Hello. My name is Dr. Kevin Dueck and I am honoured to be included in the #justaFP project as a recent graduate of medical school that chose Family Medicine. I’m excited to be part of McMaster’s Family Medicine program in Brampton having graduated from Western in May. My background includes undergraduate training in microbiology at the University of Victoria, work at the Public Health Agency of Canada, and graduate studies in medical microbiology before attending medical school.
Starting my medical training I was asked early and often what specialty I was interested in. I didn’t have an answer early on, but I was certain I wanted to provide direct care to patients. I also wanted to enter a field that fully utilized my skill set and provided lasting satisfaction in the service of others.
My first exposure to Family Medicine occurred at the conclusion of first year with a week in a rural practice. I felt welcomed and trusted as a team member and enjoyed participating in care of patients across the lifespan. It was an excellent experience of moving from theory to practice and seeing patients in the clinic and the Emergency Department. One of the physicians also shared the need for balance between one’s personal and professional life, a message that has stuck with me throughout medical school (https://abootmedicine.wordpress.com/2014/10/10/the-crying-doctor/).
Over the course of my training I found journaling and reflective writing a valuable tool in processing events and gaining perspective. With time I began sharing my writing and found my voice as a writer of medical narratives and articles, focusing on stories related to illness and the culture of medicine (https://abootmedicine.wordpress.com/). Sharing these stories started conversations with and lead to many valuable dialogues with my peers and the public. Writing also led to my deeply reflecting on the shortcomings of our healthcare system it served as a reminder of the need to continually seek means to improve the care we deliver. I see writing and story as a means to lead, to connect with patients and colleagues and to contribute to the larger healthcare conversation in my career.
During medical school some of us noticed our peers struggling, many having moved to a new city and lost social supports, or were feeling the pressure and expectations of medical training. There were resources available to support students such as contacts or hotlines, but they were not easy to access and often hidden in drop-down menus or lower levels of websites. When a grant opportunity from the OMSA arose and I gathered a team of motivated peers with complementary skills and we received a grant (http://www.omsa.ca/innovator-grant/). We launched Western Vitals (www.westernvitals.ca @WesternVitals) in the fall of 2013, a wellness initiative aimed at undergraduate medical students. We built a website, connected with local and provincial groups to deliver in-house workshops, and were involved in awareness activities including O-week. The website acts as a wellness hub, organizing resources in an easy to navigate format and offering suggestions, resources and contacts to support students at home, in their studies, and in crisis. The project was well received and continues to support students, gaining attention in a provincial contest on the use of social media to support mental health (Mental Health 2.0 http://www.accessiblecampus.ca/get-involved/mentalhealth20/). The success of this project in support developing physicians, helping them better care for themselves, and seeing it inspire other groups has been a highlight of my medical training.
When the time came to choose my future field I reflected back on my training and interests. Despite surgery and emergency medicine being exciting, I found that Family Medicine was the best fit. I value the meaningful connections made with patients over time in Family Medicine and the opportunity to practice truly patient-centered care. Family Medicine allows me to become a lasting part of many patient’s stories and to use knowledge of their past struggles and successes to best support them through life’s journey. I am honoured to participate in critical moments of patients’ lives and be granted their trust. Family Medicine also gives me the flexibility to continue involvement in activities such as writing, medical education, projects addressing mental health, and balancing medicine with involvement of my three children’s lives. My electives and clerkship experiences solidified this decision, so when it came to CaRMS I was delighted to Match to Family Medicine.
When I told others about my Match result their reactions were often that of surprise and occasionally negative. Many times after a pause they would say, “we need good family doctors.” The medical hierarchy is drilled into you early and influences attitudes students hold for different professions. Psychiatry and Family medicine often being looked down upon or the targets of jokes, so, I was not surprised by the negative reactions. Professors flashing slides up and mentioning that you, “didn’t need to know this if you were going into Family” or matching to Family Medicine being seen as a failing or lack of ability. I tried to address these attitudes in second year and wrote publically about the hidden curriculum and Family Medicine after interviewing a few Family Medicine staff (scrub-in.dgtlpub.com/2014/2014-09-30/home.php Pg. 20-21). It is unfortunate that such negative attitudes persist in our training. We should all be working together for the care of our patients and realize the skills and value each specialty brings. The reactions to choosing Family Medicine proves there is much work to be done and why initiatives like #justaFP are so important.
For many medical students Family Medicine is the best fit and an exciting career. I look forward to the next two years of residency, a career blending medicine and the arts, and to becoming ‘just’ a Family Doctor.