A British photographer and educator, Spence was a transforming voice in the arts of the last century. Her documentary-style photo albums dealt with themes of class struggle, conformity, and feminism. In 1982, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. A few years later, leukemia also set in. This cancer was not just in her blood and bones — it had seeped into her existence. It hijacked her arteries of security; it exiled her into grey plains of isolation she had never known before. Her whole career, she had sought to catch that special look — that nuance in a scene that told another story. But could she capture this tyrant phantom of disease now in her photos? How to express something for which words falter? ...continue reading →
Kayla Simms is a Psychiatry Resident (R1) at McMaster University who graduated from medical school at the University of Ottawa in 2017
Compartmentalization is to medical knowledge as bread is to butter: patients, divided into sub-types; the body, separated by systems; the physician, detached from the pain.
Or so I once thought.
In medical school, I walked into patients’ rooms and stood idly at the bedside, intimately embedding myself into the darkest spaces of strangers’ lives. The bedside, like a carpenter’s work bench, is where I mastered concepts of sound and touch: the absence of bowel sounds auscultated in an obstructed state. The warmth of inflammation against the back of my hand.
The bedside is where I grew accustomed to asking questions like, “How is your pain today?” and learned to de-humanize the experience with the help of a 10-point scale. ...continue reading →
Swiss primary care research has a very bright future, from what I could see at the early career researchers meeting (TAN HAM) that I attended recently in Bern. Oliver Senn put together a superb programme but the key to its success was the commitment and contribution of the researchers. It was their programme and, not only did they present their work with skill and style, and almost exclusively in English, but each research presentation was chaired by one of their peers as the senior academics looked on from the side lines. The presentations were fantastic, covering a range of topics, as described below. But I thought the peer chaired sessions were an innovation worth replicating at other national and international meetings.
Many countries are struggling to recruit and retain a family medicine workforce and Switzerland is little different. ...continue reading →
Hissan Butt is a medical student at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario
I recently learned that two Canadian medical students died in the past three weeks. Little is known about the circumstances surrounding these deaths.
However, this has not stopped worried Canadian medical students from speculating about the causes of death. The speculation arises not because of a desire to gossip. Rather, I think, it stems partly from a lack of information and partly because of fear. At the time of writing, most believe that the students died by suicide. One university has acknowledged the death of one of the students, although the cause is not identified.
The silence is justified - we are told through unofficial sources – by a request from the families to respect their right to privacy. We are also told that talk might spark copying. Indeed, any decent person should want to respect the wishes of the bereaved families, to help them grieve and lighten their burden in this difficult time. There is no need for naming, but there is a need to talk. ...continue reading →
Domhnall MacAuleyis a CMAJ Associate Editor and a professor of primary care in Northern Ireland, UK.
In my capacity as Chair of the Jury for the National Research Award of the Swiss College of Primary Care Medicine, I was recently invited to give a Plenary lecture at the Early Career Researchers Academic meeting for academic primary care physicians in Bern, Switzerland. I enjoyed listening to other great speakers at the event. One was Kali Tal, a professional writer, who, in addition to her many other talents and accomplishments, works as a senior Editor, grant writer and qualitative researcher at the Institute for Primary Care Medicine at the University of Bern. Kali gave a workshop on research writing at the recent early career researchers’ group meeting.
Maggie Hulbert is a medical student in the Class of 2020 at Queen's University
Imagine working in a hospital where a child is admitted and kept on the wards for seven years without being allowed to see their family. Now imagine being that child, and growing up to be an adult in today’s healthcare system. Would you ever set foot in a hospital again? Would you ever trust a doctor? These are the kind of questions that come to mind while reading Medicine, Unbundled: A Journey through the Minefields of Indigenous Health Care, a book written by investigative journalist Gary Geddes. By travelling across Canada and interviewing Indigenous leaders, Elders, and members of a wide variety of First Nations, Geddes provides a powerful account of how Canada’s historic Indian Hospitals and Tuberculosis Sanatoriums directly and intentionally contributed to the genocide of Indigenous people. ...continue reading →
Meagan Mahoney is a pediatric intensivist at Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary
Jennifer Woolfsmith is Mackenzy’s mom
Matthew Weiss is a pediatric intensivist at the Centre Mère-Enfant Soleil du CHU de Québec and medical director of organ donation at Transplant Québec
Organ donation is a gift. Not just for those who receive, but often for the families of those who give.
When 22-month-old Mackenzy Woolfsmith died suddenly and tragically in 2012, her organs saved the lives of four people. For her parents, this decision has made a lasting, positive impact on their lives, one of the few positive aspects they were able to salvage from this traumatic loss. The story of Mackenzy’s parents’ experience of organ donation as a gift received, as an integral part of end-of-life care and bereavement, is, we believe, a story that is not told often enough. ...continue reading →
Cathy Li is a medical student in the Class of 2020 at the University of Toronto
"Doctor, what do you recommend for my grandmother's pancreatic tumour?" My heart was fluttering nervously as I scribbled down his suggestions. This was the third meeting I had arranged.
Growing up, I had a very close relationship with my grandmother and lived with my grandparents until I was six years old. I received the news of her diagnosis during my third year of university. The words “intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm” haunted me and echoed incessantly in my head for days; I could neither think nor focus. The feelings of powerlessness grappled to hold me down. Yet deep down, I was aware that simply being a passive bystander would be the greatest personal defeat. With that, a new wave of resilience inundated my thoughts. ...continue reading →