6th annual Medical Student Research Showcase

By Drs. Heather Murray & Melanie Walker

This year the School of Medicine is proud to invite you to the 6th annual Medical Student Research Showcase on Wednesday September 20th.

This event celebrates the research achievements of our undergraduate medical students, with both posters and an oral plenary session featuring research performed by students while they have been enrolled in medical school. All students who received summer studentship research funding through the School of Medicine in 2017 will be presenting their work, as well as many other research initiatives. The posters will be displayed in the David Walker atrium of the School of Medicine building from 8am until 5pm, with the students standing at their posters answering questions between 10:30 and noon.

The oral plenary features the top research projects selected by a panel of faculty judges, and will run in room 132A from noon until 1:30pm on September 20th, immediately following the poster session Q&A.

This year’s faculty judges included:

Dr. Yuka Asai

Dr. Jennifer Flemming

Dr. Katrina Gee

Dr. David Good

Dr. Dianne Groll

Dr. Paula James

Dr. Robert Reid

Dr. Prameet Sheth

Dr. Graeme Smith

Dr. Tan Towheed

Dr. Andrea Winthrop

We are very grateful to these faculty members for evaluating our oral plenary applicants this year.

The three students who have been selected for the oral plenary session, and the titles of their research presentations and faculty supervisor names are listed below. Each of these three students will receive The Albert Clark Award for Medical Student Research Excellence.

Gregory Hawley – Plasminogen depletion following severe burn injury

Jeffrey Mah – Survival following Transjugular Intrahepatic Portosystemic Shunt (TIPS) in Patients with Cirrhosis: A Population-based Study

Sean Tom – ETS1 transcription factor-mediated upregulation of microRNA-31 controls cardiac fibrogenesis in human atrial fibrillation.

Please set aside some time to attend the Medical Student Research Showcase on September 20th. The students will appreciate your interest and support, and you will be amazed at what they have been able to achieve.

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Names matter

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet.

 So mused the ill-fated heroine in Romeo and Juliet, about her equally ill-fated love.

In medicine and in teaching, however, names can mean a lot.

The late Dr. Kate Granger of the United Kingdom was one of the strongest advocates for using names with her #hellomynameis campaign – launched while she lived with terminal cancer. As explained in a BBC article following her death in July 2016, the campaign “encouraged healthcare staff to introduce themselves to patients.”

“A by-product of her own experiences of hospital in August 2013, it grew out of the feelings of unimportance she experienced when the doctor who informed her that her cancer had spread did not introduce himself,” the BBC wrote. Granger had explained it this way: “It’s the first thing you are taught in medical school, that when you approach a patient you say your name, your role and what you are going to do. This missing link made me feel like I did not really matter, that these people weren’t bothered who I was. I ended up at times feeling like I was just a diseased body in a hospital bed.”

Learning and using names is important for both teachers and students, long before they reach patients’ hospital beds. For this reason, we emphasize the importance of names in our UGME classrooms and clinical skills environments, too.

“Learning students’ names signals your interest in their performance and encourages student motivation and class participation,” writes Barbara Gross Davis in Tools for Teaching. “Even if you can’t learn everyone’s name, students appreciate your making the effort.”

One of the strategies of learning students names that Gross Davis (and others) suggests is one we’ve adopted at Queen’s UG: having students use name tent cards in the classrooms. This was adopted for two reasons, Dr. Lindsay Davidson, Director of Teaching, Learning, and Integration explains.

“It’s because we start developing professional identity from Day 1, and being a doctor means introducing who you are.”

“And because it helps build relationships,” she adds. “Student-student but also teacher-student—teachers can respond to students as individuals with names not ‘the guy in the ball cap’.”

“We expect all medical students to wear identification nametags for all clinical skills sessions, both in-house and when at health facilities,” says Clinical Skills Director Dr. Cherie Jones. She notes that the Year 1 students don’t have these on Day 1 as these are provided by KGH. “We use paper ones until they are done!” Once the official badges are available, they must be worn.

And it’s not just for students: clinical skills tutors are expected to wear their ID that they use in their clinical settings.

And for all those (like me) who’ve become accustomed to wearing an ID card on a lanyard or on a hip-level clip: IDs are to be worn on the lapel of the jacket—where they can best be seen

“Name tags are important in clinical skills sessions because the Standardized Patients (SPs) and Volunteer Patients (VPs), like to know the names of the students and tutors they are working with and don’t always understand or hear the name when the student introduces themselves,” Dr. Jones explains.

The Clinical Skills policy mimics the name-badge policies at the hospitals in Kingston. “Name tags in clinical settings like KGH are mandatory for anyone interacting with patients, staff, even with visitors,” Dr. Jones points out.

“Not only is it policy in the hospital, but patients like being able to read anyone’s name – not just the students’,” adds Kathy Bowes, Clinical Skills Coordinator.

So, remember your ID badge, use your name tent cards in the classrooms, use people’s names. And me, I’ll be pinning my hospital ID badge in the right place the next time I’m heading over to KGH for a meeting.

Because names matter. To everyone.

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Anatomy studies begin with focus on respect

Each September, first year students in the Queen’s Undergraduate Medical program quietly begin their studies in anatomy with a service acknowledging the donation of bodies that will be used in the lab assignments.

This year the short service will be held on Tuesday, September 5 at 3 p.m. in room 032 of the Medical Building, following the introduction to the Human Structure & Function course.

The course co-directors, Les MacKenzie, Stephen Pang, and Allan Baer will be joined by Queen’s Chaplain Kate Johnson to lead the program.

The session emphasizes respect and professionalism. “This is the first approach to professionalism,” MacKenzie explained in an interview. “The purpose of the donations is for this study and we have to respect that.”

“Respect not just for the bodies that have been donated, but for the families who have donated them,” he added.

Queen’s is one of a decreasing number of medical schools that still uses human cadavers in anatomy courses. According to a 2016 article in National Geographic, “half of Canadian medical schools have cut back on using cadavers, relying instead on new technology to make teaching basic anatomy more efficient.”

While there is definitely a place for technology, MacKenzie acknowledged, there’s also a strong argument for using donated human bodies. He pointed out, for example, that the many variations of “normal” are not experienced if everyone is using the same computer simulated program. It’s a privilege to have this learning experience, MacKenzie noted, and the students recognize this.

The emphasis on respect is tied to one of the objectives from the Queen’s UGME Competency Framework (Professional 1.1a) which notes students will “Identify honesty, integrity, commitment, dependability, compassion, respect, confidentiality and altruism in clinical practice and apply these concepts in learning, medical and professional encounters.” For the Human Structure and Function course, this is further annotated to explain that students will: “Consistently demonstrate compassion and respect for those who have donated their bodies to the medical school for use by students studying anatomy.”

“I truly believe the point does get across,” MacKenzie said. “Our medical students really get the message, there’s no horseplay. We have zero tolerance of misbehaving.”

Queen’s Chaplain Kate Johnson, who has led the opening service in recent years, takes the opportunity to emphasize the students’ own humanity and to remind them to keep in touch with it.

“Historically, medical students were at risk of a ‘super human’ culture of medicine,” Johnson said. “Now, with technological advances, there’s the danger of taking the humanity out of medicine. The anatomy lab is one place to keep the humanity.”

Johnson also reminds students they are starting on a pathway to a position of trust.

“You’re not just technically excellent, but your professional conduct is to be worthy of trust,” she noted at last year’s service. “It’s appropriate then that this part of your education starts with the bodies of people whose last wish was to entrust their physical remains to you in order that you can be fully trained in your profession,” she said. “Even more, their surviving family members have made what is often a huge decision to trust you by following through on their deceased loved ones’ wishes.

Tuesday’s service is open to all members of the Queen’s community. “It would be great if it was standing room only,” MacKenzie said.


Each spring features a more formal, graveside burial service at the Queen’s University plot at Cataraqui Cemetery which is attended by family, friends, and members of the Queen’s community. Details on this service will be available in the spring.

For more on the Human Body Donor Program at Queen’s see A body of medical knowledge in the Queen’s Alumni Review 2017 Issue 2

For information on procedures to donate, see the Queen’s Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences Human Body Donor Program web page.

 

 

 

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Curriculum Committee Information – May 24, 2017 & June 22, 2017

Faculty and staff interested in attending Curriculum Committee meetings should contact the Committee Secretary, Candace Miller (umecc@queensu.ca), for information relating to agenda items and meeting schedules.

A meeting of the Curriculum Committee was held on May 24, 2017.  To review the topics discussed at this meeting, please click HERE to view the agenda.

The Curriculum Committee held its Annual Curricular Review Retreat on June 22, 2017. To review the topics discussed at this Retreat, please click HERE to view the agenda.

Faculty interested in reviewing the minutes of the May meeting and Annual Curricular Review Retreat can click HERE to be taken to the Curriculum Committee’s page located on the Faculty Resources Community of MEdTech Central.

Those who are directly impacted by any decisions made by the Curriculum Committee have been notified via email.

Students interested in the outcome of a decision or discussion are welcome to contact the Aesculapian Society’s Vice President, Academic, Kate Rath-Wilson at vpacademic@qmed.ca.

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Curriculum Committee Information – May 24, 2017 & June 22, 2017

Faculty and staff interested in attending Curriculum Committee meetings should contact the Committee Secretary, Candace Miller (umecc@queensu.ca), for information relating to agenda items and meeting schedules.

A meeting of the Curriculum Committee was held on May 24, 2017.  To review the topics discussed at this meeting, please click HERE to view the agenda.

The Curriculum Committee held its Annual Curricular Review Retreat on June 22, 2017. To review the topics discussed at this Retreat, please click HERE to view the agenda.

Faculty interested in reviewing the minutes of the May meeting and Annual Curricular Review Retreat can click HERE to be taken to the Curriculum Committee’s page located on the Faculty Resources Community of MEdTech Central.

Those who are directly impacted by any decisions made by the Curriculum Committee have been notified via email.

Students interested in the outcome of a decision or discussion are welcome to contact the Aesculapian Society’s Vice President, Academic, Kate Rath-Wilson at vpacademic@qmed.ca.

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Rerun season nostalgia and course planning

In the era of Netflix, TiVo, and Internet downloading that has given rise to binge-watching an entire TV series in a weekend, my childhood appreciation for summer rerun season is distinctly absent.

For those of a certain generation, summer was the time to catch-up: on sleep, on reading, on those episodes of your favourite TV show that you missed because of basketball practice or drama rehearsal (or because your brother got to pick his favourite show alternating Tuesday nights).

While reruns may be absent from your television set, the concept of reruns can be helpful in your course planning for the fall. As you review your teaching, consider these things:

  • What were the highlights? (80s Rerun Parallel: A great episode you want to see again)
  • What did you include but didn’t cover as closely as you wanted? (80s Rerun Parallel: That awesome episode you half-watched while playing Candy Land while babysitting)
  • What got dropped by accident? (80s Rerun Parallel: The special episodes you missed because you just couldn’t get to the TV at the right time—see reasons, above).

These rerun-inspired reflection prompts can get you thinking of areas where you can improve or enhance your teaching plan. And, in the spirit of retro TV-rerun season, here are four of my previous blog posts you may have missed that give you some tools for planning or revising your teaching after your reflecting is complete:

Now, excuse me while I try to figure out the scheduling of binge-watching six seasons of Game of Thrones so I can get caught up. I seem to be one of the only people around who hasn’t watched a single episode.

But, seriously, I’m always available to talk through your UG teaching challenges. Email me: theresa.suart@queensu.ca

 

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When teaching isn’t fun anymore…

People come to teaching through a variety of paths. That’s especially true in medical education.

One thing that most educators – at any level – have in common is a sincere desire to teach. And, generally, most educators get some enjoyment out of it. But what happens if that’s not the case? What if you’ve been told you must teach, or (perhaps more disheartening), what if you’ve enjoyed education assignments to this point, but teaching just isn’t fun anymore?

Even if it’s something you have been passionate about, it can be a challenge to stay engaged year after year. Even the most dedicated educators can lose steam along the way. (These suggestions aren’t focused on the level of burnout. That’s another very serious topic for another day. This is more about a “general malaise” – you know there’s something not working, but you’re not quite sure what that is.)

If your enthusiasm for your teaching assignment is on the wane, and it seems more chore than challenge, here are five possible interventions to consider:

  1. Re-focus on what attracted you to teaching in the first place. (Or, if you’ve been assigned to teach, think about what you enjoyed about learning).

What brought you to teaching in the first place? Is it sharing knowledge and expertise? Working with future colleagues? Exploring new technologies or teaching methods? Is it the place, the people, the content? Sometimes we drop our favourite things by accident. Is there something missing now that you can reintroduce to your teaching practice?

  1. Team up with a colleague.

Despite the many faculty we have, teaching can seem a lonely enterprise. Preparation is very often done solo and it’s you standing alone with the class or group of students. Consider partnering with a colleague to prepare together and compare notes after teaching. You don’t have to be teaching in the same course or area – it’s staying connected and sharing viewpoints that can help.

  1. Swap assignments.

If you’re able to, consider swapping teaching responsibilities with a colleague: if you’ve always focused on pre-clerkship teaching, maybe trade with a colleague who has focused on clerkship instruction. If you’ve been an FSGL tutor, swap with a Clinical Skills one. The shift in perspective could help you both (and enrich students’ experiences, too). If you pair this with #2, you can help each other through the transition. When you swap back the next year, you’ll each have new tools and a fresh outlook.

  1. If you can, step away for a little while.

While this is not always possible, if you can take a break from teaching, it can reawaken your enthusiasm. Time away can help you remember exactly what it is you love about teaching and give you space to address those areas that have become chores. Sometimes absence truly does make the heart grow fonder.

  1. Come talk to me or other members of the Education Team.

We may be able to help pinpoint specific areas of your teaching assignment that are dragging you down and brainstorm some solutions. Sometimes talking it out can provide its own insight. We don’t have all the answers, but we can certainly help look for them. Reach me here: theresa.suart@queensu.ca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Doctors, patients, ritual and showing up

Ritual is a big part of life; this is especially evident at universities at this time of year. I recently took part in the ritual of attending convocation at another university to watch my daughter receive her Bachelor of Health Sciences degree. In addition to the parental joy of seeing my daughter on stage for about six seconds of hooding and handshaking, I had the pleasure of hearing the convocation speaker, Dr. Abraham Verghese, a physician, author and professor at Stanford School of Medicine.

The importance of ritual, both in life and in particular in the doctor-patient relationship, is something Dr. Verghese is passionate about. He’s written about this, presented TED talks, and, late last month, incorporated this message into his convocation address at McMaster University.

Dr. Abraham Verghese (Screenshot from webcast)

Dr. Verghese noted that it’s possible to get your degree without attending the ceremony, but “rituals matter.” He added: “It says something about you that you believe in this ritual, that you showed up, because showing up for rituals that matter is perhaps the best advice I can give you.”

He acknowledged that he was speaking from “the vantage point of a window of practicing medicine” but hoped his message about ritual would resonate with everyone. He pointed out that the very ritual of convocation itself makes no sense in other contexts: “You’re dressed in a way that you otherwise never dress like. And I’m dressed as I rarely dress. With distinguished faculty on the stage, you marched in proceeded by a beadle carrying the mace, an instrument of battle that’s also a metaphor of power.”

“Our anthropology colleagues teach us that rituals are all about crossing a threshold,” he explained. “They represent a transformation, whether it’s a baptism, or a bar mitzvah, an inauguration, a funeral, a graduation.”

He challenged the graduates to consider what the rituals are in their lives, in their work, before sharing insight into his own understanding of ritual in his medical practice:

“If you think about the usual clinic visits, two strangers are often coming together, one person in the room will be wearing this white shamanistic outfit with tools in their pockets, and the other individual will be wearing a paper gown that no one knows how to tie or untie. The furniture in the room looks nothing like the furniture in your house or mine. The individual in the paper gown will then begin to tell the other one things that they would never tell their rabbi, or their preacher, and in my specialty of infectious disease, they will tell me things they would never tell their spouse. And then, incredibly, they will disrobe and allow touch, which in any other context in society would be assault, but the physician gets the privilege in the setting of this ritual.”

He further explained that this is not unique to any one culture. “I care for people from all kinds of ethnic groups, and I’m struck by how many different beliefs they have about illness, about disease, about treatment, but they all know about ritual,” he said. “And you put them in that room with all its setup and they know they’re about to embark in a ritual and if you do it poorly, if you just do a prod of their belly, and stick your stethoscope on the gown, they’re on to you, they can tell when you’re doing it well just as you can tell when you’re in the hands of a thoughtful barista, a good chef, a good hairdresser, a good mechanic.

“Rituals, done well, signify people who are doing their jobs well.”

Rituals can also be transformative, he said. “I learned this firsthand in the early years of the AIDS epidemic before we had any treatment,” he said, recalling a young man who he had followed for months at the clinic and who was now dying in the hospital.

“Each day I would come to his bedside and I’d visit him and I’d talk to his mother, and not knowing what else to do in this sacred hallowed space that surrounded him with his mother holding vigil, after a while, I would begin to examine him, albeit briefly. I would listen to his heart, I would percuss his lungs, feel his abdomen, feel his spleen, even though it was very unlikely I would discover anything that would change what we did,” he said.

“I engaged in this ritual out of habit, relieved that it gave me something to do, some purpose at the bedside.”

“One day, when I came by, his mother, that eternal figure there, told me that he’d not spoken or come to consciousness since the previous noon. It seemed certain that he was about to die, and in fact, he did pass away a few hours later,” Dr. Verghese continued. “But strangely, at that moment, as he heard us talking, as he heard my voice, we saw his hands begin to move. She was astonished, ‘cause she had not seen anything before. And I was astonished, and we’re wondering what is he gonna do? And we saw his skeletal fingers flutter up and then move to this wicker basket of a chest of his. And it took us a while to understand that he was fumbling with his pajama buttons. He was trying to unbutton his shirt, he was reflexively allowing me the privilege of examining him, giving me permission. I tell you, I did not decline the gift.”

“I percussed, I palpated, I listened to his heart, his lungs. I felt connected to the timeless message the physician conveys, the same message the horse and buggy doctor, riding out to towns on the western edge of Lake Ontario 150, 200 years ago, conveyed to his or her patients of that era, when there was so little to offer,” he said.

“The message is that beyond the data, beyond the evidence or lack of evidence, beyond the medicines that stop working, here I am and no matter what, I care, I will be there with you through thick and thin, I will not stop coming, I will show up.”

Dr. Verghese then spoke about emerging artificial intelligence and how it will change medicine.

“Here’s what’s not going to change, is the need for human beings to care for each other,” he said.

“We all need it in every walk of life, but especially in the care of the sick. I’m hoping that in my field, artificial intelligence will free us from some of the drudgery of medical record keeping and allow us to fulfill the Samaritan function of being a physician, to minister to those who suffer,” he added.

He exhorted the graduates to “embrace the rituals of your life, be conscious of them.”

“Be in charge and be cognizant of those human values and rituals that you want to preserve,” he added. “Remember that fluttering hand of the dying patient, I remember it every single day.”

Unlike machines, he said, “You can care, you can love, you can preserve the rituals that showcase these things. And you can show up. Always show up.”


You can watch Dr. Verghese’s full address here. It begins around 29:05.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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100+ Medical Students Who Care

By Dr. Melanie Walker, Course Director, Population & Global Health

Each first year class in Queen’s UGME embarks on the ‘Community Based Interventions Project’ (CBIP) as part of their Population and Global Health (PGH) course. The project provides students with an opportunity to gain insight into social and health services that serve patients in the greater Kingston community. The students learn about the importance of social determinants of health and patient context through the eyes of a special population that they are interested in exploring. This experience provides them with better insight into supports which affect the health and management of their future patients.

Outside of the medical school, I am a member of a local charity: 100+ Women Who Care Kingston. This organization consists of a group of Kingston-based women who meet four times a year to support non-profit and charitable organizations in our community. The principle is simple – any member is permitted to nominate one local organization per meeting. If this organization is chosen as one of three picked at random, the nominating member is allotted five minutes to speak to the membership to express why their particular organization is worthy of the group’s charitable donation and what that organization would do with the funding if received. The three nominees are then put to a vote by the membership and the majority wins. Over one hour, one worthy local organization receives a financial ‘boost’ of approximately $20,000. Simple…yet powerful.

In light of this, last year we initiated a new advocacy component to the PGH course through the CBIP – the opportunity, as a class, to nominate one of the researched organizations that they thought could benefit from an infusion of funding to address a gap in service identified by the organization. The class vote would become my vote at 100+ Women. Both the 2019 class and, just recently, the 2020 class overwhelmingly voted for the Sexual Assault Centre Kingston (SACK) to be brought forward to 100+ Women.

SACK is a “not-for-profit, charitable organization committed to free, confidential, non-judgemental support for all survivors of recent and/or historic sexual violence in Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington (KFL&A).” While it may not be surprising to learn that girls and young women between the ages of 15-24 are the most likely victims of sexual assault it was eye-opening to learn from our students that Kingston has the highest rate of sexual assault per capita in Canada. The majority of funding received by SACK is thus, understandably, directed at the support services with little left over for education and prevention. In fact, the Kingston Youth Sexual Violence Prevention Assessment put out a report in May of 2015 that stated “the Kingston community needed to engage youth before sexual & dating violence occurs. Organizations need to explicitly address important concepts including consent, healthy sexuality, healthy relationships, rape culture, alcohol & drug-facilitated sexual assault, and sexual violence.”

After six 100+ Women Who Care Kingston meetings and six attempts (between last year and this), the stars aligned on Feb 23, 2017 and SACK was the 3rd random pick of the night of the 30+ nominated charities.  The end result was an overwhelming majority vote of the 100+ women in the room to support this organization.  Two of the students from the class of 2019 that had an instrumental role in getting SACK nominated by their classmates, Tiffany Lung and Kate Liu, were present with me at the recent cheque-presenting ceremony by the leading ladies of 100+ Women Who Care Kingston to SACK on March 31st. The donation of $20,000+ will be directed at the development of a much-needed youth prevention program across the greater Kingston area which will include sexual assault resistance programming – the only evidence-based program that has been shown to significantly reduce the incidence of rape and other forms of sexual assault.

The night that SACK was voted to receive this donation I was approached by many community members who were not only impressed with the important work that SACK does but by the School of Medicine’s investment in teaching our physicians-in-training about the importance of population health and health advocacy. Amazing what can be accomplished when 100+ medical students who care connect with a local group of women who care to create an opportunity for change in our community.

The recent Whig Standard Article can be found here.

Many thanks to the following for making this possible:

  • Meds 2019 class (special thanks to Tiffany Lung, Kate Liu, Zoe Lau and Sallya Aleboyeh)
  • Meds 2020 class (special thanks to Alexandra Basden, Azraa Janmohamed, Denisha Puvitharan, Khatija Anjum, Sana Khan and Jagpreet Kaler)
  • 100+ Women Who Care Kingston and the leading ladies (special thanks to Lindsay Duggan)
  • Sexual Assault Centre Kingston (special thanks to Jennifer Byrd and Elayne Furoy)

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Building Bridges, Making Pathways

By Denisha Puvitharan (Meds 2020), Darsan Sadacharam (Meds 2020) and Sahra Nathoo (Meds 2019)

Twenty-four curious high school students joined the ranks of diligent medical students in the halls of the Medical Building on March 31st. These students were taking part in the first ever “Pathways to Medicine” event hosted by Queen’s School of Medicine’s Diversity Panel.

Through a new partnership with a local chapter of a national organization, Pathways to Education, the panel organized a full day event aimed at increasing interest in a future career in medicine among students engaged with Pathways, along with some students from Immigrant Services Kingston and Area (ISKA).

Participating students heard from Dr. Michelle Gibson, Director of Year 1, who introduced them to the day. They participated in a small group learning session with Dr. David Bardana and the class of 2020, clinical skills training with tutors Drs. Rick Rowland and Nicola Murdoch, and resuscitation simulation and laparoscopic training sessions with residents, Drs. Kristen Weeksink and Gary Ko, during their visit. Dr. Mala Joneja, Director of Diversity in UGME, sped them on their way with inspiring words. The inaugural “Pathways to Medicine” event was an excellent teaching and outreach event that was highly praised by all staff and students involved.

The Diversity Panel is an interdisciplinary team of interested students, educational staff and faculty, which exists to improve undergraduate medical education at Queen’s, through increasing diversity and making careers in medicine more accessible to those from underrepresented populations. There have been many conversations regarding the importance of medical student bodies representing the diversity of the patient communities they will serve in the future. In addition to the upstream effects of making the healthcare profession more adept in providing quality care to the existing diverse population, increased physician diversity is also particularly important when considering the physician shortages that low income neighbourhoods face in Canada. By enticing more students from these neighbourhoods to attend post-secondary education and medical school, there is an increased likelihood they will return to practice in these neighbourhoods, thus helping relieve some health inequities.

Though many efforts have been made to make medical school more accessible to students from lower socio-economic backgrounds, many barriers remain. The cost of medical school alone is astronomical, when considering the tuition for an undergraduate degree, MCAT registration fees, application fees, and potential income-earning hours spent studying; students from low income families are already discriminated against. Attempting to address these concerns, the Pathways to Medicine event also included a presentation on financing medical education by Ms. Margie Gordon from the Registrar’s Office, specifically regarding OSAP, grants and other resources available to help these students reach their goals.

However, when making efforts to increase the accessibility of medical school for students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, the true challenge is in leveling the playing field at the starting line for these students. From the onset of a student’s educational journey, his/her family’s financial and social resources can play a significant role in dictating their success. Strong financial support can assist a student’s ability to excel in school, while also participating in various extracurricular activities, which can benefit the student in future endeavours. Furthermore, students from higher socioeconomic backgrounds are privy to strategic knowledge of what it takes to become competitive applicants as a result of having access to various social resources. These resources can come in the form of connections with academics, physicians and others that have experience navigating the application system. An anecdotal example of how strong social resources can provide an advantage to students is provided by Dylan Hernandez’s opinion column in the NY Times.

“Pathways to Medicine” represents Queen’s UGME Diversity Panel’s continued efforts to find creative strategies in addressing this complex challenge. Although this may be a small step towards addressing these barriers, it is our hope that through events like this and other similar initiatives held at medical schools across Canada, students from diverse backgrounds may soon see medicine as a realistic goal.

 

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