Wellness Blog Series: 10 Ted Talks to Help You Be Well

Being a medical student can be hard sometimes. When you’re digging your car out from under the snow to go to 6 AM rounds and haven’t done your laundry or eaten a well-balanced meal in weeks, it can be hard to take a step back and see the whole picture. It’s super important to spend time doing the things we enjoy, and to practice mindfulness and gratitude in our everyday lives. Here are a few TED talks that I’ve loved, bookmarked, and watch periodically that help keep me well, balanced and grounded:

1.     Guy Winch: Why we all need to practice emotional first aid

“By taking action when you’re lonely, by changing your responses to failure, by protecting your self-esteem, by battling negative thinking, you won’t just heal your psychological wounds, you will build emotional resilience, you will thrive. A hundred years ago, people began practicing personal hygiene, and life expectancy rates rose by over 50 percent in just a matter of decades. I believe your quality of life could rise just as dramatically if we all began practicing emotional hygiene.”


 2.     David Steindl-Rast: Want to be happy? Be grateful

 “To learn, to suffer, to stand up, all these opportunities are given to us, but they are opportunities, and those who avail themselves of those opportunities are the ones that we admire. They make something out of life. And those who fail get another opportunity. We always get another opportunity. That’s the wonderful richness of life.”


 3.     Carl Honore: In praise of slowness

 “We’re so marinated in the culture of speed that we almost fail to notice the toll it takes on every aspect of our lives – on our health, our diet, our work, our relationships, the environment and our community. And sometimes it takes a wake-up call, doesn’t it, to alert us to the fact that we’re hurrying through our lives, instead of actually living them; that we’re living the fast life, instead of the good life.”


 4.     Matthieu Ricard: The habits of happiness

 “Mind transformation – that is the very meaning of meditation. It means familiarization with a new way of being, new way of perceiving things, which is more in adequation with reality, with interdependence, with the stream and continuous transformation, which our being and our consciousness is.”


 5.     Pico Iyer: The art of stillness

 “And by going nowhere, I mean nothing more intimidating than taking a few minutes out of every day or a few days out of every season, or even, as some people do, a few years out of a life in order to sit still long enough to find out what moves you most, to recall where your truest happiness lies and to remember that sometimes making a living and making a life point in opposite directions.”


 6.     Kathryn Schulz: On being wrong

 “The miracle of your mind isn’t that you can see the world as it is. It’s that you can see the world as it isn’t. We can remember the past, and we can think about the future, and we can imagine what it’s like to be some other person in some other place. And we all do this a little differently, which is why we can all look up at the night sky and see this and also this and also this. And yeah, it is also why we get things wrong.”


 7.     Kelly McGonigal: How to make stress your friend

 “How you think and how you act can transform your experience of stress. When you choose to view your stress response as helpful, you create the biology of courage. And when you choose to connect with others under stress, you can create resilience.”


 8.     Brene Brown: The power of vulnerability (one of my favourite TED talks of all time!)

 “They fully embraced vulnerability. They believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful. They didn’t talk about vulnerability being comfortable, nor did they really talk about it being excruciating. […] They just talked about it being necessary. They talked about the willingness to say, “I love you” first… the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees… the willingness to breathe through waiting for the doctor to call after your mammogram. They’re willing to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out. They thought this was fundamental.”


 9.     Larry Smith: Why you will fail to have a great career

 “You’re afraid to pursue your passion. You’re afraid to look ridiculous. You’re afraid to try. You’re afraid you may fail. Great friend, great spouse, great parent, great career. Is that not a package? Is that not who you are? How can you be one without the other. But you’re afraid.”


 10.  Abraham Verghese: A doctor’s touch

 “I will always, always, always be there. I will see you through this. I will never abandon you. I will be with you through the end.”


 Tasha Stoltz – McMaster Class of 2017

Wellness Blog Series: What is Wellness to Me? One Student's Experience

It is with great pleasure, and a slight bit of trepidation (I’m not used to writing about myself!), that I start off this series of blog posts about wellness. In the coming weeks, you will hear from my colleagues on the OMSA Wellness Committee - a group of driven individuals who are passionate about the self-care and balance in medical students - about their views on wellness.

As a student at McMaster, trust me when I say that the faculty takes every, and I mean EVERY, opportunity to celebrate their innovative method of teaching: problem based learning. It entails tackling a given problem with a question. What information do we need to solve this problem? What are we curious about? Given the broadness of a topic like wellness, I reflexively ran through a mental list of my objectives:

What is wellness?

How do I keep myself well?

What is wellness to me?

To answer the first question, I went to Google. The World Health Organization defines wellness as “...a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely in the absence of disease or infirmary.” Now, how can one achieve this state? There are many things one can do to keep themselves well. However, just as cooking isn’t solely about throwing together a bunch of ingredients, wellness isn’t simply about doing activities that are said to help you create a physical, mental and social balance. In order for the relationships you build and the activities you engage in to keep you well, I believe the key is in one’s mindset. The mindset that ensures my wellness is striving to be a better version of myself than I was yesterday.

Every day, I endeavour to build on one or multiple facets of my life. I try to learn a little more about human physiology in order to become a better doctor. I do a few extra repetitions of an exercise to get a little stronger. Sometimes, I try a new recipe with new spices. Or I may pull out an old favourite recipe and change it up. Perhaps I make a new friend. Some days, I rekindle an old friendship. I may call home because I haven’t checked in for a few days. I might look into planning a trip to Europe in the summer to travel and see the world.

It’s true these changes are not particularly noticeable from day to day. They’re little things. But the days becomes weeks, and the weeks become months; and every little thing builds up and takes me steps closer to becoming the best version of me. Each day, I work to build stronger relationships, try new activities, and learn different things. Wellness, for me, is appreciating the opportunities we are lucky enough to have and using them to grow and impact the people around us, and just maybe make the world a little brighter than it was yesterday.



CaRMS journey - The team behind every applicant

CaRMS is like a black box. It is a step in medical school that you always know will come, you realize everyone makes it through, but what exactly happens in between is a mix of rumours, some facts and a healthy dose of faculty injected fear. 

The best I felt I could do to face this was to make lists and be organized which kept me focussed and on track. It avoided going back to re-check my past steps to make sure things were complete. 

Starting early and working on the application nearly daily were key. And again, as I had noted in pre-clerkship, I needed to continue prioritizing, putting work first and learning to say "no". While facing this challenge, I realized how important it was for me to apply a skill I often fail to use; help.

Writing personal letters was humbling; though I knew I was not the best writer, I could never have anticipated how many drafts I would write to obtain the final product. Reaching out to family and friends for input was difficult, and being critiqued on my work was a hard bite to swallow. During the process, I had to practice not taking their feedback personally but rather as a favour towards obtaining a better final product. 

As I have now received good news for my interviews in the programs of my choice I am tremendously grateful to the people that supported me through the application. Though I am not out of the CaRMS black box yet, this whole process only reinforces that as a well rounded physician identifying others’ strengths and using the help they offer is critical to success. 

On match day, CaRMS will only spell out my name by the selected program but truthfully, there should be a list of all the cheerleaders I’ve had along the way because behind every success there is always a strong supporting team.

Claudine Davidson, University of Ottawa

Wellness Wednesdays III: 10 Reasons to Join the OMSA Wellness Committee Julia Povieriena & Christine Prudhoe

This is the third and final post of a special three-part OMSA wellness series from Julia & Christine of the OMSA Wellness Committee 2014-2015.

Want to join our amazing team? Look out for applications for the OMSA Wellness Committee and OMSA Wellness Liaison in September!  Feel free to email us at services@omsa.ca for more information on the roles.


1. Embrace your creativity and think of ideas to promote wellness initiatives and plan the Wellness Retreat, which is one of the most exciting events of the year!

2. An excuse to spend some time reading wellness literature, which you can incorporate into your own life and help others do the same. This means no guilty feelings when reading The Happiness Advantage or IronDoc before you go to bed instead of Lilly (for all of you cardio lovers).

3. It keeps wellness high on your radar by having regular meetings. We tend to sacrifice some of our favorite activities once exams hit. Talking with like-minded individuals from all years of medical school across the province helps you remember to keep up with the things you love.

4. A chance to escape from your studies. The monthly telephone meetings give you the opportunity to talk about something other than differential diagnoses and other medical jargon. We begin each meeting with “3 things we’re grateful for” which keeps you thinking positively.

5. Exchange wellness initiatives with students across the province. You learn about all of the amazing initiatives from other medical schools and then can bring it to your own school. Which is helpful because often someone else has already worked out some of those nitty gritty details. Who doesn’t want to see their peers at school lookin’ fresh?


6. You could make a friend or even a mentor. We’re not given many opportunities to meet students from other medical schools. Being on the wellness committee gives you an opportunity to work with other students that you would not have otherwise met at different stages of their training. These friends can provide you with a different perspective and can offer advice regarding school, wellness and life.

7. Network with a wide range of inspirational people: physicians, psychologists or other professionals from all walks of life. They share valuable life experiences that help us learn from them and integrate their life lessons into our own life.

8. Build your leadership skills.  Since you are apart of the planning, you get to help choose what you think is important to medical student wellness.  You decide what topics/activities are important, and see the planning through from start to finish. You are then even more engaged when you listen to the speakers because it’s an issue that is directly relevant to you. It’s also exciting to see attendees trying activities for the first time that you arranged, like painting or yoga.

9. You help rejuvenate exhausted medical students. It is extremely rewarding receiving positive feedback from the attendees. You see many students loosen up and have some fun with various workshops and activities. It’s encouraging to see students leave the weekend feeling refreshed and to know that you were a part of it.

10. You are guaranteed a spot to attend the wellness retreat. This reason alone should convince anyone to join the committee... the retreat reminds us that we need to take care of ourselves in order to take care of others.  You’ll have a unique experience with the behind-the-scenes planning, and you’ll have plenty of time to soak it all in.  You’ll leave the weekend feeling refreshed and ready to return to your busy life.

Special thanks to Julia Povieriena (University of Ottawa) & Christine Prudhoe (University of Ottawa) for this blog post, as well as the other members of the OMSA Wellness Committee: Rebecca Wang (Queen’s University), Norah Cockburn (McMaster University), Calvin Santiago (Queen’s University), Talia Ryan (NOSM), Cindy Shen (University of Toronto), Meghna Dua (McMaster University), Jasmine Multani (University of Toronto), Nicole Archer (McMaster University), Marie Leung (OMSA Wellness Liaison, Queen’s University) & Venus Valbuena (OMSA Director of Services, University of Toronto).

OMSA Student of the Month of May: Jeremy Chitpin

May's OMSA Student of the Month is Western University's Jeremy Chitpin. He's quite involved in his school's student body, as his nomination comes from Schulich's Hippocratic Council's president. Read for yourself below. 

Jeremy is VP Internal at Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry. He has done wonders for mental health awareness and will leave lasting impacts to the structure of our Student Affairs Committee (SAC), which he chaired.

In this past month, Jeremy organized two events around mental health that has completely shifted the cultural perceptions around how prevalent and serious mental illness can be during medical school. The Monday event was a support group for students to share their past experiences. There was also an option for students to submit narratives anonymously, which were then read out loud during the event. Stories were shared about past suicide attempts, being institutionalized, eating disorders, and so much more. On the Tuesday, over 70 students attended a lunch time session, during which there was an opportunity for sharing and learning. This event was eye-opening for many medical students, who heard the true impact of medical illness, and even invited spontaneous audience members to share more stories. Tears were shed, and eyes were opened. Jeremy was also instrumental in adopting Queen's Wellness Month Challenge and modifying it to really make students change behavioural patterns. Ever since Jeremy attended the OMSA Wellness Retreat, he has worked endlessly to promote wellness at Schulich. 

For those planning wellness events, we often struggle with getting students to understand the importance of taking care of themselves, but this highlighted that it is imperative that we do. Furthermore, the CFMS Wellness Committee will be adopting the "anonymous" narrative tactic used by Jeremy in wellness events across the country. 

Wellness is only one aspect of Jeremy's portfolio as VP Internal. Aside from taking care of facility requests and our lounge, Jeremy has done an outstanding job in simply connecting with the students, especially the incoming class of 2018. By being there for them and acting as the face of guidance and confidence, he acts as a great role model for their class. Several students feel safe approaching Jeremy with serious concerns in their life. Jeremy tries to be aware and conscious of the different facets of class culture that may affect student's learning, interactions and overall happiness. He always takes the time to listen and reflect, and ultimately care for his friends. 

Finally, Jeremy is restless in thinking about the future and ensuring that there is continuity in the great work that he has done. He is taking the committee he chairs (SAC) and reorganizing and rebranding it to fit the needs of the school, adding positions and expanding on the mandate of the original committee. His forethought for creating long-lasting initiatives will be a valuable foundation on which Schulich will expand its wellness portfolio. 

Wellness Wednesdays II: Reflections on the OMSA Wellness Retreat by Sarah Luckett-Gatopoulos

This is the second post of a special three-part OMSA wellness series, featuring guest writer Dr. Sarah Luckett Gatopoulos, a PGY1 in Emergency Medicine at McMaster University.  At the third annual OMSA Wellness Retreat this past March, she facilitated a fantastic workshop entitled ‘The Portable Workout’.

This post has also appeared in earlier form on Luckett’s personal blog, This Liminal Space (sluckettg.wordpress.com). 

Several months ago, I was contacted by the organisers of the OMSA Wellness Retreat to attend the retreat as a speaker. The OMSA Wellness Committee had an idea that I should speak to medical student delegates from across Ontario about physical activity, and how fitness fits into a life in medicine. Frankly, that was far too daunting a task, so I was relieved when my role was narrowed down to providing a short, no-equipment, portable workout.

You want me to do what?

You want me to do what?

y goal in preparing my "talk" was to devise a quick and ready workout that could be done without equipment, with little time, and in a confined space like a bedroom or hotel room. I wanted to create something that was easily adaptable to a range of abilities, had enough variety to be interesting, and was not too overwhelming for those not quite into the workout groove. Ideally, the workout could easily be done on elective, after a late night at the hospital, or on the CaRMS tour. What I ended up doing was writing a HIIT-style workout (high intensity interval training, or Tabata, for those wondering) that consisted of a variety of widely adaptable exercises repeated for maximum burn. Apparently, I whooped a few butts during my session!

In the weeks leading up to the retreat, I became increasingly nervous. I was worried that the workout I provided wouldn't be hard enough for the participants, but - more importantly - I worried that I didn't have the credibility to talk about physical fitness in a meaningful way. The nice thing about these sorts of anxieties (is there a nice thing about worrying?) is that they provide an opportunity to think about what we've achieved and what those achievements mean. In thinking about what I would say to the medical students attending my session, I had the chance to reflect on what physical fitness has meant to me during my journey through medical training.

I avoided physical activity as a kid, mostly out of fear of pain and embarrassment about my body. I remember watching a kid's variety show on TV when I mustn't have been older than 5 or 6, and trying to figure out which kids looked like (read: looked as big as) me. In retrospect, I was a cute kid of appropriate weight, but that fact was lost on me. I worried constantly about my weight, and was ashamed of how I looked. What a surprise, then, that after two or three years of playing on a travelling girls' hockey team, I made a full-throttle transition to the nearly-naked sport of synchronised swimming around age 12, which had already been my secondary sport for a few years. A life-long love affair was born.

I was fortunate to train under some very inspiring women, and when I was 14 or 15, I made a big leap to a higher level of competition that required me to change clubs. Unfortunately, after a couple of years I had to leave that club due to financial concerns, but I returned to synchro in university, and continued to compete through graduate school. In my final year before starting medical school, I trained with my university's varsity team for nationals, and simultaneously trained for FINA Masters Worlds with SyncTO (I competed in solo technical and free events as well). During that year, I was also the coordinator of novice and recreational programs at Toronto Synchro, so my life essentially happened at the pool (well, except for the part where I worked, researched, went to classes, wrote my thesis, and started a new relationship). It was not unusual for me to practise more than once a day. I remember many weekend days when I would get up early, walk or take the bus to the pool, practise for three or four hours with one team, break for an hour, and then come back to the pool to practise with the other team. On top of these practises, I spent extra time practising my solos and dry land training at the gym (let's not kid ourselves, though - this was not a strong year for me, as I developed some major mental blocks and performed poorly at practise and at competitions). I was strong and toned.


When I started medical school, a lot changed. I swam with the team at my new university, but the time commitment was significantly less than I was used to, and the training far less intense. By the end of the previous year, I had developed shoulder problems, and I had capsular plication surgery on one of my shoulders that required three subsequent months in an immobiliser and a prolonged hiatus from swimming during my second year of medical school. The social and academic demands of medical school meant I was no longer free to spend long hours at the gym. I tried to balance my academic and athletic needs with maintaining a long distance relationship. Ultimately, all three suffered. I gained 45 pounds.

I was unhappy. I felt unwell. I was failing to perform academically, and I was full of unfocussed energy that erupted in nagging anxiety and poor emotional control. By the early spring of my second year of medical school, I had reached a crisis point. My relationship had ended, and I knew I needed to refocus and get healthy. I began to run, slowly and painfully. Initially, I could not run for more than 30 seconds. I would run in intervals, and I was winded and red-faced after each 30 second jog. Eventually, I worked my way up to nearly 5k, and just before I ran my first 5k race, I agreed to train for my first half-marathon with one of my favourite people. In the coming year, I would run not just my first 5k, but also my first 10k, 15k, half-marathon, and 30k. One month after the anniversary of my introduction to running, I would run my first marathon. I also began practicing yoga, joining other students for Sunday night meds yoga at Studio 330 in Kingston.

On December 2nd of my third year of medical school, I began a crazy journey. I set a goal of being physically active every day for 365 days (you can find my documentation of that journey here). Incredibly, I managed it, and was back on the road to being fit and happy. These days, I continue to set aside time 4-6 days each week for physical activity. In fact, the day after the OMSA Wellness Retreat, I ran the Around the Bay 30k Road Race (though 'ran' is a bit of an exaggeration...I mostly hobbled around with a massive bum cheek cramp after kilometre 15). I feel better than I ever have, though I am still working to lose the last 10 or so pounds that I gained during my first year.

This is the face of someone who can barely walk #becausebumcramp

This is the face of someone who can barely walk #becausebumcramp

his is the story I told to the students who attended my session. At the risk of overestimating my own impact, I think it's an important story. The particulars aren't important - it could have been needlework, or writing, or meditation that I needed to reach my happy, healthy tipping point - but the message is essential. In my mind, that message is that we need to find the thing that makes us happy, that helps us focus, that keeps us well, if we are to be successful practitioners of medicine.

Only when we are content within our own lives, only when we have found a place to be calm in the midst of the storm that is medical learning, will we be able to provide the best care under the most difficult circumstances.

I think that is the very powerful message the OMSA crew set forth at this retreat, and that others speak to when discussing mindfulness, community-building, and health during medical training. I am both grateful to have been involved and hopeful for our future as physicians when I see so many medical students gathered in one place around this common goal.

Thank you to Sarah Luckett-Gatopoulos (PGY1 Emergency Medicine, McMaster University) for facilitating this workshop at the OMSA Wellness Retreat and her contribution to this blog!  This blog post was peer reviewed by Marie Leung.  

Wellness Wednesday: Finding Wellness in Your Own Backyard

This is the first post of a special three-part OMSA wellness series.  

Medical school definitely has its highs and lows... but your peers & colleagues have your back!  In this blog post, we highlight the multitude of medical student-driven wellness initiatives across Ontario.  

The following initiatives were also previously presented during the Student Initiatives Panel during the OMSA Wellness Retreat on Mar 29, 2015.

The OMSA Wellness Committee has also put together school-specific wellness resources in one handy place - click here to access printable copies of the resources available near you.  Print them out for yourself, pass them around to your friends, and spread the word!

University of Ottawa - Humanities Enhancing the Art of Learning (HEAL) 
Kayla Simms [slides]

Facebook: www.facebook.com/HEALMedEd
Twitter: @HEALMedEd
Email: healmeded@gmail.com

Humanities Enhancing the Art of Learning (HEAL) is a student-initiative within the University of Ottawa Faculty of Medicine working to develop the humanities and wellness components of formative medical education. Our aim is to empower medical students to find and give expression to their own ‘voice’ as a source of self-care and resilience.

To prioritize skills of insight, trust, and an understanding of the human experience of suffering, there is a pressing need for enriched humanities exposure in the training of healthcare professionals. Aside from the numerous pedagogic outcome benefits, including enhanced communication and empathy, the humanities also promote a unique form of healing.

An interdisciplinary field of medicine, the Health Humanities draws on the creative and intellectual strengths of diverse disciplines in pursuit of medical education goals. HEAL is proud to be a part of the student-led arm of a comprehensive inter-linked Humanities program at the University of Ottawa. The newly implemented Medicine & Humanities program has enabled students with a keen interest in exploring the arts and humanities (beyond the integrated curriculum) to achieve special recognition for their commitment to this interdisciplinary field.

Join the Health Humanities movement.

University of Toronto - Student Affairs Liaison Team (SALT)
Paris Lai [slides]

The Student Affairs Liaison Team (SALT) is a student led initiative at the University of Toronto. Our mandate is to promote student wellness, academic skills development and career exploration in collaboration with the Office of Health Professions Student Affairs (OHPSA).

SALT’s student-delivered initiatives include peer tutoring, monthly wellness seminars and workshops, among others. For example, SALT has facilitated mindfulness sessions for students, a session where students can discuss their emotional struggles with cadaveric dissections, and yoga sessions in the past. We have also held sessions where upper year students come to speak to first and second year students to provide helpful tips and guidance as students go through training. SALT also hosts an annual Resiliency Week where speakers are invited to lead workshops and to discuss how to keep healthy and well throughout one’s education and career in the medical field.

SALT’s events have been very successful and well received by students as indicated by attendance and feedback. In the future, we hope to have more wellness events for students going through clerkship, and integrate events related to physical wellbeing. We would also like to explore ways which we can utilize social media to help strengthen wellness and resiliency.

Queen’s University - #keepsmewell, a positive habits wellness challenge
Alyssa Lip

The Queen’s School of Medicine #keepsmewell Wellness Month was a month long student initiative targeted at fostering positive habits in the daily activities of medical students, physicians, and support staff. In teams, participants completed weekly and daily challenges aimed at promoting daily healthy practices in multiple aspects of their lives. Each week, challenges focused on a different pillar of wellness - nutritional, mental, physical, and social-academic balance. Teams accumulated points with the completion of each challenge over the course of the month. Incentives for this program included peer competition and prizes. There was a large social media component to the program to increase awareness within the medical community with #keepsmewell.

Participants included students, faculty and staff. We had over 35 teams of 4 participate in the month-long program - over 65% preclerk participation! We received very positive feedback and plan to run it again next year.

Look out for our upcoming e-handbook on how to bring the #keepsmewell challenge to your own school!

Northern Ontario School of Medicine - Critical Incident Reflection
Talia Ryan

Critical Incident Reflection Sessions at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine is a program that truly reflects the power of words. Integrated into the curriculum, student-led small discussion groups allow for first and second year students to join forces in face-to face meetings. This is a chance for students to speak aloud any concerns, emotions, worries, fears, and mistakes, but also reflect on change, improvement, and actions for change in the future. Most importantly, these sessions allow the students to ask their peers for assistance in coming to terms with their professional dilemmas.

Students truly do provide feedback and honest reassurance to support their colleagues in their experiences. It comes as a relief to see your peers managing their thoughts about their experiences in similar fashions. Following the verbal reflection sessions, students are asked to provide a written reflection piece. This provides an opportunity to journal after speaking aloud the concerns or critical incident. In addition, these written reflections are integrated so that students can use them to track their personal progress throughout the years.

The goal of these sessions is to maintain reflection in our practices moving forward as students in 3rd and 4th year.  Further, these sessions are designed to hopefully enhance the reflection that students take into their practices, to reflect as a team, and to learn new modalities for reflection moving forward.

McMaster University - C2C Clerk-to-Clerk Mentoring Program
Grace Bravo & Susan Tran 


The transition in medical school from the classroom to a clinical setting can be a daunting prospect for new clerks (CC2s at McMaster). The Mac-Masters Clerk-to-Clerk (C2C) Mentorship Program is a student-initiated, student-run mentorship program developed to target this unique transition point. Upper year CC3s (mentors) are matched with incoming CC2s (mentees) so that new clerks can receive the guidance needed to make their shift into clinical responsibilities a successful one.

Participants across all three of the Michael DeGroote School of Medicine campuses (Hamilton, Niagara, and Waterloo) are paired within clerkship streams based on relevant areas such as specialty interest and shared non-academic interests. In its inaugural year the C2C Mentorship Program recruited 310 participants - 135 Mentors from the Class of 2015 and 175 Mentees from the Class of 2016 (that’s 83% participation from the Class of 2016!). Now, the second iteration of the program is underway with recruitment currently in progress. We are looking forward to holding more social events for participants including collaborations with our Wellness Committee this coming year. To learn more about our program, feel free to check out our website at http://clerk2clerkprogram.wix.com/clerk2clerk !

Schulich School of Medicine - Western Vitals
Julian Surujballi, Daniela Kwiatkowski, Ethan Cassidy & Kevin Dueck

Twitter: @WesternVitals

Email: westernvitals@gmail.com

We are Western Vitals, a project sponsored by the OMSA to support student wellness at Schulich Medicine. For many of us medical school came with a new city, a new group of friends, and - in some cases - a new home. While the pressure of a career in medicine was on the horizon, the challenges of the transition into medical school seemed much more immediate. With that in mind, we were founded in 2013 with the goal of bringing students resources together to facilitate our journey in an easy, efficient and intuitive format. The final product lives on our website, www.WesternVitals.ca. What we’ve created is a central hub that organizes suggestions, resources, and contacts into goal-directed categories: Life Matters, School Matters, Wellness Matters and Crisis Matters. With consistent traffic on our website and in-house workshops, winning awards at the Mental Health 2.0 competition, and of course being invited to the OMSA Wellness Retreat we’ve enjoyed some fantastic moments so far. Going forward we will continue to grow, connecting to even more helpful content and streamlining our interface. Until then don’t be afraid to drop us a line, and don’t forget to check your Vitals!

Special thanks to our contributors Kayla Simms (University of Ottawa), Paris Lai (University of Toronto), Alyssa Lip (Queen’s University), Talia Ryan (Northern Ontario School of Medicine) and Grace Bravo & Susan Tran (McMaster University), Julian Surujballi, Daniela Kwiatkowski, Ethan Cassidy, Kevin Dueck (Western University) and the OMSA Wellness Committee for compiling the school resources.
The student initiatives panel was organized by Cindy Shen (OMSA Wellness Committee Member, University of Toronto).  This post was compiled & peer reviewed by Marie Leung (OMSA Wellness Liaison, Queen’s University).  

OMSA Medical Student of the Month of April: Henry Zhang

It is OMSA's utmost pleasure to share Mr. Henry Zhang, a fourth year medical student at the University of Ottawa to be April's OMSA Medical Student. After having worked with him on numerous occasions in clinical and non-clinical settings, his peers say that his leadership, interpersonal skills and compassion have touched many lives and have been an inspiration to many colleagues.

On first meeting, you may think that Henry is one of the quietest thinkers. You will sense the halo of serenity around him. Once you get to know him more, you will notice that he’s likely the “listener” in most conversations. When you dig deeper, you realize that he is one of the strongest and most understanding of friends, also an invaluable counselor or advisor one can ever ask for in medicine.

Henry is a selfless and kind individual who has invaluable patience and interpersonal skills that can calm anyone. His compassion in listening to all without any judgment allows him to comfort people around him, and share mature and personal advise no one can ask for. His calming smile and composure invite people to come to him when they are in need of human-support – a factor we often tend to forget in hectic medicine world. Henry allows individuals to re-visit this very human component by making himself available to listen and comfort no matter how busy his schedule is. Hence, he’s sometimes dubbed “the class counselor”. Many classmates remember Henry as the person they went to when they had difficult personal developments in life, ranging from an academic problem to disappointments or to grief from death or difficult life circumstances or disappointment. Henry was supportive of their mental and emotional well-being. If Henry was ever unable to help, he was sure to connect students to appropriate resources. By being a personal advocate, such asset allows him to remind individuals the most basic reason why we all pursued medicine in the first place – to help people; he certainly provides us that opportunity to re-visit our major intent, reflect, and how we can be a better person.

When he is not in “counselor” mode, Henry has always found meaningful ways to contribute on a broader scale to the medical community. During his time in medical school, Henry was very actively involved in advocacy initiatives. He participated in Leadership and Lobby Day with OMSA in 2012. With the newly gathered inspiration, Henry was co-founder of the “Health Advocacy Interest Group” at Ottawa. Through this new initiative, he helped run some big events that included bring three Members of Parliament to medical school to address the interface of health and politics. He was also an active participant in the Federal Lobby Day at Parliament Hill and some CFMS meetings.

With the understanding that “good practice cannot thrive without good policy”, Henry has shown great dedication to advancing knowledge, especially in the field of evidence-based solutions to primary care and health systems challenges. His research projects highlight the secretive nature of our drug pricing agreements, the inequalities in access to bariatric surgery and pharma-care, and the dangers of publication bias. His drive for innovation led for one of his submissions to be the only medical student abstract to be accepted at an innovative “Dangerous Ideas” Forum for an oral presentation at the national meeting of family physicians where he emphasized the great potential of utilizing social media in providing better patient care. He is guided by the principle that physicians have the “pulse” of their communities and are uniquely positioned to influence policy through research, advocacy and engagement.

Henry exudes a model of altruism and care that every physician should strive for. His capability to build strong relationships makes him an invaluable asset to have him as one of Canada’s physicians. As a future family physician, we cannot wait to witness high-quality care he will be able to provide to his patients not just medically but well-needed emotional care, the very human component of medicine we shall not forget.

OMSA Medical Student of March: Meagan Roy

Thank you once again for all your submissions of amazing peer stories. We are proud to feature the story of NOSM student Meagan Roy.

When thinking about someone worthy of being the Ontario Medical Student Association student of the month, there is one name that immediately comes to mind: Meagan Roy. Meagan is a phenomenal medical student and an exceptional human being. I, along with many of my classmates, consider myself lucky to have met her, and honoured to call her my friend. There are many reasons that make her deserving of such a distinction.

As a second year student at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, Meagan is actively involved in volunteer and leadership activities. As a Site Coordinator for the NOSM branch of the Altitude Mentorship Program, she organizes and executes mentorship events for undergraduate students, and oversees the mentorship aspect of the program. Her warm demeanor and giving spirit fosters a warm environment for perspective medical students to feel comfortable and welcome. Meagan also gives her time to many other student groups. As secretary of the Student Led Clinic, which is in its development stages at NOSM, she keeps everyone informed and on track by setting up meetings, creating and distributing agendas, and taking a very active role in the group meetings. As a co-founder of the Patient Safety and Medicolegal Interest Group at NOSM , she supplements student learning by providing information on a topic she identified was not addressed within our curriculum. Furthermore, by fostering relationships with community legal members, she has provided students with invaluable learning opportunities and valuable community contacts.

Furthermore, Meagan has also shown a dedication to advancing her knowledge base beyond our undergraduate medical curriculum. As a recipient of a Summer Medical Research Award, she worked on a project regarding Diabetes, Dementia, and Depression in an Aboriginal population. She also attends a multitude of continuing education and professional development programs on a variety of topics, such as LGBTQ inclusivity, wellness, poverty, and pregnancy and infant loss sensitivity. She also seeks to educate the student body on topics that she has extensive knowledge in. With a background of ten years in the optometric field, she spoke at a student-led session to impart knowledge of common eye issues that we would undoubtedly encounter during our clinical placements, and beyond.

Although Meagan’s dedication to student groups, volunteering and leadership endeavors keep her very busy, her most astounding feature is her dedication to her fellow students. She is well loved in our student body and is known for her selfless and giving spirit. Her willingness to help others is inspiring, and creates a warm and accepting learning environment. Whether she is offering to help out with a school related event, or is quietly supporting another student through a difficult time, she can always be counted on for a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on. Medical school can be a challenging and overwhelming endeavor at times, but with a classmate and incredible friend like Meagan, the road is brighter and the load is lighter.

A Sneak Peak for the OMSA Wellness Retreat 2015

A Sneak Peak for the OMSA Wellness Retreat 2015

Spring is coming soon and we have some good news for you: the OMSA Wellness Retreat is less than a month away! This is a unique opportunity to relax, meet your peers from other Ontario medical schools and learn valuable tips and strategies for self-care as a future physician.   As medical students, we are inherently self-sacrificing:  we study late and work hard, but it is essential that we learn to care for ourselves to be able to provide the best care to our future patients.

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