Tharshika Thangaraa is a fourth year medical student at the University of Ottawa.
The sound of her alarm pulsated through her room. Startled, she awoke. It was just another day. As the fog of nighttime cleared, she felt the weight of everyday resurface. Gradually, they claimed their spot, perched atop her shoulders. She sunk deeper into her bed.
What would she wear?
How would it flatter her figure?
What would they think?
She managed to pry off the covers and make her way downstairs for breakfast. She poured herself a bowel of cereal and set the coffee to brew. She barely noticed the happy chirps of the morning songbirds or the vibrant petals of the summer flowers starting to bloom.
Serena Arora is a medical student in the Class of 2019 at McMaster University
I love puzzles.
I love looking at the picture on the box, seeing what the completed version will look like and then pouring out all the little pieces — knowing that, somehow, they all come together to create something.
In some ways, practicing medicine is like doing a puzzle. It’s complex, intersecting, and incredibly rewarding when done right. At the same time, medicine is fractured into a thousand different components. As physicians, we look at our patients and we piece them apart into organs and body systems and tissues. We rip the details we think are important from the fabric of their narrative to focus on specific complaints. We take their words and distill them into our jargon, often so much so that their original story would be unrecognizable. Medicine is often an act of reductionism.
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 →
Recently, members of the health care community and the public at large mourned the loss of neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks. My grandfather, also a neurologist, sent me one of Dr. Sacks’s books when I first expressed an interest in applying to medical school. I have since enjoyed many of his other written works.
Earlier this summer, the health care community also lost another tremendous leader, Dr. David Sackett, the father of evidence-based medicine. On my first day of medical school, I remember receiving one of his books too, and to this day it remains a fixture on my bookshelf as a resource.
It may seem odd to bring these two doctors together, because they held such divergent views of the clinical world. ...continue reading →