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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Welcoming Queen’s Meds 2021

The academic cycle is such that, for a few short weeks each summer, our student population reduces by a quarter. Last May, we graduated and congratulated the class of Meds 2017, who have now gone on to engage the next phase their careers. This week, our school continues its cycle of annual renewal, welcoming another eager and very promising group of aspiring physicians, the class of Meds 2021.

 

Picture by Lars Hagberg of incoming med students for Queen’s School of Medicine.

 

A few facts about our new colleagues:

They were selected from a pool of 4752 highly qualified students who submitted applications last fall.

Their average age is 23 with a range of 19 to 34 years.  Fifty-eight percent are women. They hail from no fewer than 39 communities across Canada, including; Ajax, Aurora, Bancroft, Brampton, Brantford, Burnaby, Calgary, Deseronto, Dunnville, Edmonton, Etobicoke, Guelph, Hamilton, Kelowna, Kingston, Maple, Markham, Milton, Mississauga, North Bay, North Saanich, North Vancouver, North York, Oakville, Orillia, Orleans, Oshawa, Ottawa, Peterborough, Pickering, Pointe Aux Roches, Richmond Hill, Scarborough, Severn, Surrey, Thornhill, Toronto, Vancouver and Vaughn.

Eighty-four of our new students have completed an Undergraduate degree, and twenty-nine have postgraduate degrees, including seven PhDs. The universities they have attended and degree programs are listed below:

Universities of Undergraduate Studies

Carleton University
McGill University
McMaster University
Novosilbirsk State University
Queen’s University
Ryerson University
Simon Fraser University
Trent University
Trinity Western
University of British Columbia
University of Calgary
University of Cambridge
University of Guelph
University of Ottawa
University of Toronto
University of Waterloo
Vassar College
Western University
York University

 

Undergraduate Degree Majors

Biochemistry
Biology
Biomedical Science
Business Administration
Chemical Biology
Chemical Engineering
Cognitive Science
Electrical Engineering
English
French Studies
Gender Studies
Global Development
Health Science
Integrated Science
Kinesiology
Life Science
Medical Science
Neuroscience
Nursing
Physiology
Psychology

 

An academically diverse and very qualified group, to be sure.  Last week, they undertook a variety of orientation activities organized by both faculty and their upper year colleagues.

On their first day, they were called upon to demonstrate commitment to their studies, their profession and their future patients.  They were assured that they will have a voice within our school and be treated with the same respect they are expected to provide each other, their faculty and all patients and volunteers they encounter through their medical school careers.  At that first session, they were welcomed by Dean Reznick who challenged them to be restless in the pursuit of their goals and the betterment of our society and shared with them a message from his favourite poet and recent Nobel Laueate Bob Dylan. Mr. Cale Templeton, Asesculapian Society President, welcomed them on behalf of their upper year colleagues, and Dr. Rachel Rooney provided them an introduction to fundamental concepts of medical professionalism.

Over the course of the week, they met curricular leaders who will particularly involved in their first year, including Dr. Michelle Gibson (Year 1 Director) and Dr. Cherie Jones (Clinical Skills Director). They were also introduced to Dr. Renee Fitzpatrick (Director of Student Affairs) and our excellent learner support team, including Drs. Martin Ten Hove, Jason Franklin, Kelly Howse, Susan Haley, Josh Lakoff, Craig Goldie and Erin Beattie, who oriented them to the Learner Wellness, Career Counseling and Academic Support services that will be provided throughout their years with us. They met members of our superb administrative and educational support teams led by Jacqueline Findlay, Jennifer Saunders, Sheila Pinchin, Amanda Consack, and first year Curricular Coordinator Corinne Bochsma.

Dr. Susan Moffatt organized and coordinated the very popular and much appreciated “Pearls of Wisdom” session, where fourth year students nominate and introduce faculty members who have been particularly impactful in their education, and invite them to pass on a few words of advice to the new students. This year, Drs. Erin Beattie, Bob Connelly, Filip Gilic, Robyn Houlden, Vickie Martin, Alex Menard, Laura Milne, Heather Murray, Cliff Rice and Ruth Wilson were selected for this honour.

On Friday, the practical aspects of curriculum, expectations of conduct and promotions were explained by Drs. Michelle Gibson.

Their Meds 2020 upper year colleagues welcomed them with a number of formal and not-so-formal events. These included sessions intended to promote an inclusive learning environment, as well as orientations to Queen’s and Kingston, introductions to the mentorship program, and a variety of evening social events which, judging by appearances the next morning, were much enjoyed.

For all these arrangements, flawlessly coordinated, I’m very grateful to Rebecca Jozsa, our Admissions Officer.

I invite you to join me in welcoming these new members of our school and medical community.

 

Anthony J. Sanfilippo, MD, FRCP(C)

Associate Dean,

Undergraduate Medical Education

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Welcoming Queen’s Meds 2021

The academic cycle is such that, for a few short weeks each summer, our student population reduces by a quarter. Last May, we graduated and congratulated the class of Meds 2017, who have now gone on to engage the next phase their careers. This week, our school continues its cycle of annual renewal, welcoming another eager and very promising group of aspiring physicians, the class of Meds 2021.

 

Picture by Lars Hagberg of incoming med students for Queen’s School of Medicine.

 

A few facts about our new colleagues:

They were selected from a pool of 4752 highly qualified students who submitted applications last fall.

Their average age is 23 with a range of 19 to 34 years.  Fifty-eight percent are women. They hail from no fewer than 39 communities across Canada, including; Ajax, Aurora, Bancroft, Brampton, Brantford, Burnaby, Calgary, Deseronto, Dunnville, Edmonton, Etobicoke, Guelph, Hamilton, Kelowna, Kingston, Maple, Markham, Milton, Mississauga, North Bay, North Saanich, North Vancouver, North York, Oakville, Orillia, Orleans, Oshawa, Ottawa, Peterborough, Pickering, Pointe Aux Roches, Richmond Hill, Scarborough, Severn, Surrey, Thornhill, Toronto, Vancouver and Vaughn.

Eighty-four of our new students have completed an Undergraduate degree, and twenty-nine have postgraduate degrees, including seven PhDs. The universities they have attended and degree programs are listed below:

Universities of Undergraduate Studies

Carleton University
McGill University
McMaster University
Novosilbirsk State University
Queen’s University
Ryerson University
Simon Fraser University
Trent University
Trinity Western
University of British Columbia
University of Calgary
University of Cambridge
University of Guelph
University of Ottawa
University of Toronto
University of Waterloo
Vassar College
Western University
York University

 

Undergraduate Degree Majors

Biochemistry
Biology
Biomedical Science
Business Administration
Chemical Biology
Chemical Engineering
Cognitive Science
Electrical Engineering
English
French Studies
Gender Studies
Global Development
Health Science
Integrated Science
Kinesiology
Life Science
Medical Science
Neuroscience
Nursing
Physiology
Psychology

 

An academically diverse and very qualified group, to be sure.  Last week, they undertook a variety of orientation activities organized by both faculty and their upper year colleagues.

On their first day, they were called upon to demonstrate commitment to their studies, their profession and their future patients.  They were assured that they will have a voice within our school and be treated with the same respect they are expected to provide each other, their faculty and all patients and volunteers they encounter through their medical school careers.  At that first session, they were welcomed by Dean Reznick who challenged them to be restless in the pursuit of their goals and the betterment of our society and shared with them a message from his favourite poet and recent Nobel Laueate Bob Dylan. Mr. Cale Templeton, Asesculapian Society President, welcomed them on behalf of their upper year colleagues, and Dr. Rachel Rooney provided them an introduction to fundamental concepts of medical professionalism.

Over the course of the week, they met curricular leaders who will particularly involved in their first year, including Dr. Michelle Gibson (Year 1 Director) and Dr. Cherie Jones (Clinical Skills Director). They were also introduced to Dr. Renee Fitzpatrick (Director of Student Affairs) and our excellent learner support team, including Drs. Martin Ten Hove, Jason Franklin, Kelly Howse, Susan Haley, Josh Lakoff, Craig Goldie and Erin Beattie, who oriented them to the Learner Wellness, Career Counseling and Academic Support services that will be provided throughout their years with us. They met members of our superb administrative and educational support teams led by Jacqueline Findlay, Jennifer Saunders, Sheila Pinchin, Amanda Consack, and first year Curricular Coordinator Corinne Bochsma.

Dr. Susan Moffatt organized and coordinated the very popular and much appreciated “Pearls of Wisdom” session, where fourth year students nominate and introduce faculty members who have been particularly impactful in their education, and invite them to pass on a few words of advice to the new students. This year, Drs. Erin Beattie, Bob Connelly, Filip Gilic, Robyn Houlden, Vickie Martin, Alex Menard, Laura Milne, Heather Murray, Cliff Rice and Ruth Wilson were selected for this honour.

On Friday, the practical aspects of curriculum, expectations of conduct and promotions were explained by Drs. Michelle Gibson.

Their Meds 2020 upper year colleagues welcomed them with a number of formal and not-so-formal events. These included sessions intended to promote an inclusive learning environment, as well as orientations to Queen’s and Kingston, introductions to the mentorship program, and a variety of evening social events which, judging by appearances the next morning, were much enjoyed.

For all these arrangements, flawlessly coordinated, I’m very grateful to Rebecca Jozsa, our Admissions Officer.

I invite you to join me in welcoming these new members of our school and medical community.

 

Anthony J. Sanfilippo, MD, FRCP(C)

Associate Dean,

Undergraduate Medical Education

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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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Hope Amidst the Chaos of Charlottesville

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has defined hope as “being able to see that there is light despite all the darkness”.

It is difficult to find such light amid the darkness of the recent events in Charlottesville and their aftermath.

But such dark times are certainly not unprecedented in the history of our American neighbours.

Two hundred and fifty-five years ago, 56 rebellious colonists courageously broke their allegiance with a powerful monarch who they felt had been treating them unjustly. In what was an act of treason, they declared and justified their independence with the following words:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Fewer than ninety years later, the nation that emerged from that rebellion found itself engaged in a highly destructive civil war, caused largely by a failure to achieve those founding principles. In a brief but highly influential speech their leader at the time, Abraham Lincoln, justified the struggle and sacrifice by re-affirming those founding principles. He spoke of a nation “conceived in liberty and dedicated tothe proposition that all men are created equal”,and vowed that his nation would have “a new birth of freedom” ensuring that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

About a hundred years later, that same nation found itself again engaged in civil unrest arising from unresolved racial tensions and failed attempts to finally achieve its founding ideals. On a hot August day, standing at the base of a memorial dedicated to the very same President Lincoln, the Reverend Martin Luther King said:

“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood”

In each case, the authors of these words were not expressing the realities of their times. Far from it. Rather they were giving eloquent expression to what they believed to be the values to which their nation, and any truly just society, should strive. They were expressing an aspiration, which faithful believers would contend, should remain in the collective consciousness, guiding decisions to continually approach the goal of full equality. Put simply, they were expressing hope.

This time, there is no soaring, inspirational eloquence recalling higher ideals and keeping hope alive. In fact, the actions and words of the current leadership evoke quite the opposite. Many, both within and without the borders of the United States, must be wondering whether the great American experiment in democracy and individual freedom has finally “perished from the earth”? Was the goal expressed in the original declaration (ironically penned by the most famous former citizen of Charlottesville) and re-affirmed so many times over the years, simply too much to expect of any group of mortal, flawed people. Where’s the hope?

For me, at least, hope was re-kindled in a single image captured by an amateur photographer with her cellphone, It depicts a Charlottesville police officer, himself African-American, standing guard at a barricade maintaining order despite the actions of those “protestors” whose overtly racist attitudes would bring harm to him and those closest to him.

A post shared by Jill Mumie (@lil_mooms) on

Photo by Jill Mumie

The officer, Darius Nash, later wrote in response to his unexpected notoriety:

“I don’t feel like I’m a hero for it…I swore to protect my city and that’s what I was there to do. I don’t think it makes me a hero, just doing what I believe in.”1

At the same time that this police officer was doing what he believed in, his president and Commander-in-Chief was reluctant to condemn the actions of the other folks in this image and was finding fault in those who challenged them.

Who, of these two, is truly representative of today’s America? One would normally presume that the words and actions of the elected leader of a free people would represent the collective values of that nation. Hope for continuation of the American dream, it would seem, rests on whether the attitudes of this great people are best and most accurately expressed by its current president, or by the words and actions of a Charlottesville police officer.

I, for one, chose to believe, or hope, it’s the policeman. Like many Canadians, I follow American history and events closely. I know and count as friends (and even family members) many Americans. I have, for a time, lived among them. I have found that the vast majority of Americans are fair, decent and tolerant people. They are candid and pragmatic in addressing their social issues. They are proud of their nation and believe in its founding principles. They have been through remarkably difficult challenges and their political structures, although imperfect, have proven resilient under both internal and external threat. Ultimately, they are not a people to stand idly by and watch their values corrupted.

And we’re already seeing signs of that resolve.

Former presidents GHW Bush, GW Bush2 and Obama3 have all issued statements condemning bigotry and re-affirming the principles of equality – astounding gestures that attempt to fill the moral vacuum left by their successor.

Prominent business leaders, such as Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier, have resigned from influential presidential advisory panels4, risking loss of influence and the ire of the standing president.

Many athletes and celebrities have refused honours and invitations to the White House in protest5.

Most recently, more enlightened forces seem to be emerging in the White House itself, resulting in the firing of Steve Bannon, Chief strategist and former election campaign chair who was a driving force in this administration’s nationalistic, anti-globalization and anti-environmental agenda6. Mr. Bannon, one might recall, was formerly executive chairman of Breitbart News, which promoted the efforts and collaboration of “alt-right” groups such as neo-Nazis7.

So perhaps the tide is beginning to turn. Governments are like huge ocean-going vessels, built for the long voyage and therefore slow to adjust course.

In the words of Mr. Bannon, related to the Weekly Standard after his firing, “The Trump presidency that we fought for and won, is over”8.

Let’s hope that he’s at least right about that.

Anthony J. Sanfilippo, MD, FRCP(C)
Associate Dean,
Undergraduate Medical Education

  1. http://time.com/4899668/charlottesville-virginia-protest-officer-kkk-photo/
  2. http://time.com/4903103/george-bush-president-statement-hatred-charlottesville/
  3. https://www.techspot.com/news/70602-obama-statement-response-charlottesville-protest-now-most-liked.html
  4. http://money.mlive.com/dynamic/stories/U/US_TRUMP_MERCK_CEO?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2017-08-14-22-01-01
  5. http://www.smh.com.au/world/trump-to-skip-kennedy-centre-honours-ceremony-20170819-gy01v5.html
  6. Globe and Mail, Aug 19, 2017
  7. http://www.newstatesman.com/world/2017/03/alt-right-leninist
  8. http://www.weeklystandard.com/bannon-the-trump-presidency-that-we-fought-for-and-won-is-over./article/2009355

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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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Bats, Blogs, and Story Ideas

While I was drafting this post, I had an unexpected visitor in my office in the form of a juvenile bat. Yep. A bat.

I followed the Queen’s Environmental Health & Safety bat protocol (yes, there is one. Find it here) and exited the room immediately, closing the door. I then had a colleague call to arrange for its removal.

Ok, there may have been some squealing-like-a-five-year-old while I was exiting the room, but since there was nobody here to see that, I can deny it happened (colleagues’ vacations and meetings were well-timed for my dignity). There may also have been some vocabulary that would earn a fine for the curse jar at my house.

Just a handful of people would know about my bat adventure… except I’m writing about it here.

My point is this: things happen all the time around the UGME offices, the medical building, and other places of importance for the UG program. Things for, to, or by our faculty, staff, and students; interesting things that are worth sharing. I’m not suggesting that we’re starting a weekly newspaper filled with notations of every bat sighting, or intramural sports scores. What I do know, however, is there are plenty of newsworthy things happening that go unnoticed.

Things like: innovative student activities or projects; research publications; special events; noteworthy field trips; students or faculty winning awards. If you’ve ever wondered why we posted about “X” but not about “Y” the simple reason most of the time, is we likely didn’t know about “Y” at all.

You may have noticed a bit of a pattern to our blog posts. Our associate dean, Dr. Sanfilippo posts roughly every other week. On the alternating weeks, members of the Education Team post, with the occasional committee update thrown in. I post under my own name, as well as curating those posted under the “Guest Blogger” ID.

Here’s where you come in. If you’re a member of the Queen’s UGME community and you have an idea or suggestion for a blog post, please feel free to get in touch. We could write something up with you as the source, or you could write the post yourself as one of our Guest Bloggers.

If your suggestion is time-dependent (like an event or something with a deadline), try to get in touch as early as you can.

I can’t promise that we’ll be able to follow-up on every suggestion with a published post, but a great starting point is letting us know. So, get in touch. Reach me by email (theresa.suart@queensu.ca ) or drop into my office on the 3rd floor at 80 Barrie. It’s currently bat-free.


Bat shown is for illustration purposes only… no pictures of my recent temporary office guest are available. 

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Life Lessons from an Unlikely Hero

Every sport, in fact every area of human endeavor, affords opportunities for heroes to emerge in dramatic fashion. In hockey, it’s the game winning overtime goal. In basketball, it’s the desperate long range shot with no time remaining that arches high over the court, seemingly suspended in space and time, before gracefully falling through the hoop.

In baseball, it’s the walk-off home run. This occurs when a batter, in the ninth inning, hits the ball out of the park assuring victory for his team. It’s called “walk-off” because it ends the game and all players depart – losers dejectedly, winners in joyous celebration. When there are runners on every base, it becomes a “grand slam” home run, adding further to the drama and celebration.

Among the more than 18,000 athletes who have played professional baseball since it’s inception in 1876, only two have hit multiple grand-slam walk-off home runs in a single season. That is, until a couple of weeks ago, when Steve Pearce of the Toronto Blue Jays did just that, during a single week of play.

When these moments happen to those who have already achieved prominence, it seems the natural extension of a pattern of excellence. But when it happens to someone previously unheralded in their field, it can be particularly sweet and revealing. Such is the case with Mr. Pearce. He is not a baseball superstar. He is not even a star. He has been described by those far more knowledgeable than I as a below average defensive player. He has, in fact, been characterized as a “journeyman” or “utility player”, which sounds like the sporting equivalent of a spare part that one might search for at the auto junkyard.

He was chosen in the 45th round of the 2003 major league baseball draft, meaning approximately 1200 players were chosen ahead of him. This is like being the last kid standing when your playmates are choosing sides for a game – “OK, we’ll take him, but you have to give us somebody good too”. He actually re-entered the draft twice, finally signing with the Pirates in 2005. Over his career he has played for no fewer than 8 teams. He didn’t start a season in the majors until 2011. In 2012, he played for three different teams. In his best year, 2014, he had 21 home runs, 49 RBIs and a .293 batting average playing for Baltimore. Respectable figures, to be sure, but far from spectacular. He is described by sports writer Cathal Kelly (Globe and Mail, July 30, 2017) as someone possessed of an “intense averageness”, with “no veteran swagger”. He is, by all accounts, unpretentious and well liked by his teammates – a hard worker and team oriented contributor who appreciates the opportunities he’s had to make a living in his chosen occupation. His response to his recent accomplishment and celebrity was, to say the least, modestly measured and understated. His teammates seemed genuinely pleased about his unexpected notoriety, evoking a sense of justice for the common man.

But Mr. Pearce hasn’t always been a common man. Growing up in Florida and attending the University of South Carolina, he was an outstanding athlete, excelling in multiple sports, but particularly baseball where he led his teams, set performance records, and won multiple and significant personal recognitions for his accomplishments. In fact, it wasn’t until he entered the major leagues that his “averageness” became apparent.

Despite all this, Mr. Pearce has survived in a highly competitive occupation, has earned (according to baseball_reference.com) almost $17 million in total salary, is highly respected by his peers and, this past week, injected joy into what has otherwise been a decidedly joyless season for followers of Toronto baseball.

So, you’re wondering, how does this story find its way into a blog about the education of doctors?

In about three weeks, we will be welcoming a new class to our medical school. Those young people have been accepted based on very impressive personal academic and non-academic accomplishments. They have known much success and have experienced much external approval. In that sense, they are not unlike Mr. Pearce as he began his professional career. They will find, as do all successful professionals, that their natural abilities are essential but not sufficient to achieve career success and personal satisfaction. They will need to define for themselves their concepts of success and worth. They will need to find their place within their new community of peers and teachers, and their way to make contributions within their chosen profession. They will need to find ways to engage and overcome adversities that will invariably come their way. They will, no doubt, have “grand slam home run” days, but must be equally content with the days of unheralded, honest effort.

These are life lessons, and the exclusive domain of no particular group. They will not be found in any formal curriculum. The term “hidden curriculum” has taken on very negative connotations, but it can also be a very positive force, providing that informal but vital exchange that occurs between students and their teachers that models and promotes professional development.

I don’t imagine Mr. Pearce thinks of himself as a teacher of aspiring physicians, but his perseverance and equanimity in the face of both adversity and success are an example to us all.

 

Anthony J. Sanfilippo, MD, FRCP(C)

Associate Dean,

Undergraduate Medical Education

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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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