I remember learning about “atypical” presentations of heart attacks during a cardiology lecture in my second year of medical school. Jaw pain, shoulder pain, and fatigue replace the archetypal central chest pain and diaphoresis, making the diagnosis much more subtle and easy to miss. Only later, as a footnote, was it mentioned that these presentations usually occurred in women. I thought it was odd that something that occurs in half the population was said to be “atypical,” but as is so often the case in medical school, I didn’t have time to dwell on it for long; the lecturer had already moved on to angina and I missed what he had said about beta-blockers. ...continue reading →
Dr. James Maskalyk describes emergencies “as a sign of life taking care of itself” in his most recent memoir, Life on the Ground Floor. Throughout his book, the reader is left to wonder what exactly Maskalyk means by this. It is an ominous phrase that, at first glance, reads more like a repackaged “survival of the fittest” for emergency departments. However, through deft and emotional storytelling, Maskalyk urges us to look beyond this stark message of Darwinism and see that emergencies are the purest form of life helping life, or “life taking care of itself”. ...continue reading →
Graphic novels have emerged from the field of medical humanities as a powerful medium for telling stories — particularly stories of mental illness. Ellen Forney and David B. are two recent, best-selling graphic novelists who write about their experiences with mental illness and have broken ground for many new artists to carve their place in the mental health graphic novel genre. Clem and Olivier Martini, brothers and authors of The Unravelling, also deserve recognition as graphic novel trailblazers. The Unravelling is the second book that touches on their family’s experience with Olivier’s diagnosis of schizophrenia. However, this book also centres on their mother, Catherine — Olivier’s caretaker and roommate — who is rapidly losing her independence and cognitive abilities at age 89. It is a personal and emotional account of caregiving, as well as an angry lament of the state of Canada’s healthcare system for the mentally ill and ageing. ...continue reading →
In the introduction to The Remedy, British Columbia-based editor Zena Sharman states her intention plainly: to make people’s stories the centre of conversations on queer and transgender health. The resulting anthology is a stunning and captivating look at the past, present, and future of health and healthcare as it relates to LGBTQ+ people in Canada that more than accomplishes Sharman’s goal. A long-standing frustration with healthcare providers is a common theme among the stories contained in The Remedy. ...continue reading →
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 →
Health policy pundits should look to André Picard’s new book for a dose of common sense on some of Canada’s most urgent health issues. Picard, as most Canadians know, is the long-time health columnist for The Globe and Mail. The book, Matters of Life and Death: Public Health Issues in Canada (Douglas & McIntyre), is the best-of those columns over the past 15 years, updated and conveniently packaged under 14 topic headings like opioid use, medical assistance in dying, cancer, marijuana, indigenous health and infectious disease. Most importantly Picard delves into medicare itself. Canadians spent $228-billion in 2016 on health care: Do we get value for our money? Is it sustainable? Picard not only asks the right questions, he provides some very credible answers. ...continue reading →
Domhnall MacAuleyis a CMAJ Associate Editor and a professor of primary care in Northern Ireland, UK.
I have just read your book - or, should I say, it completely captivated me. I couldn’t put it down. What a compelling life story. When you lectured about depression at those Masterclass lectures I chaired years ago I was so impressed with your grasp of the topic, your understanding of the difficulties facing family doctors, and your overall approach to managing the condition. You had such a clear understanding and appreciation of depression and the difficulties of treating it in practice. And, you were so assured, confident, on top of your subject. I had chaired many similar sessions but yours were outstanding. There wasn’t even the slightest hint that your understanding extended so far into your personal experience. ...continue reading →
When I first picked up Every Patient Tells a Story in the library, I expected a rather one-dimensional anthology of medical cases told from the patient’s perspective. The book certainly offered medical cases, but was also an incredibly balanced and engaging read that left me wanting more. Published in 2009, this book was written by Dr. Lisa Sanders, MD, author of “Diagnosis,” a popular weekly column in the New York Times that inspired the hit TV show House MD. ...continue reading →
Patricia Lightfoot is Associate Director, Online Physician Learning, at the new CMA subsidiary "8872147 Canada Inc."
I read Girl in the Dark a few months after escaping from a darkened room, where I had lain blind-folded and ear-plugged, the prisoner of an implacable captor, with whom no negotiation was possible. My time spent in darkness was the consequence of a concussion, sustained following a severe fall when cycling down a hill on my regular Saturday ride. A full recovery eluded me for months, in spite of my intense desire to be well and active. Once I had served my sentence ...continue reading →