All Posts Tagged With: "medicine"
An interview with the remarkable Will Guest
Will Guest, a 25-year-old University of British Columbia student, has earned an M.D. and a PhD and will soon patent an algorithm that could have implications for Creutzfeldt–Jakob Disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). In case you’re wondering, he skipped fifth grade, finished his undergraduate at the University of Manitoba in three years and completed his combined M.D./PhD a year ahead of schedule. After just returning from a vacation in China, we spoke about his route to success, the Canadian university system and how others can succeed.
In high school, what was your typical day like?
I went to high school in Winnipeg. We were able to work independently in our math courses so we could work ahead and complete our high school curriculum as quickly as possible and then we could take AP (Advanced Placement) courses. When we’d finished the AP courses, we could go on and actually take university courses in high school through the University of Manitoba. Fortunately, it was a pretty normal schedule. I wasn’t working day and night by any means. I enjoyed it.
In university, how tightly did you pack your schedule?
It depended on the semester. Generally, I would take six courses per term. There was one term when I was taking seven courses and that was a little uncomfortably busy.
In university, did you have time for a social life and extracurriculars?
I did but to a reduced extent. Most of my social life did revolve around school one way or another but that suited me just fine. I wasn’t that involved in sports, which is something I probably did miss out on early on, not because I didn’t have the time for it, but because it was something whose importance I didn’t realize until later. I remember, really clearly, that hitting home when I was in first-year medicine sitting in a lecture on exercise physiology and learning just how important regular physical activity was. That’s when I clued in that I should pay more attention to it. Vancouver is a city where it’s very easy to be physically active whether it’s running, biking, being outdoors, hiking, skiing.
University life, for many, involves late night parties and alcohol. Did you do any of that?
The truth is, I kind of skipped that phase. When I had my eighteenth birthday party—18 is the legal drinking age in Manitoba—I got drunk that night, which is sort of customary. Other than that I was not a big late-night partier. That’s not something I ever particularly enjoyed doing.
How hard have you had to work compared to the average student?
In the 60 hours per week range in undergraduate. At UBC, the pace has been as fast or faster. In this program it does feel like you’re working two jobs, which essentially you are, because the two streams of training are relatively parallel. It would fluctuate between 50 and 70 hours per week.
Any tips for university success for an undergraduate just starting out?
Recognize that you can dedicate yourself to your studies while having fun at the same time. As much as possible, it’s good to set your goals at an earlier stage. I was looking at the M.D./PhD program when I was in between high school and university so I had a reasonably clear idea of what I wanted to do and that enabled me to work toward a specific destination and not get confused or bogged down along the way. Ultimately everything is just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other. Often, it does seem daunting and overwhelming but the answer to that is to just focus on what’s in front of you. Don’t get to alarmed by looming exams. Work on what you can do. Put it aside when you’re tired. Once you have no energy left, it’s best to relax and try again the next day.
Did you ever have so much stress from your workload that you couldn’t sleep?
The stress level was usually moderate. I, fortunately, didn’t ever have any trouble sleeping. The exception to that was when I was on clinical service. When we have our on-call shift, we spend up to 36 hours working in one go and you’re exhausted and you have to keep going.
What’s your approach to studying?
My approach to studying is sitting down and reading the textbook. Sometimes the explanations in the textbook are hard to understand at first but through perseverance and coming back to it, usually it’s the best way to study. There has been very much a movement away from using textbooks as a sort of antiquated way of doing things but my personal experience is that it really is the best way to comprehensively know a field, rather than sort of new-aged or more sophisticated ways.
What surprised you about university?
There was a certain amount of busy work that had to be done, which was a little disappointing. What comes to mind are lab reports in certain courses that were a little tedious, not very educational.
There’s a debate about the value of universities considering that Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and David Karp of Tumblr all dropped out of school. Why did you stick with it?
Those are all entrepreneurs who developed a very good idea at an early stage of their career. They essentially needed to devote their full-time energies to it very early on. Ultimately, the goal of university is to train an individual to be able to do something like that. I think they were people who had already achieved what university was intended to offer them. For me it’s essentially necessary to complete the full course of training up to a PhD. That’s just the expectation. What’s more, the training environment to become a researcher is really only available in an academic setting.
As for the utility of taking university courses and then finding a job, I do think it’s a matter of the field pursued. There has been a lot of encouragement of people to go into the so-called STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and I think that is something really worthy. In my physics graduating class there were, unfortunately, only three of us. In general, the physical sciences suffer from a lack of student interest and I think it would be beneficial for people to be encouraged to go in those directions because that does lead to better job opportunities.
How can you make students interested in STEM fields?
I think this comes down to their high school or junior high school experiences. So often you hear people say, “I’m not any good at math” or, “I just don’t understand physics.” They’ve written off these entire fields when the reality is that, with perseverance and, particularly with a teacher who motivates or inspires an interest in the field, I think that pretty much anyone is able to understand and make progress in these fields. It’s kind of socially accepted in our society to write yourself off.
Going forward your plan is to stick with research obviously?
That’s right, as much as possible. The next thing I need to do is residency training. I’m matched to radiology at UBC so that’s what I’ll be doing the next five years. The goal of the M.D./PhD program is to train someone as a clinician-scientist so that they can be seeing patients while also having an active research interest. At this stage, I’d like to do a neuroradiology fellowship afterwards, specifically the interpretation of films of the brain and spinal cord. That’s an additional two years.
The patent-pending discovery you made, how did that come about?
That relates to one of the main areas of work in my PhD thesis which is trying to understand the process by which proteins misfold in neurodegenerative diseases. We developed a computational tool that allowed us to calculate the free energy of unfolding different regions within a protein, which is part of the process of a protein ultimately misfolding in disease. If we knew which regions would lose their structure early in the misfolding process, these were areas that could presumably be targeted by antibodies that could ultimately recognize the confirmation of the misfolded protein over the folded confirmation. I came from more of a computational background so I was more familiar with the modelling necessary to develop this into a more general computational prediction tool.
Do you think Massive Open Online Courses will lead to the downfall of residential universities?
I could see that, at some time in the future, online universities could play a pretty substantial role in our university system. But, by and large, I think the Canadian university system delivers excellent value for money and there are really few barriers for people who want to pursue post-secondary education. I think in Canada the current system will remain dominant for quite some time. I can understand why, in other countries where the cost of education is much higher than it is in Canada, those emerging potentially disruptive technologies will play more of a role early on. But who knows?
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Mark Goldszmidt earns 3M National Teaching Fellowship
Mark Goldszmidt, a professor at the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry at Western University, is a 3M National Teaching Fellowship recipient for 2013. Maclean’s On Campus is profiling all 10 in the coming weeks.
In 1999, when Mark Goldszmidt was a postgraduate medical student at Western, he took a one-day course on teaching with Dr. Wayne Weston. “At the end of the workshop he stuck around,” says Weston, an emeritus professor of family medicine, “and had a lot of insightful questions and suggestions.”
It was the beginning of more than a decade of collaboration between the two, and a classic Goldszmidt move. “I always see the gaps, and the ways it could be better,” says Goldszmidt, an associate professor of medicine who teaches a spectrum of students, from undergraduates to faculty. He has revamped other classes, created new ones, and when he saw a bigger need for innovation in medical education, he helped found the Centre for Education Research & Innovation.
Tuition & fees at 17 Canadian schools
Gaining acceptance to medical school is the first hurdle. The next challenge is paying
for it. The figures listed below show first-year tuition for the academic year 2012-2013.
Two tuition figures are listed for schools in Quebec: the first applies for residents of Quebec; the higher figure is charged for students from outside the province. *Tuition for residents of Quebec or New Brunswick. Sources: Office of Research and Information Services, Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada. This graphic originally appeared in the Maclean’s Professional Schools issue.
law rankings, engineering, medicine, M.B.A.s and more
Inside the 2012 Maclean’s Professional Schools Issue, on newsstands and iPad now, you’ll find:
—Our much-anticipated Law School Rankings
—The hottest engineering field
—Should articling be scrapped?
—How students are financing their degrees
—Rebranding the M.B.A.
…and much more. Pick up or download your copy of Maclean’s today.
Moving may boost the odds of medical school admission
From the 2012 Maclean’s Professional Schools Issue, on newsstands and iPad now.
It has been a long road for 33-year-old Kyla Adams from her high school years—when there was no question in her mind that she’d one day become a physician—to today, when the British Columbia native feels she finally has a decent shot at medical school.
In Adams’s second year of university, the academic and social stresses of life at the University of British Columbia caught up with her and she flunked out of school, temporarily shelving her ambition. After several years of selling running shoes, travelling and working as a personal trainer, Adams wrote the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) at the age of 26. She surprised herself with a decent score, which inspired her to enrol at the University of Victoria, where she earned a double degree in biology and earth sciences. She rewrote the MCAT, boosted her score and applied to medical school.
But the rules had changed. She was no longer allowed to drop those crummy decade-old marks from her application as she had thought. She applied to UBC’s medical school and didn’t get in. She applied again, and was rejected again. She applied a third time. No luck.
Subject rankings for science, medicine, engineering…
Here are the top five highest ranked universities in the QS World University Rankings by Subject and the rankings of Canadian schools in science, engineering, and health disciplines. For arts, humanities and business, click here. For the full rankings, visit TopUniversities.com.
1. Harvard University (United States)
2. University of Cambridge (United Kingdom)
3. National University of Singapore (NUS) (Singapore)
4. University of Oxford (United Kingdom)
5. Karolinska Institute (Sweden)
11. University of Toronto
25. University of Alberta
26. University of British Columbia
29. McGill University
51-100. Western University, Université de Montréal
101-150. University of Waterloo
151-200. Dalhousie University, Laval University, University of Saskatchewan
Slim chance of residency upon return
Students considering medicine may want to avoid studying overseas, Dr. Dave Snadden, executive associate dean of medicine at the University of British Columbia, tells the Vancouver Sun.
“They need to know how much more severe that competition is if they go abroad and want to apply for residency positions here upon graduation,” he says, referring to the thousands of Canadian students who go to medical schools in places like Ireland, England, Australia and the Caribbean, usually after failing to secure spots in Canada.
Good news for arts majors interested in medicine
Students planning on applying to medical school might want to take some sociology and psychology courses along with their organic chemistry.
A new and improved Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) is on the way, with changes to better assess whether applicants are “well-rounded.”
The biggest changes are coming in 2015 when a new section will be introduced that tests behavioural and social sciences principles.
The MCAT is supposed to serve as a ‘litmus test’ to show which applicants have the most potential as physicians. Considering it was originally introduced in 1928 and last revised in 1991, many believe that an update is overdue.
Dr. Darrell Kirch, president and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), says that the future will require a “different kind of physician,” who is more “culturally competent.”
For some students, four years of undergrad is too much
From the 21st Maclean’s University Rankings—on newsstands now. Story by Richard Warnica.
Shawn Alavi, who graduated from McMaster University in 2006, was 21 when he landed his first engineering job. Today, at 26, he’s a certified engineer—a P.Eng. in the jargon—with years of professional experience, money in the bank and a settled career. “Getting out of school earlier meant I was able to clear my debts earlier,” he says. “Now I’m just saving for my future, deciding on my next step.”
In engineering, Alavi found a profession that allowed him to enter the workforce after just four years of school and to achieve his professional certification through paid experience. “I’ve been working for almost five years now,” he says. “I’ve been able to get my life on track a little quicker than most.”
Multiple Mini Interview criticized (and defended)
Medical school applicants at the University of British Columbia will no longer take part in a block-building exercise, reports the Vancouver Sun.
But the other exercises that make-up the school’s Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) process are here to stay, according to Dr. Joseph Finkler, associate dean of admissions at UBC.
The news comes after Dr. Brian Day, former head of the Canadian Medical Association, wrote an editorial in the B.C. Medical Journal, calling the MMI process “contrived, artificial, and bizarre.”
The MMI, now the norm in Canada, requires that applicants move through several different stations to be assessed by interviewers who attempt to discern motivation, social concern, creativity, maturity, integrity, empathy and more.
New program shows less-wealthy kids a path to medicine
Ridge Cross-McComber is about as blasé as your average overachiever when it comes to his laundry list of goals for the next few years and beyond. He’ll finish his year at Montreal’s Dawson College, move to Vanier College for either nursing or pure and applied science, then go to medical school to become a surgeon. After that, he’ll practise medicine in Kahnawake, his hometown. “I want to be a role model for my community,” says the 17-year-old, sitting in a café in the native reserve near Montreal. “It’s something I want to do for my town and my people. I want to show that I can do this.”
As far as medical school goes, history and statistics are stacked against Cross-McComber. Wealthy students tend to be overrepresented in the field, for one. According to a study by the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada, nearly 45 per cent of medical students come from families making over $100,000 a year. (Only about 26 per cent of Canadian families are in this demographic, according to the AFMC study.) And while medical schools are decidedly less uniformly Caucasian than they used to be, the AFMC study indicates that many visible minorites continue to be under-represented.
From the 2011 Maclean’s Professional Schools Rankings
Roughly three-quarters of medical school applicants are rejected each year. Bummer. Luckily for them, wannabe doctors have better alternatives than ever. These four professional health care programs can be completed in just a few years, are in high demand, and pay well directly out of school. That means graduates can start paying off their student loans while medical residents are still driving beat-up old cars to 24-hour shifts.
Health Care Manager
The Job: Health care managers work in hospitals, medical clinics and nursing homes where they direct teams of health care providers. Their job is to make sure patients get excellent care and, simultaneously, that Canadians get good value for the nearly $200 billion they spend on health care each year.
Money will create programs for under-represented youth
More students from under-represented groups will be encouraged to pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and medicine) fields, thanks to $1.25-million from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario.
“Our Government recognizes the importance of preparing young people for today’s high-tech economy,” said Conservative MP Peter Braid at the announcement in Waterloo. “By developing our next generation of scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians, we can help drive innovation and keep the economy growing in southern Ontario for years to come.”
The money goes to Actua, a science, engineering and technology outreach network that provides summer camps and classroom workshops delivered by university students. The funding will help create new programs for under-represented children, including Aboriginals, at-risk youth and girls.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Commerce released a study that showed women make up only 25 per cent of the STEM workforce, despite holding nearly 50 per cent of all jobs. They concluded that America’s economic growth is held back by the gender gap in STEM fields.
Woman joins elite group of doctors
Alberta’s 50-year-old neurosurgery program has it’s first female alumnus. Dr. Jenny Souster has completed her seven year residency with the University of Alberta. ”The neurosurgery program has been here (at U of A) for 50 years and they’ve had a few women enter the program, but they didn’t make it through to the end, so I’m the first one to actually finish,” Souster told the Calgary Herald. Neurosurgery, which mends brains and spinal cords, is one of the most difficult specialties to learn. There are only 270 fellows of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada who are listed as neurosurgeons today. Most of them are men.
Students would purchase spaces for $75, 000 a year
To make up for cuts to provincial funding, Dalhousie University is planning to sell 10 medical school spaces to students from Saudi Arabia. The Chronicle Herald reported that an internal memo sent to faculty and students by dean Tom Marrie called the agreement “critically important” and that “From my standpoint, we’re underfunded. We know what our costs are and our revenues are not equal to our costs.” A year ago, the province had planned to cut $2.5 million from the medical school’s budget, which the the government later said was a communication problem involving the health and education departments. $1.4 million has since been restored. The arrangement with Saudi Arabia would see each seat sold for $75,000 per year.
Survey shows that there are not enough residencies for students wishing to return to Canada
About 90 per cent of Canadian medical students studying abroad would prefer to return to Canada for their residency, but their might not be any spaces available, according to a new survey from the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS). “This year I have 628 Canadians studying abroad in this match. The number of positions available for entry-level training is going to be around 400 positions. In addition we have 1,800 immigrant medical students who want to come to Canada. There definitely will be Canadian students who will not get back into Canada,” CaRMS CEO Sandra Banner told the CBC. There are approximately 3,500 Canadians attending medical schools in the Caribbean, Ireland and other parts of Europe.
Related: Want degree, will travel
$12 million donation largest in campus’ history
A $12 million donation to the University of Toronto’s Mississauga campus will be used to expand medical education. The Terrence Donnelly Health Sciences Complex, named after the retired lawyer who made the donation, will feature an academy of medicine that will enroll 53 medical students a year beginning in 2015. Donnelly’s donation is the largest in UTM history, and was preceded by $10 million from local businessman Carlo Fidani last spring. Fidani, whose donation was also for the medical complex, had publicly challenged others to give an equally large gift. “I think our health care system is among the best in the world, but it has to be delivered to the average person, hopefully in their local neighbourhood or community,” Donnelly said in the Toronto Star. “I believe this is an addition to the university that we need – a new training centre for doctors.”
New computer system detects unwashed hands
The technology is being developed by a professor of computer science at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, in partnership with the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
Health care workers will wear badges and computer hardware will be attached to soap dispensers, beds and the doors of patients’ rooms, watching for unwashed hands. If a doctor, nurse, or technician forgets to wash up before entering the room, the badge will turn red and results will be instantly sent to nurses’ stations and multiple computers.
“It can track things in real time, and those things can easily be fixed — they can wash their hands,” Elke Rundensteiner, the professor of computer science who is developing the technology, said in an interview with the Telegram.
In addition to detecting unwashed hands, the technology could also be used in situations such as massive evacuations during natural disasters, re-routing medical personnel and water during emergencies.
It’s great that the problem of bacterial infections in hospitals is being addressed, but it’s kind of disturbing to think that doctors or any health care workers need a reminder to wash their hands. I thought infections due to unwashed hands was more of an 18th century kind of problem, before the invention of hygiene. At least those surgeons didn’t know any better. What excuse do today’s doctors have?
-Photo courtesy of Hygiene Matters
Controversy over UBC experiments on monkeys
Related posts: Should UBC experiment on monkeys?
‘Bad luck’ hospice should be built as planned
“A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” By that logic, a society that chooses to shun its sick and dying is not worthy of exaltation. I think I can hear Gandhi rolling in his grave.
Residents of a condominium on the University of British Columbia campus are protesting plans to build a 15-bed palliative care unit next to their building. According to resident Janet Fan, “Eighty per cent of the residents in this building are Asian, and 100 per cent of them are very upset.” Fan says that condo-dwellers are worried that the hospice will bring “ghosts” and “bad luck.” “In Chinese culture, we are against having dying people in your backyard,” she told CBC News. “We cannot accept this. It’s against our belief, against our culture. It’s not culturally sensitive.” Residents of the condo have organized a petition and building plans have now been put on hold.
The fact that UBC is considering these claims is nothing short of preposterous. The functioning of any city, province, democratic country, is dependent on an unyielding separation from religious and/or cultural pressure. Simply put, you can’t run a society based on ghost stories. Community resistance to certain new facilities is not new, but usually arise when some sort of tangible threat is posed; a halfway house is proposed, a registered sex offender moves into the area, a rehab centre opens. But this case is unique in that a material threat isn’t readily apparent. In any case, the claim that the plans for the hospice is “not culturally sensitive” should be immediately dismissed. It holds no more validity than would a claim, for example, by a homeowner saying it is against his “cultural values” to have a homosexual couple move next door. We can’t start looking to religious texts to format property laws.
As well, even though Fan refers to the intended site of the hospice as her “backyard,” it is certainly not. Owned by the university, residents took a risk when purchasing property with nearby vacant space. Perhaps the one tangible danger posed to these condo-dwellers is declining property values if the hospice is indeed built. After all, how is a million-dollar unit to keep its value when a cultural taboo moves into the neighborhood? Still, I would hope if money was the real issue, which it appears (at least on the surface) it is not, it wouldn’t be shielded by a guise of cultural concern.
It’s also important to consider the immersive value offered to our society by hospices and hospice workers. Many people who have set foot in palliative care units can attest to the concept that they are very much centres for the living, even though by definition, they are where people go to die. They offer havens for families who can no longer care for loved ones, and indeed, places for the sick and dying to go when cultural taboos consider it “bad luck” to keep those near death in the home. UBC is not proposing a cemetery be built next to the condo, but a home for people still living. It will say something profound about our attitudes towards the critically ill if we decide they must be sequestered. Superstition shouldn’t stand in the way of the new hospice at UBC.