Welcome to this week's edition of Dear Dr. Horton! Send the anonymous questions that keep you up at night to a real former Dean of Medical Student Affairs, Dr. Jillian Horton, and get the perspective you need with no fear of judgment. Submit your questions anonymously through , and if your question is appropriate for the column, expect an answer within a few weeks!
Dear Dr. Horton,
With CaRMS applications open, the pressure is definitely piling on... yet no matter how much I tell myself I need to get started on preparing personal letters for the different programs I'm applying to, I just keep putting it off.
I know a great letter isn't going to pop into existence the night before applications are due, but I'm also at a loss in terms of where to even start... any advice would be much appreciated.
Ever wish you could ask a wise, kind, approachable Student Affairs Dean something without having to admit the question was yours? Maybe you think it’s cringe-worthy; maybe you feel like you should know the answer already; maybe you think you will be judged; maybe you’re sure you are the only medical trainee on the planet ever to have felt this way, and you need confirmation now.
Enter Dear Dr. Horton, a new feature on the CMAJ Blog. Send the anonymous questions that keep you up at night to a real former Dean of Medical Student Affairs, Dr. Jillian Horton, and get the perspective you need with no fear of judgment (rest assured, though — Student Affairs Deans in Canada are all really great people, and not only have they heard it all, but they take on these decidedly unglamorous, 24-hour call jobs because they really, really care about learners).
Submit your questions anonymously through , and if your question is appropriate for the column, expect an answer within a few weeks! ...continue reading →
Sarina Lalla is a medical student in the Class of 2020 at McMaster University
When McMaster medical students learn about medical conditions in a problem-based setting, we frequently use the mnemonic “DEEPICT” (Definition, Epidemiology, Etiology, Prognosis, Investigations, Clinical presentations, Treatment) to approach them. Medical schools focus on teaching students about these important aspects of diseases; with time and practice, this information can be retained and applied by students to make them better clinicians.
However, there is also value in understanding a disease through the eyes of patients. More specifically, it is critical to recognize how facing an illness and navigating the healthcare system impacts their lives. Patients are the experts on their own experiences, and the knowledge they can present in the form of stories can teach us a lot. While we learn how to interpret information in the form of bloodwork and imaging, patients present first and foremost with a story. ...continue reading →
is an Internal Medicine Resident (R1) at the University of Toronto. Check back the last Thursday of each month for a new featured piece as part of his series (Doc Talks: Reflections to Reality)!
Arnav Agarwal, CC3. I starkly recall etching those three words as I signed off on my first clinical note on a warm September morning. I wish this could be in pencil, I remember thinking. The idea of permanently associating my identity with a patient’s story and offering a proposed impression and plan felt outlandish — I barely had my own impression and plan figured out. How was I going to help patients and make a difference when I could hardly find my way to the right area of the hospital for my first day? And, a more weighted question: could I really practice medicine?
Indeed, the two years that followed were defined by gruelling academic intensity unparalleled by the prior two years of pre-clerkship. A rigorous clinical schedule was now paired with the expectation to prove theoretical capabilities every six to eight weeks. Uncountable sleepless overnight shifts on-call were matched by long days and weekend shifts. The unwavering anticipation of new learning experiences was paralleled by the uncomfortable sense of needing to constantly impress those around us and hold our own in a seemingly foreign environment. ...continue reading →
Sabrina Slade is a medical student in the Class of 2019 at Queen's University
Let me preface this by saying I am the kind of person who uses sarcasm and humour as a form of coping, and these opinions are my own.
You I have cancer.
A phrase I never could have dreamt would come out of my mouth, yet something I see or speak about almost every day in my so far short-lived medical career.
It’s the last week of June; I’ve just started my internal medicine rotation in Toronto and am rushing to get ready as I have slept through all seven of my alarms. I glance at my phone, noticing three missed calls and a voicemail with a little urgent symbol beside it. It’s my family doctor’s office; I listen to the voicemail half-heartedly as I struggle to pull on my nylons. She says something about biopsy results, and the words “neoplasia” and “urgent referral” stop me cold. I shimmy over to my phone, my nylons awkwardly half on, and hit replay. ...continue reading →
Mohammad Jay is a medical student in the Class of 2020 at the University of Ottawa
As you open this letter, you will have completed the first day of your orientation week. You’re sunburnt and tired, but beaming with excitement. You have met so many people and revelled in your shared enthusiasm about medical school. Remember to hold on to this excitement — not just today, but for the rest of your medical journey.
Although much of this journey will be rewarding and filled with exhilaration, there are going to be days when you’ll feel inadequate, exhausted, or frustrated. Remember the excitement of the first day of O-week during these difficult times. Open your admission email and replay the screams of excitement and the hugs from your family and friends. Despite the challenges of medical training, you are privileged to be on this journey. Remember that you are training to save lives. What could be a greater honour than this? ...continue reading →
Dalia Karol is a medical student in the Class of 2020 at the University of Ottawa
“Why waste my summer travelling when I should be preparing for clerkship?” I have heard many students say this during medical school. As co-chair of the University of Ottawa Medical School Wellness Committee, I recognize the value of taking time for oneself during medical school — . While I appreciate the value of pursuing clinical and research electives, finding time to travel during our last month-long summer break can also be rewarding. Shared here are some of the lessons I have learned through travelling and how they have allowed me to reflect on my medical school experiences, gain a broader perspective, and make valuable international connections.
After spending time travelling in Europe during the summer after first year — gaining new perspectives while exploring the world outside of medicine — I began my second year energized for my classes, research, and electives. ...continue reading →
Maggie Hulbert is a medical student in the Class of 2020 at Queen's University
(Penn State University Press, 2017)
The HIV/AIDS Care Unit (Unit 371) at Chicago’s Illinois Masonic Medical Centre was founded on a heartbreakingly simple observation. “We are all just people taking turns being sick,” stated Dr. David Blatt, one of the founders of Unit 371, in ’s newest graphic novel — the aptly named Taking Turns: Stories from the HIV/AIDS Care Unit 371. Czerwiec was a brand-new nursing graduate on 371 during the height of the HIV epidemic, and Taking Turns is in many ways her tribute to the unit’s extraordinary spirit. The intention of the unit was made clear from day one: this would be a place where the most stigmatized and ostracized patients could be cared for with empathy, understanding, and love. ...continue reading →
Laura Kim is a medical student in the Class of 2019 at the University of British Columbia
I’m a 3rd year medical student.
But I’m not just a medical student. Before August 2015, I had a life that was full and rich and medicine-free. Today, my life is no longer medicine-free — but I refuse to allow it to be any less full or rich.
I’m not just a med student.
I’m a pediatrics gunner, a student politics junkie, and a francophone-wannabe.
I’m a dancer, a baker, and a knitter.
I’m a Harry Potter-fanatic, a Sav Blanc expert, and a nap-connoisseuse.
I’m a loving girlfriend, an overbearing older sister, and a fierce friend.
I’m loyal, compassionate, caring, sarcastic, and (often) a hot mess.
I’m a poor parallel parker, a clumsy clerk, and a top-notch procrastinator. ...continue reading →
Betel Yibrehu is a medical student in the Class of 2020 at The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, DC. She is interested in medical education, diversity in medicine, and global surgery.
Canadian medical students at home and abroad reflect on the record numbers of unmatched applicants in the Canadian Resident Matching Service.
For many, acceptance into medical school marks the culmination of years of hard work and the start of a secure path towards a career in a rigorous yet rewarding field. In reality, acceptance into and completion of medical school means nothing without securing a residency position. And unfortunately, obtaining a residency spot in Canada has become an increasingly difficult endeavour. ...continue reading →