Earlier this month, medical students from across Canada gathered in the nation’s capital to participate in the Canadian Federation of Medical Students’ Lobby Day. As they do every year, many Ontario students travelled to Ottawa to spend the weekend discussing health care policy, learning from talented peer speakers as well as leading physician advocates. On Monday, they took to the Hill to engage Canada’s leaders in a discussion of health human resources and accessible housing for all Canadians.
But many of you reading this likely already know that.
When the weekend was over and I found some time to reflect on the weekend, I was left thinking about many of the weekend’s conversations. For me, there had been far more tough conversations – with Members of Parliament and medical students alike - than easy and swiftly satisfying ones.
In one such conversation, a dear friend said to me that they would not be pursuing further involvement in student leadership. "I went into medicine to do medicine and I haven’t been doing that. Sure, I pass my exams, but I’m not, you know, really giving my all to learn what there is to know about medicine."
That sentiment resonated with me. The Monday morning of Lobby Day, I wrote our psychiatry mid-term then raced off to Parliament without a second glance at my scantron. I spent more time that weekend discussing student loan interest rates than reviewing the new and improved DSM V criteria. Sure, a mid-term is not worth all too much in the grand scheme of things, but was that a worthwhile trade-off? Shouldn't I be more concerned about my knowledge of the health issues that will affect my future patients that simply the policy thereof?
I responded to my dear friend: "Being involved in all of this, for me, is what makes medical school bearable." That response was more cheeky than substantive, to be sure, but it was getting at some truth that I've spent the past few weeks bringing to bare.
Dr. Brian Brodie of the CMA said to us "Medicine is science, but it is so much more." From the day we start medical school – or, really, from the day we start practicing for our interviews – we learn about the roles we will take on as physicians. We know that there is more expected of us than simply treating illness – to treat people, we will have to lead and to advocate and to teach those who will come after us.
The importance of student involvement in medical school, be it involvement in advocacy, research, education or anything else, is what makes medical education different from all others. In all ways, medical school is a practice run for the years to come; the medical students we are today predict the physicians that we are going to be tomorrow. Involvement makes medical education bearable because of what medicine is and the kind of person that takes up the call to this profession. Without involvement, we would find ourselves spending little of our time in medical school "practicing" medicine.
- Anthea G. (University of Ottawa)