Archive | Here and there

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Can we get this trending?

Posted on 26 April 2013 by Jimmy Yan (Meds 2015)

This past weekend I was in Quebec City for the Spring General Meeting of the Canadian Federation of Medical Students. This meeting involved receiving a general round of updates and summaries of the initiatives that happened throughout the year from the CFMS (Wellness survey, new external representation of students on national medical academy level, establishing a financial policy, looking into revising their Student Initiative Grants). It was a great weekend full of making new acquaintances across the country, learning more about national student issues, and having reunions with old friends.

However, this isn’t the part of the weekend I want to talk about. Continue Reading

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OMSA Leadership Summit and Lobby Days

Posted on 17 April 2013 by Jimmy Yan (Meds 2015)

About a week ago, the Ontario Medical Student Association hosted it’s 2nd Annual Leadership Summit and Provincial Lobby Days over the weekend of April 6-8th. It was an opportunity for medical students across the province who were interested in the process of government and health care policy (AKA those who are secretly health care systems enthusiasts) to network, learn a few things about healthcare in Ontario, and then work in teams to actually lobby the provincial government on an issue that reflected medical student concerns from all 6 Ontario med schools.  Continue Reading

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The 4-1-1 on Medical Student advocacy on Parliament Hill

Posted on 05 February 2013 by Jimmy Yan (Meds 2015)

The first weekend of February is usually quite a special weekend. No I’m not talking about Ground Hog day here. It’s special because it is generally the time when medical students coast to coast in Canada assemble (much like the Avengers) on Parliament Hill in the 613 (that’s Ottawa, yo) to lobby for political action and greater advocacy. It’s an event that is hosted and organized by the Canadian Federation of Medical Students.

This year, I was part of the Schulich delegation to this CFMS Lobby Days. As such, I’m going to be sharing with YOU the big Cole’s notes of this weekend. I realize that advocacy is an area that is pretty ambiguous during our years of medical training, so I hope that this experience of advocacy work (while by no means the only type of advocacy experience), helps shine some light on how medical student advocacy can work.

So first things first: Ottawa is cold. WAY. TOO. COLD. Especially for a balmy wuss of a Vancouverite like myself. Quickly after arrival at Ottawa, I realized why all the politicians still use Blackberrys: 20 seconds after exposing your bare fingers to operate a touch screen and the beginnings of frost bite start setting in. Truth.

Another immediate impression: try avoiding to schedule the hotel for all your delegates at the same “Official” hotel of Winterlude, the massive annual winter festival in Ottawa during the same period. Essentially the hotel we were staying at was completely overbooked between tourists, med students, even a wedding party.

No. We did not crash the Wedding.

So our first day, Saturday, consisted of just getting settled in and meeting the other delegates. I noticed a lot of familiar faces, I guess these circles are pretty tight knit. Should be something I can expect moving forward. Back in my undergraduate days of student union politics the term we used was ‘hacks’. Well, it’s funny seeing so many med student political ‘hacks’ too. It was doubly funny running into Tahara, a 3rd year at UBC, who was a political hack with me back when we were members of the UBC student union council.

As a side note, this was the first time I got to skate on the Rideau Canal. While it was definitely a fun experience, and OMG MAPLE TAFFY IS DELICIOUS, $16 for a 2 hours of skate rental is definitely a bit expensive.

During the second day, the delegates spent 8 hours of the Sunday night and afternoon being trained on how to approach MPs and what exactly was the best way to frame our concerns and the Ask we are lobbying for (without getting into too many details, our Ask this year focused on improving the level of research and information at the national level on how to project future health human resource demands). There was a variety of speakers from different realms of political experience, and several workshops to practise. In the end of it all, we learned some valuable lessons on advocacy, communications, student leadership, and self-development.

These included points such as:

  • An MD is not an auto leadership indicator, it simply is an opportunity to become a leader
  • One of the best things a person could possibly do as a leader is to surround themselves with smarter people
  • If you want something done efficiently, force a lazy person to do it
  • No mistake or ‘inadvertent’ complexity in a piece of federal policy is done so simply by accident
  • There are differences between simple, complicated, and complex
  • Everyone likes to chirp Mac. Even Mac grads will deliberately go out of the way to beak the Mac medical experience

With all these, and many more points discussed, we were ‘trained’ to disperse and conquer the Nation’s capital.

Monday consisted of over 70 separate meetings between students, MPs, Senators, and Ministers’ Aides. It was very astounding to see the amount of activity that was happening. While I only had 3 meetings, I kept on running into students off to conduct their own sessions. We were everywhere.

Another thing that was astounding: the cold. It got windy. Damn.

Two other shocks, that really shouldn’t have been shocks, came during the day was how prevalent Twitter use among politicians was, and how many security check points I had to go through. I guess Obama made Twitter cool for every politician because they were much more prolific on the social media front than many of the students. The issue about security made sense. I mean it was the nation’s capital. I guess protecting it every now and then would be expected.

Overall, my experience with how our Asks were received was pretty positive. I had a wide range of MPs to speak to, from all the different parties. They all seemed to be on the same page regarding improving health human resources and getting the ball rolling on figuring out what the long term needs of Canadian patients would be. Despite all the grandstanding and overt displays of theatrics in Question Period, the MPs were all very willing and happy to hear from young minds talking about concerns that could impact the health of many citizens.

I guess it’s easy to forget or overlook the fact that many of these MPs started their roles out of desire to serve their constituents and to improve things in their ridings…based off the understanding of what needs to be fixed. In a lot of the way, it’s similar to the way physicians operate. We both are service leaders, and often the second word in that label ‘scares’ the public from approaching us. However, when speaking to the MPs, it became quickly easy to  see that what was really happening was merely two people forming a relationship and starting a dialogue.

So what’s the big deal with Lobby Day weekend? Despite the cold (for the 3rd time yes I know), it was a great experience. Getting to see the capital was a great privilege, as was the opportunity to meet and work with some of the brightest medical student minds from across the country. However, where the real value lies is in seeing how simple the whole advocacy process works. It’s about just getting out there and speaking your mind to someone you would like something out of. It shouldn’t be too difficult, after all, we all went through FIFE.

I highly encourage any student out there with the slightest interest in learning more about the role of politics and health care policy on the practise of physicians to considering coming out to the next set of Lobby Days as they happen nationally next year at the same time, or provincially under the OMSA in April.

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Get SMART for 2013

Posted on 01 January 2013 by Jimmy Yan (Meds 2015)

Happy New Year’s everyone, welcome to 2013! Now one of the more popular customs around this time of year (aside from watching World Junior’s Hockey and engaging in the personal rituals of overcoming a hangover) is the setting of New Year Resolutions. After all, it’s fitting: setting new marks for the next 365 days, creating a new you for a the new year,  having a natural turning of the pages in time, whatever.

Unfortunately, maaaany of these resolutions don’t last long, doomed to fizzle out like flat soda on a warm day. It’s a phenomenon that is often joked about. But what can be done about it?

Well, one thing is that these resolutions aren’t SMART enough.

No, no, no, I’m not trying to say that the people who are making these resolutions are idiots.  But goal setting has a science behind it, which has been distilled down to a handy-dandy acronym because, hey, it’s not geared for med school if it doesn’t come down to an acronym.

So goals (or resolutions) should be SMART, which stand for:






What this is trying to get is that goals need to be clear and unambiguous, without being vague (Specific). This can usually be answered by addressing the What, Why, Who, and Which of the goal. Being able to make the goal measurable allows one to keep track of any progress and stay on course. Often it means setting some sort of target deadline (but more on that later); without being measurable it is difficult to know if one is actually reaching the point of completing the goal. That said, the goal has to be Achievable, in the sense that it is realistic and attainable. It can be a difficult goal or a long-term one; however, it should be within reach. Related is the term relevant, which focuses  on the importance of choosing goals/resolutions that are worthwhile. If the goal is not relevant, there’s the good chance that the resolver will not muster the motivation to follow through with it. Finally, as I alluded to earlier, resolutions need to be Time-specific: there should be some form of deadline or target date. This gives resolutions structure, which frames them in a way that one can approach it in an organized manner.

So it’s pretty easy to see how the typical, “I want to lose weight” New Year’s resolution really falls flat on its face when examined through this lens. While well-intended and certainly relevant, it’s vague, without structure, or ways to measure it. As a result there’s the usual 2 week rush to the local gym (or student rec centre) that creates a traffic jam for all the regulars *cough cough*.

Well, one final point to add is the importance to tell others what you’re planning to do or change or accomplish. You can get tons of support, as well as people to keep you accountable, perhaps from company that will join in on your ambitions or share plans with you as well.

That’s all from me for now, enjoy the rest of your break, but feel free to share with us any New Year resolutions below.

Onward to 2013!



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Humanities Proposal

Posted on 12 October 2012 by Josh Tobe (Meds 2015)

The advent of cutting-edge technological advancements used to diagnose and treat ailing patients has revolutionized modern medicine. Scientific progress, both biological and technological, has vastly improved our quality and longevity of life. With the prevalence of chronic disease surpassing that of acute illness, the patient-physician relationship must be one groomed for long-term success; establishing a propitious patient-physician relationship will be more critical now than ever before. Continue Reading

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Student Submitted Essays

Posted on 21 July 2012 by Yin H.

Below are the short listed papers for the Family Medicine Essay Prize 2012

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An Open Letter to Premed Students

Posted on 18 July 2012 by Linna Li (Meds 2014)

“He had made a simple calculation: In one hour he could make thirty forged documents. If he slept one hour, thirty people would die”

– Sarah Kaminsky, regarding her father

Dear premed student,

You may think that I am writing to you about the tips and tricks for getting into medical school: how to calculate your average GPA, what extracurriculars you need to do, and other such questions you might have. But no—all these things is easily available elsewhere, and I will not repeat them here. Continue Reading

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Family Medicine and Keeping in Contact

Posted on 18 July 2012 by Robyn Sambrook (Meds 2014)

Since the time I was about halfway through elementary school, my family doctor’s practice has never been based in the city in which I’ve lived. It speaks to his skills as a physician, and the close doctor-patient relationship my family and I have with him, that he continued to be our doctor even after we moved to a different, more distant city. The distance obviously made it more difficult to see him with frequency, but annual check-ups were always attended, and we took more urgent matters to a local walk-in clinic. The arrangement worked for a number of years.  Continue Reading

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Getting to know Alzheimer’s patients

Posted on 23 May 2012 by Sofia Nastis (Meds 2015)

Never underestimate the value of companionship and support, because it helps those whom you least expect. For three of my four years that I spent at Western in undergrad, I had the pleasure of becoming involved with the Alzheimer’s Society of London. My interest in the club was mainly due to the fact that I was extremely curious about neurodegenerative disorders, and I thought being able to interact with these types of patients in a volunteer setting would be a good stepping-stone in finding out if this is an area of medicine that I enjoyed. In the beginning, my main goal was to immerse myself in an area of the health care field that I was not very familiar with. In the end, the experiences that I had and the interactions that I was exposed to made it a much more enlightening learning experience. Continue Reading

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Why Medicine

Posted on 13 March 2012 by Saurabh Gupta (Meds 2015)

I remember wanting to be just like Woody and Buzz from Toy Story. I was six years old when I first watched the movie and decided just then that I would grow up to be a Space Cowboy; the best of both worlds! However, as I progressed through all the remaining developmental milestones of my childhood and hit adolescence, one thing appeared obvious – the job market was not (and is not) very receptive of aspiring space cowboys. And so, I entered high school with a broken dream.
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