Dominic Wang is a medical student in the Class of 2021 at Western University
My usual Sunday morning plans to catch up on last week’s lectures were mixed with a dash of anticipation for a taste of a new city’s coffee scene. All this, with the blue backpack.
Heading out, my eye was immediately caught by a man at the bus stop. He was singing and dancing in a style reminiscent of a grainy ‘50s film, but was wandering dangerously into the middle of the road. I considered my options as I drew closer: do I stop him, or do I keep walking? All this, with the blue backpack.
Our eyes met. We both nodded. He strolled up with a grin on his face. We exchanged the usual greetings. Then, he asked it: “Are you a med student?” We were suddenly talking about his dancing, and how he may have been drinking, and how he may have wanted to study at Western, and how he may have been abused as a child, and how he may have schizophrenia. I pulled out my phone, gave him the time for the next bus, and continued to my stop. ...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
Maggie Hulbert is a medical student in the Class of 2020 at Queen's University
Medicine Unbundled: A Journey through the Minefields of Indigenous Health Care
(Heritage House, 2017)
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
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
Tyler Murray is an Internal Medicine Resident (R1) at the University of British Columbia who graduated from medical school at the University of Toronto in 2017
Fortunately, I found myself starting medical school unacquainted with death. I had only been to a single funeral, all four of my grandparents were still alive, and my entire extended family was relatively free from chronic disease.
Our first exposure to death in medical school was in the anatomy lab. At the end of the first week, we were brought down to the morgue and introduced to our cadavers. A small card with a simple line about who they were hung at the foot of the table: "54y male. Cause of death: lymphoma.” Over the next two months, we became intimately familiar with these bodies. Each day, we crossed a new boundary in a process of uncomfortable, progressive desensitization. I wonder now if this was intentional. ...continue reading
Maria Powell is an Internal Medicine Resident (R1) at the University of Calgary who graduated from medical school at Memorial University of Newfoundland in 2017
Admittedly, my social histories used to consist of the same three questions: Do you smoke? Do you drink alcohol? Do you use recreational drugs? I would occasionally ask if the patient worked outside the home, or what they did for income, but the question rarely came up when reviewing consults with resident and staff physicians so I did not routinely ask about it. One thing I am sure of: I never asked whether or not the patient had a home.
During my first two years of medical school, I had lectures on the social determinants of health, and I thought I understood their importance. Yet, it was not until I did a “Health of the Homeless” elective in downtown Toronto that I truly appreciated the impact of the social determinants of health. ...continue reading
Sterling Sparshu is an Early-Career Physician who graduated from medical school and completed their residency at the University of Calgary in 2017
As I graduate from my residency program, I am struck by how much this journey has mirrored aging and development. I grew typically enough through infancy and childhood, but medical training stalled me in adolescence.
While others gradually accumulated responsibility, status, and wealth in a stepwise fashion, I have received this at a slow, then exponentially increasing rate. It seems at one moment I was a medical student; then, suddenly, I had an MD and was expected to take on so much more than only a day before. Now I will be a medical staff — but I am no longer just me. I am no longer just a student, resident, or physician. I am now a corporation. I have an accountant, a lawyer, a financial advisor... I am suddenly earning as much in a day as I used to make in a week. I have been granted tremendous power and must take on immense responsibility. ...continue reading
Eleni Levreault is a medical student in the Class of 2019 at the University of Ottawa
They said medicine, when you begin,
Is like staring Mount Everest in the face.
You wonder how the mountain you climbed
Suddenly shrinks to a hill beside what is yet to come
Yet you start the climb;
This is what you’ve trained for, after all
And as summer turns to fall, the journey begins:
Genetics, anatomy, they consume all your time
As the snow settles in, the bell-ringers cease to chime ...continue reading
Hely Shah is a medical student in the Class of 2018 at the University of Alberta
As a medical student in pre-clerkship, I was known to my classmates as the one who watched recordings of all the lectures rather than attending in person just to have the opportunity to scrub in more often in the OR. I was driven to shadow every surgical specialty at least once. Suffice to say, I love surgery: the precision; the ability to lead a talented and hard-working team as an attending surgeon; the ability to cure a disease instantly (or, more commonly, after hours of arduous work); the gratitude of patients; the hands-on approach… the list goes on. To my surprise, when I expressed a desire to pursue a surgical residency, my colleagues were skeptical about my commitment. Their simple yet commonly expressed sentiment regarding surgery: only pick a surgical residency if there is nothing else I love more in life. ...continue reading
Yipeng Ge is a medical student in the Class of 2019 at the University of Ottawa
Having completed a handful of family medicine preceptorships and a few electives, I have had the opportunity to gain exposure to talking to patients one-on-one — and I am beyond excited to enter this field.
Learning about another human being and immersing yourself in their stories and concerns is a privilege — a chance to be present and to be there for them. I was fortunate enough to tag along on many patient home visits for my most recent family preceptorship session. ...continue reading