Ever wish you could ask a wise, kind, approachable Student Affairs Dean something without having to admit the question was yours? Maybe you think it’s cringe-worthy; maybe you feel like you should know the answer already; maybe you think you will be judged; maybe you’re sure you are the only medical trainee on the planet ever to have felt this way, and you need confirmation now.
Enter Dear Dr. Horton, a new feature on the CMAJ Blog. Send the anonymous questions that keep you up at night to a real former Dean of Medical Student Affairs, Dr. Jillian Horton, and get the perspective you need with no fear of judgment (rest assured, though — Student Affairs Deans in Canada are all really great people, and not only have they heard it all, but they take on these decidedly unglamorous, 24-hour call jobs because they really, really care about learners).
Submit your questions anonymously through this form, and if your question is appropriate for the column, expect an answer within a few weeks! ...continue reading →
Julian Nguyen is a medical student in the Class of 2019 at McGill University
Monday morning; flu season. The attending respirologist has spent the whole weekend on call battling the symptoms of influenza, likely caught from one of our many afflicted patients. Swallowing a Tamiflu pill, he tells me how—despite a hectic shift in the emergency room—he managed to complete a major grant application for his next research project. His voice is hoarse from coughing and exhaustion lies around the corner, yet his determination to carry on is unshaken. I admire his fortitude while hating myself for lacking his sense of sacrifice.
Michel Foucault, in his seminal Naissance de la clinique (The Birth of the Clinic), highlights the primordial role physicians occupy in a society predicated on science. He sees in physicians (and priests) “les héritiers naturels des deux plus visibles missions de l’Église — la consolation des âmes et l’allègement des souffrances” (the natural heirs of the two most visible missions of the Church — the consolation of souls and the lessening of suffering). Western society’s obsession with youth and health has elevated physicians beyond mere technicians to all-encompassing healers, increasing the burden placed on aspiring doctors. ...continue reading →
Sarina Lalla is a medical student in the Class of 2020 at McMaster University
When McMaster medical students learn about medical conditions in a problem-based setting, we frequently use the mnemonic “DEEPICT” (Definition, Epidemiology, Etiology, Prognosis, Investigations, Clinical presentations, Treatment) to approach them. Medical schools focus on teaching students about these important aspects of diseases; with time and practice, this information can be retained and applied by students to make them better clinicians.
However, there is also value in understanding a disease through the eyes of patients. More specifically, it is critical to recognize how facing an illness and navigating the healthcare system impacts their lives. Patients are the experts on their own experiences, and the knowledge they can present in the form of stories can teach us a lot. While we learn how to interpret information in the form of bloodwork and imaging, patients present first and foremost with a story. ...continue reading →
Bader Alamri is an Internal Medicine Resident (R3) at Dalhousie University
Since 1978, more than 4,500 Saudi physicians and surgeons have been trained and have provided healthcare in Canada. These individuals have trained and practiced at many university hospitals across Canada over the past forty years, working within a very wide range of specialties—from general residency training to subspecialty fellowships, as well as very specific areas of research and clinical interest .
The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons in Canada (RC) recently signed a Master Executive Agreement with the Saudi Commission for Health Specialties (SCFHS) to increase and improve the quality of training in Saudi Arabia, which reflects the long-standing relationship between the two parties . In fact, the current SCFHS CEO is himself a Canadian-trained gastroenterologist at the University of British Columbia, and the current CEO of RC is a hematologist who established the first bone marrow transplant program in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. ...continue reading →
Arnav Agarwal is an Internal Medicine Resident (R1) at the University of Toronto. Check back the last Thursday of each month for a new featured piece as part of his series (Doc Talks: Reflections to Reality)!
Arnav Agarwal, CC3. I starkly recall etching those three words as I signed off on my first clinical note on a warm September morning. I wish this could be in pencil, I remember thinking. The idea of permanently associating my identity with a patient’s story and offering a proposed impression and plan felt outlandish — I barely had my own impression and plan figured out. How was I going to help patients and make a difference when I could hardly find my way to the right area of the hospital for my first day? And, a more weighted question: could I really practice medicine?
Indeed, the two years that followed were defined by gruelling academic intensity unparalleled by the prior two years of pre-clerkship. A rigorous clinical schedule was now paired with the expectation to prove theoretical capabilities every six to eight weeks. Uncountable sleepless overnight shifts on-call were matched by long days and weekend shifts. The unwavering anticipation of new learning experiences was paralleled by the uncomfortable sense of needing to constantly impress those around us and hold our own in a seemingly foreign environment. ...continue reading →
Mohammad Jay is a medical student in the Class of 2020 at the University of Ottawa
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
Corinne Boudreau is a medical student in the Class of 2019 at the University of Toronto
In 2015, I moved from the tiny New Brunswick town of Sackville to the sprawling city of Toronto, Ontario.
That was also when I started medical school. Immersed in basements with sallow cadavers and impossibly-long PDFs on physiology, I soon realized I was in for an experience which could not be further removed from my undergraduate years spent in the art studio. So, what does a (former) visual artist do when completely out of her depth? Naturally, she doodles!
What started out as a simple means to keep up my drawing soon turned into quirky recounts of our experiences in first year, and before I knew it, it was born: a comic strip about a girl in medicine and — of course — her best moose friend. ...continue reading →