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 →
Ruth Chiu is a medical student in the Class of 2018 at McMaster University
From 1975 to 1980, over two million Vietnamese, Laotian, and Cambodian refugees fled from Communist states to refugee camps across Asia and became known internationally as ‘Boat People.’1,2 In response to this crisis and under significant public pressure, the Canadian government accepted 60 000 Southeast Asians as government-assisted and privately sponsored refugees between 1979 and 1980.3
The exodus of Southeast Asian refugees was by no means the first of its kind in history. However, Canada’s response to this refugee crisis was unique in its magnitude from both a national and international perspective. Political drivers, such as the adoption of the more inclusive Immigration Act of 1976 and the recent election of Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Joe Clark after 16 years of Liberal rule, contributed to the unprecedented settlement of Southeast Asian refugees in Canada.4,5 Public interest in the crisis, heavily piqued by international news media, allowed for the success of the newly formalized private sponsorship program which supported two-thirds of the Boat People who settled in Canada.6,7...continue reading →
Hassan Hazari is a medical student in the Class of 2020 at Queen's University
The inclusion of arts and humanities in medical curricula has been a standard part of the student’s learning experience since the 1990s. The arts are credited with nurturing the skills and attitudes necessary for meaningful human interaction and personal development. McMaster University’s “Art of Seeing” program demonstrated that an arts-based curriculum promoted empathic development (Zazulak et al., 2017). The visual arts are a particular area of focus, as studying visual art not only has humanistic value but has also been shown to improve technical skills such as observation. Art-making (distinct from art observation) has been shown to foster humanistic and advocacy-orientated inclinations as well as promote learning in medical students (Cox et al., 2016; Courneya, 2017).
Zeenat Junaid is a medical student in the Class of 2020 at Bahria University in Pakistan
I checked his file again and looked up to see the patient with a tube hanging off his shaved head. Mr. Taj Saboor, 48 years old, had brain cancer —glioblastoma multiforme. It had been removed twice in the last six months, and each time it had returned with pugnacious insistence. If cancers were little shoots and plants, or even weeds or bushes, then glioblastoma multiform would surely be Jack's colossal beanstalk of lore spurting straight up to the sky. It is fast; it is monstrous. Even when meticulously removed, one never knows where else in the brain the beans have been strewn and where hell may again break loose. It surely is the grand master of all stealthy and lethal cancers. ...continue reading →
Beatrice Preti is an Internal Medicine Resident (R1)at Queen's University
It was the strangest of days when I met him first
Everything jumping from awful to worse
People were shouting and crying and seizing
Coughing and choking and retching and wheezing
It was nearly twelve hours before I could go home
But the attending doc called direct on my phone
And asked me, please, could I see one patient more?
Well, I couldn’t say no, so I went back to the floor
And met him there, though, then, he was alive, But looking so dead I knew he hadn’t long to survive Yet I took the history, and wrote everything thing down
Signed the orders, made the calls, and finished my rounds
Tucked him in for the night, and was just about to leave
When he said to me, “Doc? How much time do I have, please?” ...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 →
Stéphanie Benoît is a medical student in the Class of 2018 at the University of Ottawa
AiLi Wang is a medical student in the Class of 2018 at the University of Ottawa
What is medicine? It is much more than learning to diagnose and treat diseases. It has physical and mental components—factual and intuitive aspects. Its definition is complex and multi-factorial. Medicine is an art in all its forms.
Speaking of the arts… The Anatomy Colouring Book was a project first envisioned by Dr. Alireza Jalali as a way for medical students to study anatomy creatively. Stéphanie and AiLi, two medical students known for their interest in bridging science and the arts, were recruited and given an opportunity to re-imagine the human body as an œuvre d'art. They both worked during their first year of clerkship to develop drawings that would accurately capture the anatomical body as well as bring imagination and creativity to paper. Though challenging, the process of creating the illustrations was a way to pursue their passion for art while contributing to their peers’ learning opportunities. ...continue reading →
This dynamic executive committee will create policies and direction to foster the growth and development of our new national, health humanities organization. A lot has already been accomplished thanks to the diligent work of our colleagues, students and friends. Over 1000 people have attended our annual Creating Space conference since its inception eight years ago. We have funding for three years from Associated Medical Services, which is being used in part for start-up costs, including administrative support. The CAHH website is also operating and a conditional constitution has been posted for members’ review. ...continue reading →