Celebrating Resident Awareness Week

Issue: BCMJ, Vol. 57, No. 1, January, February 2015, page(s) 12-13 Pulsimeter
Goldis Mitra, MD

The Resident Doctors of British Columbia (formerly the Professional Association of Residents of British Columbia) will be celebrating the 14th Annual Resident Awareness Week from 16 to 20 February 2015.

Resident Awareness Week is a national event that aims to improve the public’s understanding of our role as medical residents in the health care system. Currently there are over 1200 resident doctors working across BC. We are a diverse group of trainees with varied backgrounds and interests: among us we boast PhDs, Olympic athletes, community leaders, and entrepreneurs. As spouses, parents, and friends, we are also intimately connected to the people and communities around us.

We are often the first physicians that patients encounter when they interact with our health care system, and we provide around-the-clock care. We are teachers, sharing the knowledge passed down to us with fellow residents and medical students. We are scientists, engaging in clinical and basic science research, as well as quality improvement projects at almost every level of the health care system. Most importantly though, we are the physicians of the future and are committed to providing quality health care throughout the province.

In recognition of Resident Awareness Week, we will be staffing a number of booths at community centres across Greater Vancouver to help the public better understand the work that we do. We will also be sharing information on how to find a family physician and teaching children about the importance of hand washing. Finally, we will be releasing a video chronicling a day in the life of a resident and launching a new photo campaign that highlights the human side of residency.

Resident Awareness Week is also a time to reach out to the teachers and mentors who provide us with education, support, and guidance throughout our training. To those of you who choose to invite us into your practices, who stay at the hospital late with us while we round, who gently correct our mistakes and laud our successes, thank you. We cannot express how much we appreciate your dedication, your patience, and your guidance. You serve as a continuous source of inspiration and are helping shape the next generation of physicians.

Finally, Resident Awareness Week serves as a time to recognize that our training is rigorous and that we can become so focused on caring for our patients that we sometimes neglect to take care of ourselves. Last September two of our colleagues in New York took their own lives. Closer to home, a resident in Quebec recently committed suicide after having taken a leave of absence from her studies for mental health reasons.

In response, there has been a deliberate and heightened focus on resident wellness at Resident Doctors of BC, the Department of Medicine at UBC, and nationally at the Canadian Association of Internes and Residents. By not recognizing the distress and mental illness that exists in the culture of residency—and in medicine more broadly—we intensify the issue. Recognition is the first step to addressing the problem and alleviating suffering, and treating the mental illness that many physicians face benefits not only ourselves, but also our loved ones and the patients we treat.
—Goldis Mitra, MD
Resident Doctors of British Columbia (formerly PAR-BC)