Family Physician, Women’s College Hospital
Assistant Professor Director, Women’s Health Scholar Program
Preclerkship Director, Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of Toronto
1. What does a typical Thursday look like for you, starting from when you wake up – to heading to bed?
My alarm goes off at 8am, I press snooze every nine minutes until 8:50-ish, then get up (torture), shower and off to the Second Cup for 9:15. A coffee, a muffin and a bottle of water later I am at work to see patients at 9:30. My last patient is booked for 12pm (which I finish around 1pm mostly because I talk too much…but I can’t help it)! I eat lunch (kick-ass salad bar at the Sandwich Delight that I am addicted to…could be the salt, but I’m convinced they put an addictive substance into the dressing!!) while I finish my paperwork, chart and deal with abnormal patient results until about 2:30pm.
Then I go to my office at the University of Toronto and depending on the day, attend meetings, email myself silly (mostly responses to medical students and logistics about a new experience I am working on to expose second year medical students to community Family Physicians so that they will become more interested in choosing Family Medicine as a career choice after medical school and help us fix this stinken’ doctor shortage)! I am also working on various research projects and projects relating to women’s health which I do during this time. I leave at 6:30pm and often meet friends for dinner in Little Italy near where I live.
Around 9pm I often will have a date for drinks (of which I only have one because I am a known ‘puker’) and head home around 11-ish. I then relax for a bit, talk to my mom and my cousin from New York, watch BBC World News and head to bed around 12am. I am pretty nocturnal, so usually I’ll end up reading until 2am, usually non-fiction, ideally something that’s grounding and educational about what’s going on in the world. Currently I’m reading “What is the What?” by Dave Eggers (who I love)! Then hopefully some zzzzz’s!
2. What was your first job out of school?
I worked for one day at the Second Cup (after which they told me that they thought I was too shy to deal with customers) and then I waitressed/hostessed at many different places for years to pay for university. And to think, I’m still a Second Cup coffee fan despite the rejection!
3. What are the 3 skills you require most to do your job well?
Compassion: I think that actually caring about people and having empathy for their situation, no matter what it may be, goes a long way in dealing with peoples’ health concerns. People need to trust their doctor and I think they can feel whether you really care.
Resourcefulness: As a Family Physician, people assume that you know absolutely everything about everything, from which band-aid brand is the best to the latest naturopathic products to details about their chemotherapy treatment. Of course it would be impossible to know everything about everything, but a good Family Doc should know how to best find the answers to anything!
Ability to deal with uncertainty: Many concerns that people bring to their Family Doctor are not serious or life-threatening. Identifying serious or life threatening problems is not difficult for a trained physician. But often it is impossible to find an explanation for everything that happens in people’s bodies and much of the time, these concerns will resolve by the natural healing of the body regardless of diagnosis or treatment. Occasionally these concerns are the beginning of something more serious that’s going on and the diagnosis will become more clear in time. It is important as a doctor to be comfortable dealing with this idea of not always knowing the answer right away and knowing that with proper investigations and persistence in ‘looking’ the answers can often be found.
4. What do you love most about your career?
I absolutely love the relationship I have with my patients. I feel like most of them are people I would otherwise be friends with and I am deeply interested in the various aspects of their life. I love that people will share with me their deepest secrets and trust that I will keep them and work with them to find solutions to their concerns. I will often spend the first part of an appointment catching up on their life before I remember to ask them what they came in about!
I also really love the supportive environment that I have at my various work sites, I enjoy the people I work with and always feel like I’m surrounded by friends. Even though the job is occasionally sad, we always find time to laugh together.
It’s also really important to me to feel like I’m ‘making a difference’. Through the various facets of my job I find that I can do so one on one or even at an educational or policy level.
5. If a woman wanted to get into this business, what are your recommendations of how they should start?
It doesn’t matter if you enjoy the basic sciences in school…if you’re okay at them, medicine can be all about the science, but it can be so much more about the art.
See if you can volunteer with a doctor or at a doctor’s office. Having a sense of if you would enjoy it is vital! Also working or volunteering with health care organizations is a good start…this will help you get your feet wet and also help on your med school applications.
P.S. You don’t always need to have done science in school, several good med schools now accept applications without these and value ‘life experience’!
6. Do you have any warnings?
One warning, don’t pursue a field like medicine because it is your parents’ dream or because you have to prove that you’re ‘good enough’ or ‘smart enough’. Chances are you are plenty good enough and smart enough, but if it ain’t your dream it’s gonna be a long road!
7. If you could try a different career on for a year, what would it be?
I love writing and would love to write a book…or a column…fiction/non-fiction whatever! I take creative writing classes and try to make time to write, but of course always hard to find the time! I also would love to be a dancer…I danced for years…but I fear I never quite ‘had what it takes’!