I woke up Saturday morning with a full day of events. Fixing a flat tire (which resulted in $800 new tires –arg!), bingo, Laurina and Alex returning from Mexico, a long run and a couple charity events I had to attend. This was going to be a busy day but two specific encounters ended up standing out from the rest … for opposite reasons.
The first encounter was at a rather formal gala I attended in the evening to raise money for a camp which provides a safe place every summer for youth in our community to be themselves. The $100 per person event was attended by a diverse cross-section of our community – from politicians to physicians, business leaders to educators. The other event that would stand out was a run I had to make through a dodgy part of our city. Known for a higher level of crime, drug issues and prostitution. Imagine which provided the most positive experience?
The gala itself was truly a great event. And, as I expected, I engaged in some inspiring and meaningful conversations while raising a lot of money for this camp. While “working the room” I had met the spouse of a new friend of mine. He is a 3rd year medical student from Ontario who hopes to be doing his residency in Edmonton. We had only met so this fellow had no knowledge of me, my work or my family story. I had started the conversation by asking him what specialty he was considering to which he responded with either Psychiatry or Internal Medicine. He then said “I would never do Pediatrics because I hate kids” …. And that was a direct quote. I was speechless. He could tell I was taken aback. So in an attempt to cover his tracks a bit he said “actually, it’s not the kids I hate, it’s the moms. They think they are the doctors, they come in wanting us to fix their kids but they don’t listen and think they know everything. It’s just what I’ve heard from others.” Now I was in shock. Who says this type of thing??? Ever?? Let alone a medical student. The only thing I could respond with was “When it comes to their kids, moms ARE the experts”. Fortunately, the moment was saved by someone else who wanted to chat with me and I made my escape. But I couldn’t help but feel a rise in my core temperature and blood pressure. I was offended on many levels. As someone who has volunteered many hours and made a career out of extolling the values of family centred care, as a dad (and husband to a great mom) and as a human being.
Sadly, this didn’t end there. Minutes later, the same med student came back to me in what I felt was an attempt to dig himself out of a hole he sensed he feel head first into. Here is the gist of the conversation:
Med Student: “I hope you think that I was just being facetious … ”
Me: “To be honest, the only thing I’m thinking right now is that it is probably is a good choice for you that you aren’t going into pediatrics”.
Med Student: “oh, I believe in all of that patient centred care stuff”
Me: (obviously I thought to myself)
Med Student: “I like working with a team … when it works”
Me: “When does it work?”
Med Student: “When people know what they are doing and everyone knows their place”
Me: “And by team, do you believe everyone on the team are equal partners or is there a hierarchy?”
Med Student: “The doctor leads the team but everyone should be able to give their opinion”
Me: “Uh huh, and does that always work?”
Med Student: “No, I get so frustrated with nurses because they usualy don’t want to give their opinion and tell us to make the decisions”
Me: (what I wanted to say but didn’t was that “although it’s proven that when the entire team is able to speak and share their thoughts, the safety and care of the patient is markedly improved, perhaps these nurses are used to working in a more paternalistic model where they feel they do not have a safe place to share their opinions thoughts and concerns” … but I didn’t.) I simply responded with “Well, good luck with your studies” and I moved on.
I left the conversation thinking that not only did I hope and pray he never went into pediatrics, but that he is nowhere involved in any aspect of anything to do with my own personal health care needs or those of my friends and family. However, because of my experiences over the past five years and, certainly, since I began my career, there is no doubt in my mind that this person is the exception and not the rule. And I’m so grateful for that. Yet, it’s still very sad and disheartening.
So, back to my run from earlier in the day. Because of our tire troubles and with Laurina and Alex coming home today, I had to drop the car off at Auntie Carla’s and run the 16km home. At the middle point of my run, I had to go through an area of the city with a lower socioeconomic status … and I have to admit, as I did so, I felt certain senses being heightened. I approached a group of young adults form a visible minority coming my way. I didn’t expect anything to happen out of the ordinary but I was still … “aware” of their presence. With 100 metres separating us, the larger guy of the group (and by larger, I mean the brick house of a man) made eye contact with me. He bent over into a linebacker stance then started to dodge back and forth in a playful attempt to block me. As I approached, I played the game and dodged back and forth myself. As I passed, he reached out to give me a high five while the rest of the group cheered me on. It was a remarkable, unexpected moment which put a smile on my face for the rest of my run.
I think what disappointed me most on this day was that I had higher expectations for one encounter and lower expectations for the other. And to my embarrassment, both encounters proved me wrong. It was a lesson learned.