By Lisa Dutton

On Tuesday, August 20, 179 Medical students started the four-year McGill Faculty of Medicine MDCM Program. The students have taken the first of many steps along the path to becoming family doctors, pediatricians, microbiologists, surgeons or other medical specialists.

The Class of 2023 kicked off their studies with a three-day orientation session and lunch with Dr. David Eidelman, Vice-Principal (Health Affairs) and Dean of Medicine. During orientation, students learned about the MDCM curriculum, WELL Office services (student affairs), Physicianship, McGill’s Global Health Programs, and other key topics designed to help them get up and running quickly once classes begin.

Addressing the students, Dean Eidelman, himself a McGill Medicine graduate, passed on three pieces of advice to students: be humble – caring for people is a privilege reserved for the few; keep on learning – health care is changing rapidly and students must commit to a career of lifelong learning; and be present – talk less, listen more. In reference to the third bit of advice, Dean Eidelman spoke of a study showing, on average, doctors give patients 11 seconds to explain the purpose of their visit before interrupting.

“How can a doctor provide proper care when he or she doesn’t even understand the purpose of the visit? Sir William Osler, one of McGill’s most eminent medical graduate said: ‘The good physician treats the disease; the great physician treats the patient who has the disease,’” shared Dean Eidelman. “So, take the time to listen to your patients. It will serve them well and it will make your medical practice that much more enjoyable and rewarding.”

Delivering a speech that would have fit in well as part of the Just for Laughs Festival, Rami Habib, Executive President of the McGill Medical Students’ Society (MSS) joked about the stressful Multiple Mini Interviews (MMIs) that students brave during the admission process; the various quirks of medical students; and the fact the diagnoses on Grey’s Anatomy are not medically sound. On a more serious note, he encouraged students to ease-up on themselves. “To all you Type ‘A’ personalities, which is all of us, get used to imperfection. Don’t dwell on what you could have done better, just do your best. Surround yourself with friends and family who will be there for you when life gets stressful.”

Montrealer, Emilie Groulx-Boivin has dreamed of becoming a doctor since she was five. “The idea of being able to save a life; to be able to make a difference and to love your job,” she explains. “I don’t want to be someone who just looks forward to the weekend. I want to be one of those people who wakes up every day and says ‘I love my job.’ (In medicine) you have to use your brain and think hard, but you also interact with people; you aren’t stuck in an office. I don’t like routine. I think (medicine) is a really good fit for my personality.”

At age 39, Sébastien Jetté is embarking on career number two. After CEGEP, he studied law and has worked as a lawyer in both China and Montreal. However, the idea of becoming a doctor lingered. “The call of medicine was too loud,” he says. He realizes he’ll have to adjust his mindset. Law is often adversarial, but medicine is all about teamwork. Concerning his future area of specialization, he says, “I am told to keep an open mind, but right now I am leaning towards (medical) microbiology. My mother worked in a lab, and as a child, I often accompanied her to work. I seem to be attracted to the infinitely small.”

The average age of the new trainees is 23, and the age range is 17 to 40. The Class comprises 58% women and 42% men. The mother tongue of students is 40% English, 36% French and 24% other.

Photos by Owen Egan and Joni Dufour

August 27 2019