I walked up to the Brodie Centre doors on that warm, windy August day, staring up at my home for the next four years. It was my first day as a medical student and I was excited yet nervous at what was to come.
“Enjoy your time here,” the more senior medical students and doctors told us, as we collected our locker and mailbox keys. “It really flies by.” I wasn’t too sure of that myself, since Christmas seemed like a long four months away. Nonetheless, I accepted their advice and headed off to find my locker and meet my classmates. I hadn’t realized how diverse they’d be, until we were all sitting in a lecture theatre together. Only then, was I able to appreciate just how heterogenous we were. We all came from different backgrounds, culturally and educationally, but our end goal was the same, to provide compassionate care to our future patients. Although our diverse backgrounds will help us better represent the wide population we will serve, we soon learn that more and more medical students are going unmatched in residency. It’s a disconcerting thought, leaving me wondering if I would be without a job in four years’ time.
Nonetheless, I soon made some friends and we set about on our journey, learning everything that medical school had to teach us. We were taught how to use all sorts of new and wonderful medical technology, designed to revolutionize patient care. We learned about diagnostic tools that could become a reality in our lifetime, like pocket ultrasounds and ECG phone apps. Our exams were written entirely on our computers, just another way that the medical school was taking advantage of all the technology out there. All our lectures were video- recorded, available to view at any time from anywhere. My classmates were technology whizzes in their own ways, creating group chats on various platforms and finding different ways to share and create learning resources. At first glance, it really seemed like medical school was a glittering world full of the latest technology and on-demand learning.
Yet, we soon face a harsh reality. Despite all these brilliant technological advances, healthcare funding keeps getting cut. Emergency rooms close as patients struggle to find open hospital beds. Many patients can’t afford to pay for their medications every month and many don’t even have a family physician. And all around us, drug crises continue, complicating the health issues that patients present with.
Furthermore, as I started getting more clinical practice, I realized that not only were there issues with patient care, the provider side was just as flawed. Physicians have been taking on greater workloads and burning out fast, to the point of exhaustion, mental breakdowns, and even suicide. And despite being in a modern, tolerant society, power differentials based on race, gender, and other minority traits still exist, not just between patients and physicians, but between physicians as well. Although the culture in medicine has slowly been changing, becoming more inclusive and open, an old boys’ club still underlies the core of medicine, ensuring that long- standing traditions and ideals are upheld, keeping newcomers, like me, from feeling like they truly belong. More and more, as I started seeing the cracks and flaws in the healthcare system, I realized that medicine wasn’t the shining, gleaming world of opportunity I had naively made it out to be.
Over the past year and eight months, my classmates and I have faced many hurdles. Yet, I feel like that is only the start. A couple months ago, our biggest hurdle to date came in the form of COVID-19 and the ensuing lockdowns. We were left with no choice but to study from the safety of our own homes. We could have brooded in our homes, lamenting on everything we were missing out on. Yet, we rose to the challenge, successfully advocating for learning opportunities, like online exams, and creating and joining initiatives to assist and serve our wider community. Like true doctors, we took matters into our own hands, shaping our future into everything we wanted it to be, based on the cards we were dealt.
The funny thing is, no one could have predicted this, all of this panic and terror. So we’ve just got to do our best to live in the moment and embrace what we have now. Despite the challenges that come our way, we can still control how we face and overcome them. We are the next generation of healthcare and medicine; it is our responsibility to shape it as we see fit. Thus, we must reclaim our rightful destiny. Our future is now.