Pieces of a puzzle inherit meaning not by their individual qualities, but by being pieced together into context. Good medicine — and good healthcare — are similar: they rely on understanding patients as people, and clinical presentations as brush-strokes forming part of a bigger picture....continue reading →
Earlier this fall, over the course of a tense dinner table discussion, it came to light that a dear relative of mine held some blatantly transphobic beliefs. I was greatly distressed by this — not only because these beliefs were at complete odds with my own, but because I had no idea what to do. I felt that it was my responsibility to educate them and keep communication channels open... but having had little success with blunt confrontation, I was at a loss.
Then I read First Year Out: A Transition Story, the second graphic novel by Vancouver-based author Sabrina Symington. First Year Out describes the story of Lily in her first year as an openly trans woman, and covers everything in Lily’s life from the basics (such as how she gets dressed and her first experience with online dating) to the harder conversations (like confronting her mother about her TERF [trans-exclusionary radical feminism] attitude and telling her boyfriend that she wants sexual reassignment surgery). Through the incredible medium of graphic story-telling, we get to literally see how Lily grows into herself. ...continue reading →
Giuliana Guarna is a medical student in the Class of 2019 at McMaster University
I pulled back the large door and stepped into the room. It was early in the morning — just after 6 am. She was lying in bed, awake, with a smile on her face despite the fact that she was post-op. The evidence of surviving rounds of chemo were borne out in front of me. Her hair was peach fuzz, peeking through a silk turban wrapped around her head. Her cheeks were like little Timbits, but her frame was swallowed by her hospital gown.
“Oh, hi. Come in. Let me turn on the light.”
I walk to the foot of the bed. The sun had not yet peeked out from under the shades. The room was illuminated by a yellowish-white hospital glow as she pressed the switch.
The 10th annual White Coat Warm heART exhibit, which celebrates and showcases the creative talents of medical trainees and practitioners from across Canada, will be held in conjunction with the Canadian Conference on Medical education (CCME) in Niagara Falls from April 13th to 16th, 2019.
Submission is via teachingmedicine.com — in order to have your art considered by the jury, you must register (it's free!) Entries can include, oils, watercolours, photographs, pastels, etchings, pen and ink, etc. Limited space will also be available for the display of small sculptures.
The deadline for submission is Sunday, January 27th by 5 PM PST.
Kacper Niburski is a medical student in the Class of 2021 at McGill University
There are only a few bodies that I have touched fully and fumblingly: my mother’s, as a baby drawn to a life that spills kindness; my twin’s, as a faulty scanner realizing that meaning is not found in mirrors; my lovers’, who have known that fingers loiter like summer horizons when undressing the lightness of being. I’ve hugged big bodies, mountains of men and women. I’ve stretched to bodies that have slipped away, that have asked for my palms to leave. And I have felt the bodies that whispered into a night that saw everything that this is what it was all about — to hold and be held, to love and be loved.
Sometimes, in the steep silence after these uneven affairs, there are heartbeats. Tiny, repetitive things that almost seem too quiet to be, but are. There, under your nail. There, in my own now. They bumble braveness. They tickle familiar muscles and call like sunlit laughter. Against the unseen quiet, their sacredness spools out in a language older than language itself. ...continue reading →
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.
Once an elastic band is stretched beyond its limits, it is difficult for it to return it to its unstretched state. Burnout represents a similar phenomenon: an erosion of one’s sense of self and a reflection of emotional over-exhaustion, leading to disinvestment and depersonalization. Years of intensive training, long working hours, increased managerial responsibilities, resource limitations, emotionally-involved patient and family encounters, fear of limited job prospects and litigation, and mounting clinical and non-clinical responsibilities, among other demands: physicians and other health care professionals represent a highly vulnerable group susceptible to burnout, with some estimates suggesting close to 50% of physicians being affected. Evidence suggests that physicians experiencing burnout are more likely to make poor medical decisions, share more tenuous relationships with co-workers, experience more individual and personal relationship challenges, and suffer higher risks of anxiety, depression, and suicidality. Physician burnout has also been associated with differences in overall quality of care, system-level costs, and rates of staff turnover and absenteeism.
This piece focuses on the compromise some residents and physicians make in placing themselves second while dedicating themselves to the care of others, and the silence that some encounter while struggling with burnout. It is encouraging to observe that dialogue around burnout and mental health is growing at individual, institutional, and systemic levels over time. This piece is part of that conversation....continue reading →
Matthew Lee is a medical student in the Class of 2019 at Dalhousie University
I was totally unsure. Meeting a patient who knows they are going to die... wouldn’t it be intrusive, at the end? A student coming into your life: asking questions, getting signatures, asking you to share your precious time. In the same position, I don’t know if I would say yes. That thought makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. Checking in on the floor, with information hurriedly scribbled into the margins of a notebook. A brief run-in with her mother in the crowded room, then twenty minutes spent in the hallway — trying not to be obtrusive while staff hurry by. There are visitors every day, and I doubt I looked out of place.
In some ways, I chose to take on this project in order to become more comfortable with death. It’s something I have faced before, and it took years to move past my friend dying from lymphoma. He quickly stepped away to take a phone call at our convocation. It was a biopsy result. Nearly six months to the day and it was all over. It took nearly everything I had. ...continue reading →
Shubham Shan is a medical student in the Class of 2019 at the University of Toronto
She arrived on an inclined stretcher, grasping her Venturi mask like a child holding on to her favourite toy. Flanked on both sides by paramedics, her eyes were splinted wide open by shock and her chest heaved up and down rapidly. She was a queer shade of purple — like spoilt red wine diluted with water — and her gaze flitted around the emergency department as if looking for someone familiar. The paramedics passed her off to the doctor then left, shaking their heads. I remember watching the doctor take the patient’s puffers. The patient swore loudly and snatched them from his hands; first the orange, then the blue. She cocked the puffers like guns, inserted them into her mouth, shot the mist deep, and inhaled. She coughed for what seemed like an eternity. She was what we called a “blue bloater.”
When I saw her again, she was lying on a tattered mattress with bright blue sheets in a freshly bleached acute care room in the emergency department. Her condition had gotten much worse. Her abdomen caved in paradoxically whenever she breathed in. Her eyes were bloodshot. Every time she exhaled, it sounded like an infant's rattle. ...continue reading →