The Examined Life Conference – 2016

In early October I attended my first conference as a resident.  While most of my peers are planning on attending FMF or other Family Medicine related conferences in the future I chose to use my funding to attend The Examined Life Conference at the University of Iowa from October 6-8.  The program was impressive (link) and it was a great experience.  I was also impressed with how well run the conference was, staying on schedule and not a single AV issue in the talks I attended.

I enjoyed hearing about the work others are doing in combining the arts and medicine.  I attended workshops, lectures on educational efforts, readings and more.  Many of the presentations led to insightful discussions that continued into coffee breaks.  It was a great place to connect with other interested in the humanities and discuss ideas.  I won’t review the whole conference, just a few highlights.

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  1. Phil Dwyer – Artful Grief

The first lecture I attended was by Phil.  He spoke of his recently published book Conversations On Dying and blog that collected reflections about the death of loved ones.  His book recounts the death of his brother along with a series of interviews with Dr. Larry Labrach (a palliative care physician in Toronto), contrasting their end of life experiences.  It was a moving presentation and also presented some data collected about writing about loss.  I also sat with him on the flight back to Canada, and we had a good conversation.

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2.  Ken Browne – Why Doctors Write

Ken presented a 20 minute cut of his unfinished documentary Why Doctors Write at the conference.  It was very well received.  It was divided into chapters including one of Dr. Danielle Ofri and her patient Jaun, arts in medical education, Internist and poet Dr. Rafael Campo, etc.  A strong message and nicely shot. Ken was approachable and we had a great talk about medicine and the arts.  I look forward to the film.

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3.  Connecting

A lot of great conversations at the conference.  At some of the workshops we shared work in small groups and it was wonderful to see what people came up with in 7 minutes following a prompt.  I had a great chat and dinner with a PA and rural Family Doc from the conference and have enjoyed email correspondence with a number of attendees since the conference.  The host also put together an app for the conference that made it easy to post to social media, share updates and connect.

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Being that this is Aboot Medicine, two of the attendees had air casts on…  talk a boot medicine (thanks Rita and Marjorie)

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I hope to attend again in the future

CaRMS

With CaRMS closing soon for CMGs I wanted to wish everyone luck.  A few friends from the year below me have asked for some help editing and this reminded me of all the stresses of the application process.  A few small things:

  • Make sure to attach all the documents each school wants.  Some want up to 3 reference letters, some accept more.  Little details matter, spend the time to upload everything required
  • Address the prompts for the personal statement
  • Some schools have different CV requirements, be aware
  • Attach a nice picture to your application.  I took mine infront of a wooden door in a hotel during an elective
  • Make sure the picture is of you, not a meme
  • Have a friend or two read over your letters
  • Interested, but boring was the advice I was given.  Don’t try to scare your reader

Soon it will be submitted, the interview invites will hopefully roll in and the next stage will begin.

Best of luck

On Family Medicine

The #justaFP project from the U of Manitoba Family Medicine Interest Group profiles family practitioners. It is an effort to combat negatives attitudes towards the specialty and choosing to be “just” a family doctor.  I was recently profiled and spoke of my journey through medical school along with my choosing Family Medicine and reactions to that choice.  Check it and other profiles out: “just” a family physician

Dangers

I wrote about an encounter with a nurse that was attacked by a patient, an event that stuck with me.  I tried a different style to keep focus away from the doctor and on the patient and their sense of responsibility for the attack.  It was recently accepted and posted by CMAJ Blogs.  Check it out: Link

See Publications for more medical narratives

Waiting & Listening

My classmates moved on to residency at the beginning of July while I delayed my start to welcome a new addition to the family.  Still three weeks until I start, feeling a bit anxious and know I’ll be rusty going back , but it will be alright (I haven’t been in clinic since November).  With the waiting and driving I have enjoyed some reading after graduating in May and moving to a new city.  I’ve mentioned my love of reading previously (1, 2) and with a baby not wanting to sleep an audiobook can help pass time in the night.

Recently:

The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Gaiman
Post Office, Ham on Rye, Factotum, Women – Bukowski
The Emperor of All Maladies – Mukherjee
Being Mortal – Gwande
When Breathe Becomes Air – Kalanithi
The Sun Also Rises – Hemingway
A Picture of Dorian Gray – Wilde
Candide – Voltaire

Hobbies

I’ve mentioned my enjoyment of fountain pens before and how I make my notes by hand (link). This interest in pens led to a relative passing on an old Waterman lever filler pen that had seen better days. I took this on as a project and restored the pen. It was a fun distraction.

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The first problem was getting the pen apart without breaking it.  These pens use ink sacs, so I assumed the rubber had degraded and was stuck.  That was right, but it became clear the pen was full of ink at the time it was stored, and that ink was everywhere.

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After getting it open I carefully removed the old ink sac. The body of the pen, nib, feed and cap were caked with ink and needed a long soak.  With the ink softened much of it could be wiped off, some such as the ink in the threads required the use of a toothbrush. It was fun to see the nib regain its shine as I worked on it.  Finally, a new ink sac, some shellac, fresh ink, and it was ready to use. The nib is quite stiff and puts down a very fine line, so I have it loaded with red ink and use it for editing.

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