colour — a Chinese-Canadian — and a woman. This changed in my third year of medical school, when I was no longer in the safe space of a classroom but in the real world as a clinical clerk, interacting with people from all walks of life.

In the hospital, I grew accustomed to patients, nurses, and sometimes even colleagues assuming I was a nurse based on my appearance: a small, young-appearing Asian woman. But it wasn’t until a 5-year-old patient took one look at me and said with conviction, “You’re not a doctor, you’re a nurse! Because you’re a girl and girls are nurses and boys are doctors!” that I was overwhelmed with the feeling that I did not “naturally” belong in the space of medicine. Of course, there is nothing wrong with being a nurse — they are amazing, competent individuals and I don't know how hospitals and clinics would run without them — but it's the automatic assumption that I am a nurse (which my male colleagues do not face) that is problematic. ...continue reading

Sunjit Parmar is a medical student in the Class of 2019 at the University of British Columbia

 

 

 

Warmth as hostility in a cruel summer’s dream:

Surrounded by the thick, humid mid-summer air, I await the prickling breeze of late November.

I drift beneath the cool, dark shadows... a nearby cedar sways above.

Aware of the fiery weather, a sheath of saline smothering me, I mindlessly plunge into a slow, warm stream. Upset by the warmth of the swampy summer water, I catch sight of my reflection: a suddenly aged man. I look away. ...continue reading

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Michael Gritti is a medical student in the Class of 2019 at the University of Toronto

 

 

“To induce asystole as needed.”
Looking the decision in the face
wasn't as simple as I'd thought, I conceded.
But, simply, was it right? Was it just?

Eighty millimoles of potassium chloride: ...continue reading

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Dilshan Pieris is a second-year Masters Candidate in the Health Science Education program at McMaster University

 

When Breath Becomes Air
(Random House, 2016)

When Breath Becomes Air begins with Dr. Paul Kalanithi’s childhood life in Arizona, where he developed a passion for English literature and biology that provided the foundation for his desire to pursue medicine. During the first half of the book, Dr. Kalanithi writes about this journey, which notably involved attending several internationally-esteemed universities:  Cambridge, Yale, and Stanford. Not only did he graduate from these schools with honours — he was also pursuing the notoriously demanding specialty of neurosurgery. Despite the rigour of residency training in this discipline and a blooming relationship with his partner, Lucy, Dr. Kalanithi was not merely managing; he was gradually rising to prominence in the field as a clinician-scientist. ...continue reading

Dalia Karol is a medical student in the Class of 2020 at the University of Ottawa

 

“Why waste my summer travelling when I should be preparing for clerkship?” I have heard many students say this during medical school. As co-chair of the University of Ottawa Medical School Wellness Committee, I recognize the value of taking time for oneself during medical school — especially since medical students are at high risk of burnout. While I appreciate the value of pursuing clinical and research electives, finding time to travel during our last month-long summer break can also be rewarding. Shared here are some of the lessons I have learned through travelling and how they have allowed me to reflect on my medical school experiences, gain a broader perspective, and make valuable international connections.

After spending time travelling in Europe during the summer after first year — gaining new perspectives while exploring the world outside of medicine — I began my second year energized for my classes, research, and electives. ...continue reading

Maggie Hulbert is a medical student in the Class of 2020 at Queen's University

 

Taking Turns: Stories from HIV/AIDS Care Unit 371
(Penn State University Press, 2017)

The HIV/AIDS Care Unit (Unit 371) at Chicago’s Illinois Masonic Medical Centre was founded on a heartbreakingly simple observation. “We are all just people taking turns being sick,” stated Dr. David Blatt, one of the founders of Unit 371, in MK Czerwiec’s newest graphic novel — the aptly named Taking Turns: Stories from the HIV/AIDS Care Unit 371. Czerwiec was a brand-new nursing graduate on 371 during the height of the HIV epidemic, and Taking Turns is in many ways her tribute to the unit’s extraordinary spirit. The intention of the unit was made clear from day one: this would be a place where the most stigmatized and ostracized patients could be cared for with empathy, understanding, and love. ...continue reading