Sunday, March 30, 2008

"The vaccines scare us because the diseases don't. And they don't because of the vaccines."

One of the most compelling paragraphs I've read in support of vaccinations (read the entire outstanding article at

Leaving children unvaccinated means going back to:
  • Leg braces and iron lungs for people with polio (57,628 cases in 1952)
  • Encephalitis and sterility for people with mumps (200,000 cases a year in the 1960s)
  • Congenital rubella syndrome for children whose mothers contracted the illness during pregnancy.
  • Blindness, pneumonia, encephalitis, and death--one per thousand--for people wth measles (nearly 1 million cases a year in the US before vaccines).
  • Encephalitis and pulmonary hypertension for people with whooping cough--thanks to people who don't vaccinate their kids, in 2001, 17 people, mostly infants, died of pertussis (200,000 cases in 1940).
  • Cardiac arrest and paralysis for people with diptheria (207,000 cases and about 15,000 deaths in 1920).

The vaccines scare us because the diseases don't. And they don't because of the vaccines.

In class we had a professor tell us that we will encounter parents not interested in vaccination. I know some personally, so this was no surprise, but believe it or not this was news to some of the medical students in my class.

"Some of them you can reason with," the professor explained, "but you will have some parents that simply won't change their minds. For them, you can argue 'till you're blue in the face, but they just won't change their opinion. From personal experience, I've found that it's just simply not worth the time to try to change their minds - they just won't budge."

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Is there anything in your life causing you stress?

The reason for the patient's visit only said "difficulty sleeping," and the inexperienced first-year medical student had been sent in to take a preliminary interview.

It was going well, as usual. The patient was asking about work stress, home stress, and the like, and the patient kept responding that there wasn't any stress in those areas.

"Is there anything else that could be causing you stress right now?" the student asked.

The patient replied, "Well, nothing, other than my trial."

"Your trial? Are you a lawyer?"

"No," replied the patient. "I'm currently on bail, but I have a trial date coming up next month. I have to go on trial because I murdered my boss."

Note the patient didn't say "on suspicion of murder." The patient flat out admitted that he was on trial "BECAUSE I murdered my boss."

Apparently the doctor knew about this rather unsettling part of the patient's history, but sent the student in unaware... just to teach the student that you should never make assumptions about your patient.

Lesson learned? I'd say.

I am so glad that my family practice supervising doctors never put me in a situation like this.

Oh, and yes, while identifying details have been changed, this is a true story.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Words I'd use to describe med school: Collegial

Medical school has provided me with the opportunity to meet some incredible people. I've already used the word Honour to describe medical school, and now I'll explain why I feel medical school could be described as Collegial as well. From inspiring classmates to amazing physicians, I've been inspired by so many of the people I have met, and how much I feel a part of a profession that works together to provide patient care.

written about some of my amazing classmates (more than once), but not yet about the amazing doctors I've met. Based on my experiences with doctors ranging from the high-profile leaders to the average family physician, being part of med school has made me feel as though I am a part - not just an observer - of a collegial body of professionals.

By the time this year is over, I will have had the opportunity to meet the president of the Canadian Medical Association and my province's medical association multiple times, at both conferences and events held specifically for my school's medical students. These individuals are frequently in the media and it's a great opportunity to be able to speak with them in person.

As well, I had the chance to sit as the student representative for a board of director's meeting for my province's medical association. I was surprised that I had already met or knew of many of the physician representatives there, either through shadowing, at conferences, through initiatives I've worked on or because their children are in medical school, and how many more of the doctors that I didn't know who were willing to get to know me and make sure I didn't feel left out.

Finally, some of the doctors I've been most inspired by are those who don't have fancy titles or national profiles. At conferences, society dinners or through shadowing experiences, I've had so many experiences where the phyisicans have been willing to approach the medical students and make us feel welcome and at home. Rural doctors especially are always trying hard to show us how much they love their jobs, and how well they can balance their lives and professions. And they tell great stories - from
what it's like to be a rural doctor, to, well, stories that end like this (best told in a Scottish accent): "So there he is, pants at his ankles, nekkid from the waist down, nurses watching, singing 'Away in a Manger' in Portuguese...with a sigmoidoscope up his arse!"

No group of people is perfect, and I do hear of the disparity in perspectives of the specialists association and the family practitioners association, especially on issues such as fee distribution. But personally I've felt overwhelmed at the feeling of acceptance that I've experienced, and I genuinely feel that two years ago I wasn't just accepted to medical school - I was accepted into the medical profession.

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