Mei Wen is a medical student in the Class of 2019 at the University of Toronto
“Intersectionality” was always a term that I saw in academic discussions, but never something I consciously thought of as it pertains to my own identity as a person of colour — a Chinese-Canadian — and a woman. This changed in my third year of medical school, when I was no longer in the safe space of a classroom but in the real world as a clinical clerk, interacting with people from all walks of life.
In the hospital, I grew accustomed to patients, nurses, and sometimes even colleagues assuming I was a nurse based on my appearance: a small, young-appearing Asian woman. But it wasn’t until a 5-year-old patient took one look at me and said with conviction, “You’re not a doctor, you’re a nurse! Because you’re a girl and girls are nurses and boys are doctors!” that I was overwhelmed with the feeling that I did not “naturally” belong in the space of medicine. Of course, there is nothing wrong with being a nurse — they are amazing, competent individuals and I don't know how hospitals and clinics would run without them — but it's the automatic assumption that I am a nurse (which my male colleagues do not face) that is problematic. ...continue reading →
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 →
Sophie Soklaridis is an Independent Scientist and the Interim Director of Research in Education at The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto, Canada
Almost 23 years ago, I wrote a Master’s thesis that emerged from my experience with breastfeeding my son. After writing the cathartic 260-page thesis, I thought I was done with thinking about breastfeeding. Then I read about a woman with postpartum depression who died by suicide, with one of the main explanations she wrote in a note being that she was unable to exclusively breastfeed her baby. I also read Chaput and colleagues’ enlightening article in CMAJ Open on the link between breastfeeding difficulties and postpartum depression. When I recently started talking to new and expecting mothers, I realized that very little seems to have changed in the discourse around breastfeeding and the experience of being a “good” mother since I went through that lonely and painful time in my life. ...continue reading →