“I will not be trained to deny care”

To get into med school, you have to prove a bunch of things.

You have to prove that you understand basic science, so you write your MCAT.You have to prove that you’re a hard worker, by getting good grades in your undergrad.
You have to prove that you can interact with other humans, by going through multiple mini-interviews.
And you have to prove that you’re a healthcare advocate.

That’s defined in the CanMeds competencies (which is a framework of skills that the Royal College has identified as necessary for the development of good physicians)
…responsibly using expertise and influence to advance the health and well-being of individual patients, communities and populations”.  

Notice that it doesn’t say “some communities and populations”, or “whichever communities and populations you identify with”.  There are no modifiers added to that statement.  So you’d think that would mean that, as doctors (or future doctors), we have a responsibility to ALL patients, communities and populations.  First do no harm, right?

Well, not if you’re the Canadian government, it would seem.  In 2012, the government announced sweeping changes to the Interim Federal Health Program, a program under which, all refugees and claimants arriving in Canada were able to access health care.
These changes were called the “Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act” , and were introduced under the guise of saving money for both the federal government, and taxpayers of Canada.  In reality, these changes mean that refugees arriving to our country cannot access basic medical care.
They mean that pregnant women are unable to access pre-natal care; diabetic patients cannot access insulin; children cannot access basic immunizations. 
They mean that a country whose global identity is in part defined by universal health care is willing to turn away those who need that care.
It’s been over a year now since these cuts were instated, and healthcare professionals across the whole country have seen firsthand the effect that they’ve had.  Today was the second national Day of Action, protesting these cuts.
Though Jason Kenney, the federal minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism has said that it is only a small group of marginalized radicals that oppose these cuts, today’s nation-wide demonstrations would suggest otherwise.
Here in Hamilton, physicians, nurses, residents, social workers, midwives, medical students and even the Steel Workers turned up to let the Harper government know that this is not okay.
There were speeches, the most wonderful of which was by another medical student, who expressed that “we all entered medical school because we wanted to help people.  We will not be trained to deny care”.

If you agree that Canada should embrace the world’s vulnerable, and that care should not be predicated upon country of origin, take the time to make your voice heard.
Sign this petition, started by the Registered Nurses Association Of Ontario.  Check out this website, Doctors for Refugee Healthcare.  Find your local MP, and write them a letter.  Or go right to the top, and let Minister Kenney know that healthcare is a basic human right. 

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DFDubs gets me through

Ugh, I had this whole thing written up about stresses, and how medical school is tough, and WHY IS IT FULL OF IDIOTS, and how people are mean and when it rains it pours, and being a grownup is so much harder than you ever think it’s going to be etc etc.

And then, as my computer is apt to do these days (note to self: look into getting new computer) it shut down.
“Fuck this”, I imagine it thinking. “I am a rock now.”
And just as I’m about to reach a new level of “why always me” based thought processes, I remember David Foster Wallace.
In my head, I call him DFDubs, like he’s my best dead author friend or something.

In 2005, DFDubs gave this commencement speech at Kenyon College, entitled “This is water”.  When I first heard it a few years ago, I didn’t know where Kenyon College was, or why he was speaking there.  I had never heard of Infinite Jest or The Pale King or any of DFDubs’ other works.  But I listened to this speech and thought “Hey, this guy is on to some stuff”.  And then I didn’t think about it again.

Until I got stressed out.  In that self pitying, ‘why-is-everyone-against-me’ kind of way.  The most selfish sort of stress that has no regards for anyone or anything else.  And for some reason, I thought of this speech, and remembered that, although it’s my default setting to feel this way, I can actively choose to feel otherwise.  And that, even though that’s hard to do, it makes the world a little bit more bearable.
Since then, I’ve come back to DFDubs each time I’ve been majorly stressed out.  Especially when I’m stressed out as the nearly direct result of the actions and words of everyone else around me.  When you’re constantly in situations full of type A kids, who always strive to do everything right, and are used to being THE BEST(read: when you are in medical school), this is pretty much ALL of your stress.  And that is the perfect time for DFDubs.

And part 2

And my favourite quote:

The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.

Life updates soon. 

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In which actual knitting gets done!

**obligatory statement about how I am inconsistent with posting**

School lately has been flat out bonkers.  We finished our unit on GI and endocrinology, and trucked right into the kidney.
I. Hate. Kidneys.
Actually, that’s not true. I hate my inability to remember everything about them.  You think all they do is turn the gross amounts of coffee and wine I consume into pee (or if I’m using my doctor words, urine), but that’s not even the half of it. 
Even though I’m struggling a bit with the material, I’m still very much enjoying it.  Plus, we’re finished with the kidney as of Thursday, and then we move onto reproduction.
Which means babies.  And babies are my favourite.

Speaking of, I had my first of two labour and delivery shifts.  I was at the hospital for five hours, and I experienced the miracle of birth approximately zero times.  I did get to meet a few labouring ladies though, who (given their state) were mostly quite kind about letting me ask them questions.  I have another shift in two weeks, so hopefully I see some birth-y action then.

Between not understanding the kidneys, and not seeing babies be born, I’ve actually gotten a decent amount of knitting done! 


See my vest! See my vest!
See my crappy photo!

First up, I completed the Woodhollow Vest.  Kristin Kapur consistently cranks out amazing patterns for beautiful items, and this was no exception.  I started it back in the summer, and finished it up about a month ago.  (A large portion of this vest was actually knit in my professional competencies class.  Take from that what you will).

After finishing the vest, I started a commissioned hat for a girl in my class.  Knitting is knitting, and I’d be knitting anyways I figure.  Plus, it’s a wurm (which I love) plus it gave me the chance to work with Cascade Pacific again (which I also love).
When that got too big to tote around, I went back to the old standby: socks.  I started these socks last April, when I traveled to Nicaragua, and I figured it was probably time to finish them.  I turned the heel on the second sock yesterday, and now it’s just a quick jaunt up the cuff.


Yarn is Berroco Sox. Pattern is a toe-up adaptation of the Tadpole sock pattern by Jenna Swanson. Photo is bad.

Once those are finished, I want to start one of these.  I’m thinking that I’ll likely use some Casbah I have.  I had started an Age of Steam and Brass with it, but I’m pretty unhappy with how much it’s growing widthwise vs lengthwise.  I also think this pattern might be a better fit for the colourway (ie lead to less pooling). 

Lastly, I (finally) signed up for a class at Needlework, in downtown Hamilton.  I’d been internet creeping on them, and other members of the Hamilton crafty community pretty hard, and when they posted the schedule for their spring classes, I couldn’t help myself.  I’m signed up for the Wiksten Tank Dress class in April.  AND, word around the internet is that James Street North is getting a yarn store soon!  Best news ever?  Yes.

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Med School is a lot like Kindergarten…

Remember that time I started a blog, and then neglected it?
I do.  Every day.  And then I do nothing about it.
I’m trying to fix it, I really am, and I actually have a backlog of handwritten posts on napkins and paper scraps, interspersed with my school notes and all over my room.

One of the things I’ve been thinking about is how since med school started, I feel a little bit like a toddler.  (Albeit, a toddler who owes an arm and a leg in student debt…)

1.) Some of these things – which I’m learning for the first time ever – are literally like breathing to the people who are teaching me. 
“How can you NOT know how to give an intramuscular injection!?”
The exception here is that my attempts at learning “basic skills” are not met with the same awe and wonder of a toddler learning to walk. 

2. I have the same backpack as all of my classmates
We match.  We’re a matchy matchy bunch, and as if matching my classmates wasn’t enough, every medical student in Canada has the same backpack.  We are matchy matchy at a NATIONAL level.  


Photo from MD Physician services

We also travel everywhere together in this roving band of med students (this is generally not intentional, simply unavoidable).
Really, the only way we could be more like toddlers in this sense is if we all had a knotted rope to grab on to.
(I’m pretty sure the administration has probably looked into this and is currently working on the associated legalities.)

3. The only way to get us to do (nearly) anything is with food bribes.  (This may make us seem more like puppies, but I’m pretty sure I’m not the only kid who was potty trained using smarties.  Just saying.)
Every lunch time talk, every interest group meeting, even some of the mandatory events.  Free food.  (This part is actually awesome)

4. We appear to learn best when information is presented to us in songs.  Our classe’s facebook page is filled with youtube posts of songs about pretty much everything.  
This one is about the real coca-cola bears, and diabetes.
This one’s about glucose.
And this one is about the thyroid, in the musical stylings of Sisquo.  

5. I have a nap pretty much every day.

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In which the universe craps right on my head

(*As an opening caveat, I would like to recognize the melodrama inherent in the title of this post, and acknowledge that I am in fact a very lucky person, with a very wonderful life, especially when compared to large parts of this world.  That being said, problems are still problems, even if they are in the first world.  And sometimes a nice ranty rant is just…well…..nice.)

First of all, it would appear that I kind of suck at the whole blogging thing.  The idea was to keep a blog as a means of keeping all of the people I love informed about my life at once, without having to repeat everything a bunch of times.

What I didn’t realize was that I would BARELY have time to keep myself informed of the things going on in my life, let alone other people.
To paraphrase, med school is busy.  And I knew it would be busy, so this is not a great shock to me.  However, after having a year off, and pretty much infinite free time within that year, having to spend most of my waking time doing stuff that is not whatever-happens-to-strike-my-fancy is a bit of an adjustment.

Not to say that I do not love it.  I LOVE IT.  I love talking to patients, and I love learning about medicine, and I love (most of) the people that I get to work with.  Balancing all of that with all of the ‘self discovery’ bullshit that my twenties are supposed to be about  (so sitcoms tell me) is a bit tricksy.

For example, I weinered out on the 5K I was supposed to run.  There.  I said it.  Training was going well, I was able to run pretty far without ye olde broke foot giving me any trouble and then…I just stopped making time.  And when I had spare time, my options became run, shower or nap.  Shower and nap always win.  ALWAYS.

Then there’s the whole learning to drive thing.  I don’t know why I didn’t do this when I was 16 LIKE EVERYONE ELSE, (I do know why, but that’s another diatribe for another time), but I’m trying to do it now.  And it’s kicking my butt.  Yesterday I backed my friend’s car into a schoolbus.  (In my defense, it was really dark and rainy.  There was no one in the schoolbus, thank yarn.)
I only broke the tail-light, but the repair is going to run me about $200.  On top of that, I failed my road test this morning, which is a double bummer.  I am seriously considering sticking with bicycle transport for the rest of forever.

Then of course there’s familial obligations.  My parents came up for my white coat ceremony, which happened to also be my birthday.  It was super great to see them, and show them my new surroundings.  Unfortunately, they brought with them a bit of bad news about someone I really love at home, and I’ve been having a hard time coming to terms with it.
Shortly after they left, more bad news in the form of my Nana breaking a hip.  Now, Nana’s as tough as they come, so I’m not too worried, but I do feel bad that I can’t be there with the rest of the family to help.

Okay.  I think that’s most of the ranting.  I recently reread/listened to David Foster Wallace’s “This is Water”, in which he talks about trying to think about the world from a viewpoint other than our default setting.  It’s my go to stress talk.  Which is to say, the view that we are the center of the universe, and all things that happen do so to inconvenience us directly.  I have clearly fallen into this trap the last few weeks, and really want to change that.

The plan is to

  1. Blog not just when I’m frustrated, but when I’m happy too.
  2. Do it more often than every 2 months!
  3. Better appreciate the fact that I do not have to learn everything 100% right now.  If it’s really important for my medical career, it will come up again.  And I’m not going to be thrown out on my own for quite some time.
  4. In light of 3., make more time for things like running!
  5. Figure out how I’m going to pay for that damned tail light.

To close on a happy note, here’s a picture of me and Mr. Mustache (aka my dad) at my white coat ceremony.

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Still here, still alive!

The last few weeks have absolutely FLOWN by, and I can barely believe that I just finished my 3rd full week of medical school.

The first week – orientation week – was an absolute blur.  Each day there were lectures covering the very necessary (yet very boring) basics of WHMIS, fire safety, and how not to stab yourself with needles.  I learned things like “In an emergency, a wheelchair is any chair with wheels”, and that I should “ask patients to not cough in my orifices”.  (I don’t think these things were necessarily meant to be funny, but given the context, they were.)
Each night of orientation had a different “get to know your peers” event.  Unrelated, each night of orientation also had a bar component….
There was drinking, there was dancing, I wore a dress and heels at one point (I don’t think any photos exist of this though), and a general good time was had by all.

Then the real work started.  Though I knew med school would be hard, I don’t think I was quite prepared for the pace it took off at.  The vast amount of information I have to know, coupled with a completely new and different learning style have made the last two weeks a little rough.  Which isn’t to say they haven’t been entirely enjoyable.  

I am very much reassured by the fact that I still find everything so exciting, and so engaging.  Today’s lecture on arterial blood gases – super interesting!  Knowing that I get to see real patients next week and ask them real questions – super exciting!  
Studying respirology on a Friday night?  
Well, you can’t win them all.

Stay tuned for a better post on why Hamilton doesn’t suck, my adventures learning to drive (kill count still zero), and how much I miss Guelph.   

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Decreasing World Suck

One of the biggest things I struggle with on a near daily basis is the idea of doing good, or as one of my favourite authors puts it “decreasing world suck”.  It’s probably one of my main motivations for pursuing a career in medicine.  (Well, that and all the babes.)
It’s easy to let the thought of doing good be buried by pretty much everything else in my life, and to spend all of my time focusing exclusively on me, my environment, and those people immediately involved in my life.  I think that’s a pretty human thing in general.

Lately though, I’ve been thinking a lot about how lucky I am.  I live in a comfortable home in a developed nation, where I have food and healthcare, and people who love me.  I live in a place where I can convince a bank to lend me a nauseating sum of money so that I can pursue a career in medicine.  And earlier this year, I was able to visit another country, a definite luxury.

Recently, John Green (co-coiner of the phrase ‘world suck’) has been posting a lot about Kiva.  I first heard about Kiva through my roommate, who had made a few loans of his own.  The whole premise is explained really well in this cute video, from the Kiva site.

What I really like is the idea that this is an investment, rather than a donation.  It’s not just a thoughtless tossing of cash at a problem halfway around the world, as a way to absolve any privilege related guilt you may have.  Rather, the process is very involved, with over 3,000 borrowers to choose from.  You get to read each story, and decide where to invest.  And along the way, you get updates about how your investment, and others like it has helped the borrower to achieve their goals.

For me, and most people I know, $25 is not the difference between eating and going hungry, or between paying my rent and being evicted.  Most people my age can drop way more than that on a night out, and not really think about it.
What’s even better, is right now John Green (the guy is awesome, truly) has sponsored a bunch of free Kiva loans.  Which means you can make a loan FOR FREE to get a feel for how it works.

After browsing the loans on Kiva, I settled on investing in this group.  First, they’re from Masaya, the village I stayed in while I was in Nicaragua.  It was a beautiful place, with some of the nicest people I’ve ever met, but it was also heartbreakingly poor.  Second, the group is made up of women, all of whom run shops to support their families.  In Nicaragua, over 70% of the women were unmarried, and directly responsible for supporting themselves, their children, and often their extended families.  An unmarried woman and her children are not considered by the government as a family, and he idea of child support, or alimony is completely non-existent.  Lastly, I liked the mandate of the supporting field partner and their “emphasis on the holistic development of women“.

I never know how to end these things.  Kiva is awesome, go check them out now.

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