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									  CMAJ                                                                                                                                  News
Dispatch from the medical front

Defining moments
Published at www.cmaj.ca on Sept. 28.




T
        hree years ago, I was reminiscing
        with a former classmate, Dr.
        Bjorn Thomas, about the fact that,
as high school students, we really had no
idea of what medical school was going to
be like. We recalled receiving a ‘reality
check’ from our high school counsellors
to the effect that pursuing a career in
medicine would be difficult and we
should seriously consider another profes-
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sional path. It still makes me shudder
when I think of how I could have had my
dreams shattered at such a young age.
    Over a barbeque and numerous
beers, Dr. Thomas and I cooked up a
course to bridge the gap from high
school to med school.
    Having both been heavily involved                                     North American doctors should become more involved in instructing high school stu-
                                                                          dents about what to expect in medical school, says British physician Alasdair Nazerali-
in student leadership at high school and                                  Maitland.
university, and having had some back-
ground training in medical education,
we initially designed and instructed a                                   cussed some major cardiovascular               We extended the course to two weeks
weekend course that we named                                             related diseases, such as myocardial           and doubled the number of tutors to
MiniMedSchool for students in Van-                                       infarction, stroke, angina and hyperten-       four, while relocating to a wonderful
couver, British Columbia. It consisted                                   sion. We concluded with a feedback             new facility, courtesy of Patrick Dyck
of a series of PowerPoint lectures,                                      session and guest lecturers explaining         at St. George’s High School in Vancou-
guest lectures and practical demonstra-                                  why they studied medicine and sketch-          ver. We began to accept students based
tions, and had one theme: real-world                                     ing their daily duties.                        on merit and motivation rather than a
applications.                                                                The feedback from that initial offer-      first-come, first-served basis. We
    Our first offering had 25 applicants.                                ing was outstanding. Younger students          accepted 14 from the Greater Vancou-
We accepted 20 students from grades                                      encouraged us to change the curriculum         ver area, two from Prince George, BC,
10–12, some of whom had completed                                        so they could attend the following year.       and four international students (from
an overview of human biology and oth-                                        Teaching high school students, as          Ecuador, Guatemala, Hong Kong and
ers who had not. One of our younger                                      opposed to junior medical students, cer-       Taiwan). We even granted two scholar-
students once asked, after an introduc-                                  tainly appealed to us. The former require      ships for free entry.
tory lecture, what a nerve was.                                          more charismatic lecturing, as opposed             Year 2 produced fond memories. We
    The course was based around two                                      to a pedantic, didactic approach. At           asked the students to think about all of the
clinical scenarios (one taught each day):                                MiniMedSchool, we walked around the            different things and people that make a
appendicitis with ensuing methicillin-                                   seminar room, between the rows of              hospital function as a whole. There were
resistant Staphylococcus aureus                                          desks, delivering real-life analogies and      certainly comedic moments when we
(MRSA) septicaemia, and an acute                                         making things understandable for 
								
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