When I look back at my experiences during my medical education journey, there is one moment that I cherish with great appreciation. As a medical student at the University of Ottawa in the francophone stream in the early 80s (yes it was that long ago), I had a memorable clinical rotation in French and this was with a family doctor who was in a group practice in Hull, now called Gatineau, Ottawa’s twin city on the Quebec side.
“I immediately felt genuinely welcomed and part of the team.”
On my first day, my preceptor greeted me himself and introduced me to his entire practice team, clerks, nurses, physicians, using my full name. I immediately felt genuinely welcomed and part of the team.
He included me in all his patient interactions and when the time was right, challenged me to undertake patient histories and physical examinations with appropriate supervision. This included sensitive examinations such a pap smears. He engaged with his patients is such an effective way that they understood the importance of allowing a student to learn.
Although French was my mother tongue, my ability to present medical information to him was quite limited. He was very patient and understanding with me as he helped me learn. I remember appreciating how much he really cared about my education and ensuring I got the most out of all interactions with patients.
I specifically recall him coming to me with a pamphlet he had just received regarding a new disease related to an increased incidence of Pneumocystis Pneumonia and Kaposi Sarcoma in young men. We now know that these were the result of HIV infection but at the time, again, he wanted to ensure that I was learning about this new phenomenon with him, as a junior colleague.
The imprint of this family physician preceptor on me was immense. He taught me how to be a caring clinician, and he also modelled how to care for, and respect each member of the care team as equals, including learners. I felt empowered, hopeful and like I belonged on his team and in the profession as a whole. His impact was that I tried to model that behaviour in my clinical and education activities, in other words to be kind, compassionate and caring with all.