Student Humanities Blog


Zeenat Junaid is a medical student in the Class of 2020 at Bahria University in Pakistan


“How do you make leukemia visible?” .

A British photographer and educator, Spence was a transforming voice in the arts of the last century. Her documentary-style photo albums dealt with themes of class struggle, conformity, and feminism. In 1982, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. A few years later, leukemia also set in. This cancer was not just in her blood and bones — it had seeped into her existence. It hijacked her arteries of security; it exiled her into grey plains of isolation she had never known before. Her whole career, she had sought to catch that special look — that nuance in a scene that told another story. But could she capture this tyrant phantom of disease now in her photos? How to express something for which words falter? ...continue reading

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Kayla Simms is a Psychiatry Resident (R1) at McMaster University who graduated from medical school at the University of Ottawa in 2017


Compartmentalization is to medical knowledge as bread is to butter: patients, divided into sub-types; the body, separated by systems; the physician, detached from the pain.

Or so I once thought.

In medical school, I walked into patients’ rooms and stood idly at the bedside, intimately embedding myself into the darkest spaces of strangers’ lives. The bedside, like a carpenter’s work bench, is where I mastered concepts of sound and touch: the absence of bowel sounds auscultated in an obstructed state. The warmth of inflammation against the back of my hand.

The bedside is where I grew accustomed to asking questions like, “How is your pain today?” and learned to de-humanize the experience with the help of a 10-point scale. ...continue reading

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Shawn Katuwapitiya is a Psychiatry Resident (R4) at the University of Ottawa who graduated from medical school at Western University in 2014


This poem was performed at the 2017 , where Shawn was acting as one of Ottawa's representatives from the . He regularly publishes poetry at .

...continue reading

Maggie Hulbert is a medical student in the Class of 2020 at Queen's University


Imagine working in a hospital where a child is admitted and kept on the wards for seven years without being allowed to see their family. Now imagine being that child, and growing up to be an adult in today’s healthcare system. Would you ever set foot in a hospital again? Would you ever trust a doctor? These are the kind of questions that come to mind while reading , a book written by investigative journalist Gary Geddes. By travelling across Canada and interviewing Indigenous leaders, Elders, and members of a wide variety of First Nations, Geddes provides a powerful account of how Canada’s historic Indian Hospitals and Tuberculosis Sanatoriums directly and intentionally contributed to the genocide of Indigenous people. ...continue reading

Cathy Li is a medical student in the Class of 2020 at the University of Toronto


"Doctor, what do you recommend for my grandmother's pancreatic tumour?" My heart was fluttering nervously as I scribbled down his suggestions. This was the third meeting I had arranged.

Growing up, I had a very close relationship with my grandmother and lived with my grandparents until I was six years old. I received the news of her diagnosis during my third year of university. The words “intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm” haunted me and echoed incessantly in my head for days; I could neither think nor focus. The feelings of powerlessness grappled to hold me down. Yet deep down, I was aware that simply being a passive bystander would be the greatest personal defeat. With that, a new wave of resilience inundated my thoughts. ...continue reading

Usman Khan is a medical student in the Class of 2019 at the University of Ottawa

Tharshika Thangarasa is a medical student in the Class of 2019 at the University of Ottawa



You find me:
Sprawled across the cold, dark asphalt.
Incoherent, incompetent, "incapable".
Hypotensive, bradycardic, cyanotic.

Overdosed. ...continue reading

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Tyler Murray is an Internal Medicine Resident (R1) at the University of British Columbia who graduated from medical school at the University of Toronto in 2017


Fortunately, I found myself starting medical school unacquainted with death. I had only been to a single funeral, all four of my grandparents were still alive, and my entire extended family was relatively free from chronic disease.

Our first exposure to death in medical school was in the anatomy lab. At the end of the first week, we were brought down to the morgue and introduced to our cadavers. A small card with a simple line about who they were hung at the foot of the table: "54y male. Cause of death: lymphoma.” Over the next two months, we became intimately familiar with these bodies. Each day, we crossed a new boundary in a process of uncomfortable, progressive desensitization. I wonder now if this was intentional. ...continue reading


Maria Powell is an Internal Medicine Resident (R1) at the University of Calgary who graduated from medical school at Memorial University of Newfoundland in 2017


Admittedly, my social histories used to consist of the same three questions: Do you smoke? Do you drink alcohol? Do you use recreational drugs? I would occasionally ask if the patient worked outside the home, or what they did for income, but the question rarely came up when reviewing consults with resident and staff physicians so I did not routinely ask about it. One thing I am sure of: I never asked whether or not the patient had a home.

During my first two years of medical school, I had lectures on the social determinants of health, and I thought I understood their importance. Yet, it was not until I did a “Health of the Homeless” elective in downtown Toronto that I truly appreciated the impact of the social determinants of health. ...continue reading

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Sterling Sparshu is an Early-Career Physician who graduated from medical school and completed their residency at the University of Calgary in 2017


As I graduate from my residency program, I am struck by how much this journey has mirrored aging and development. I grew typically enough through infancy and childhood, but medical training stalled me in adolescence.

While others gradually accumulated responsibility, status, and wealth in a stepwise fashion, I have received this at a slow, then exponentially increasing rate. It seems at one moment I was a medical student; then, suddenly, I had an MD and was expected to take on so much more than only a day before. Now I will be a medical staff — but I am no longer just me. I am no longer just a student, resident, or physician. I am now a corporation. I have an accountant, a lawyer, a financial advisor... I am suddenly earning as much in a day as I used to make in a week. I have been granted tremendous power and must take on immense responsibility. ...continue reading

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Eleni Levreault is a medical student in the Class of 2019 at the University of Ottawa




They said medicine, when you begin,
Is like staring Mount Everest in the face.
You wonder how the mountain you climbed
Suddenly shrinks to a hill beside what is yet to come
Yet you start the climb;
This is what you’ve trained for, after all
And as summer turns to fall, the journey begins:
Genetics, anatomy, they consume all your time
As the snow settles in, the bell-ringers cease to chime ...continue reading