Courtney Bercan is community health nurse at a clinic in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver
Years later, I still don’t want to think about it, let alone type it out. Three children, babies practically, dead before me. Their parents, dead beside them.
It has now been two years since I was on a Doctors Without Borders search and rescue vessel in the Mediterranean and it’s been a slow path, at times, to finding healing and peace for the things I saw and experienced there. As my life settled into a predictable rhythm, the memories started coming out of the blue and with intensity. They demanded attention. Normally, in Canada, the process of finding closure for a patient’s death, while not always easy, is not usually this difficult. There are mitigating thoughts and phrases to help you along the way:
Ruth Habte is a medical student in the Class of 2019 at the University of Manitoba
I have been privileged to take part in implementing global health programming while in medical school, both at my own school and across the country. Throughout this time, I have often been prompted to answer the infamous question: “What is global health?” I have also encountered the misconception of global health being synonymous with international health. Based on my learning and experiences, I have come to define global health in my own terms.
While global health is an incredibly broad field, the cornerstone of global health (in my opinion) is attaining health equity for all people. That means that a person with less privilege in life should be afforded greater means to reach the same health outcomes as those with more privilege. ...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 →
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 →
Ameer Farooq is a General Surgery Resident (R3) at the University of Calgary who completed his Master of Public Health at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health in the Global Health track. He is interested in global surgery, implementation science, and trying to keep up with his two children.
Alastair Fung is a Pediatrics Resident (R3) at the University of Manitoba who completed his Master of Public Health at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health in the Global Health track. He is interested in early childhood development and pediatric infectious diseases in low-resource countries, as well as Canadian indigenous child health.
A child is admitted to the PICU for hemiplegia and diagnosed with a brain abscess. The culture of the abscess fluid grows dental flora; clearly, poor education and access to dental hygiene are the root cause. ...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 →
Jaya Tanwani is a medical student in the Class of 2020 at the University of Toronto
An interesting experience I had with cultural safety was when I volunteered at medical camps in rural Pakistan at age sixteen. My parents had taken my brother and me back to Pakistan—a country that we belonged to but had never resonated with—to visit our extended family and “get in touch with our roots.” As part of my parents’ efforts to help us become more aware of the privileged North American lives we lived, they insisted that I work with some doctors in running a medical camp. Having been attracted to medicine since I was a child, I leapt at the opportunity… only to shy away from the idea five minutes later when they told me that the medical camps were in rural Pakistan. I was scared. I didn’t want to desert the comforts of urban Pakistan, where McDonald’s and Pizza Hut were a block away and where I could still wear my Canadian attire. I was certainly not comfortable with the idea of working with a group of people so different from myself and so different from the modern, chic Pakistani society that my relatives lived in. ...continue reading →
Robbie Sparrow is a medical student in the Class of 2019 at Western University
For individuals facing deep personal struggles, the path to recovery is often daunting and overwhelming. Support from others who have overcome similar challenges can be extremely beneficial. For example, the best people to help heroin addicts are those who have fought to stay sober for two years, and women facing domestic abuse are best aided by women who have escaped it. Doctors who care for patients living through crises are often disadvantaged when trying to empathize with them because they themselves haven’t faced the same struggle. Difficult experiences throughout a physicians’ life can help them approach this ideal of empathy and improve the care they offer patients. ...continue reading →
The new Director General (DG) of the World Health Organization (WHO) will soon be elected. If the upcoming election does not effectively hold to account all candidates, especially the successful one, the WHO risks losing its influence as the leading global public health authority.
On May 23, 2017, for the first time in WHO’s history, all 194 Member States of its governing body, the World Health Assembly, will cast a vote for the new WHO DG at its annual meeting in Geneva. (Previously, the DG was selected by the WHO's 34-member Executive Board.)
But, public health challenges are too great to allow the vote to descend into geo-political horse-trading and unchallenged controversy-dodging in an environment where opportunities for public vetting are few.
The WHO DG is head of a global staff of 7,000 and chief global ambassador to national health ministries world-wide. The WHO’s prominence and the need for its leadership in global public health have long been greatest in low- and middle-income countries where national health systems suffer a relative lack of financial resources and specialized technical expertise. But high-income countries draw on the WHO’s work, ranging from graded distillations of nutrition and alcohol research to annual advice about the best flu vaccine to administer globally.
The three candidates shortlisted for the position of DG have been persistently ambiguous about their stances on important governance issues. ...continue reading →
Nobody could have predicted the desperate state in Syria when the World Organization of National Colleges, Academies and Academic Associations of General Practitioners/Family Physicians (WONCA) Europe Conference for 2015 was awarded to the Turkish Family Medicine Organisation (TAHUD) a few years ago. Few could also have predicted that Turkey would be at the very centre of a mass exodus of people not seen in Europe since the Second World War. According to the UNHCR as of September 2015 the country now finds itself providing refuge to an estimated 2 million Syrians fleeing conflict and destitution. I have heard the current situation being described as a ‘stress test’ of the European values of solidarity and collegiality, ...continue reading →