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Contents From the Editor


One Last Lesson


ACLs and Depressive Spells


Q&A with Philip B. Berger, MD


Objecting the Objective


Emergency First Response Team Interview Series: Aleksander Andrijevic


Over Dragonfruit


Experiences with Peer Support: SHEC




Smiling Over Sickness Interviews


Opportunities with HASSA



Cover art by Adhora Mir



Turning our attention close to home, we are spotlighting the stories of various groups across McMaster University’s campus. In this issue, we are featuring the subcommittee coordinators of the McMaster chapter of Smiling over Sickness, Student Health Education Centre volunteers, and members of the Health, Aging, and Society Student Association. These are but a few of the stories that we’re leaving with you for the next few months as we regroup and plan ahead for the next publishing year. As always, we hope that they resonate with you until we are able to connect with you once more. In the meantime, we are excited to be in the process of developing multifaceted new ways of engaging with the medical humanities.

Dear reader, Welcome to third issue of The Muse, the last of the 2015-2016 academic year. Over the course of the year, we have been working extensively to reach out to the community and to broaden the scope of the perspectives that we share. We’ve been fortunate to receive enthusiastic responses to our outreach, enabling us to put forth this issue to your hands. Our first opinion piece debuts in this issue. University of Ottawa medical student Kayla Simms, founder of the medical humanities-driven HEAL blog, discusses her opinion of the detrimental role of evaluating the person as a competency in an objectives-driven medical curriculum. And in light of the refugee crisis dominating headlines worldwide, we are bringing you a perspective on refugee health issues from Dr. Peter Berger, Medical Director of the Inner City Health Program at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.

Part of this will entail collaboration with other likeminded groups. To that effect, I’d like to point out one of the many wonderful initiatives in the medical humanities that have emerged over the course of the year. One such example is the inaugural A Palpable Thrill conference hosted by the Humanities in Medicine Interest Group from McMaster University’s Faculty of Medicine. It will be an opportunity to transcend a purely scientific ideology with respect to healthcare by celebrating the role of narrative, the fine arts, and critical theory in healing. Conferences concerning the medical sciences are quite common; events engaging the medical humanities not nearly so. We will be there and hope to see you there, too. Until then,

Anna Goshua Editor-In-Chief

In this issue, we are also introducing our very first patient spotlight—Bachelor of Heath Sciences student Eric Mauti chronicles the ACL injury that he sustained during a football game and the challenges he faced along his road to recovery. (Photo courtesy of Irina Sverdlichenko)



By Dr. Pranay Sinha Internal Medicine “Promise you won’t be an ass.” “Promise you won’t be an ass.” Sudesna eyed me suspiciously. I couldn’t really blame her. As a third year medical student, I had learned plenty of the science but ignored most of the art. With television’s disagreeable Dr. House as my patron saint, I was an intellectual bully with a fondness for sarcasm and no patience for “mushy stuff.” I hogged the spotlight in class and called people morons when they didn’t know about Scedosporium apiospermum. Wasn’t it elementary? Over dinner, Sudesna, my classmate, told me about Sarah Walsh, a 23-year-old girl with a history of rare brain tumors who was hospitalized for a weak right hand and difficulty swallowing. Sudesna knew I’d be interested in Sarah’s case, but feared my boorishness. “Fine...I’ll try.” When Sudesna and I visited Sarah the following morning, I was struck by her dense brown curly hair that tumbled down her head onto her shoulders and then disappeared under an autumnal patchwork blanket. Her bountiful curls framed a square face with eyeglasses that reminded me of Liz Lemon

from 30 Rock. Behind the glasses, her blue eyes glittered with intelligence. Instead of the typical sterile hush of hospital rooms, there was a jolly ambiance reminiscent ofugly sweater Christmas parties. Sarah’s parents, brother, and three sisters emitted quips and giggles without warning. She squinted at us for a lingering moment and decided that we could join her ugly sweater party. Sudesna had Sarah’s latest CT scan results which showed a lesion in her brainstem. The possibilities included scary things like cancer and infection. Most people, when faced with such information, ask for their life expectancy. Instead, Sarah sternly told us not to prognosticate because she was determined to “beat” whatever it was, finish college, have three kids, and change the world. She had surmounted brain tumors before and would do so again. All we could say was: “Yes, ma’am.” I happened to be on my neurosurgery clerkship, and so I became involved in Sarah’s care. A biopsy was planned to demystify the shadow in her brainstem. Most people get understandably nervous about needles in their brains. Instead, Sarah asked about our


5 plans for her hair. The neurosurgeons were confused: “Hair? What do you mean hair?” With a piercing look, she made parallel lines with her hand. The hand on top was only one inch above from the bottom hand. She wiggled the hand on top: “This is how much I value my brain.” Then she jiggled her lower hand: “and this is how much I care about my hair.” She only consented to the procedure after we promised that minimum hair and blood would be shed. I later complained to Sudesna: “Sudesna, it’s grows back!” “Pranay, think about what it means to her.” “You mean it’s not just vestigial keratinaceous biomaterial?”

“Pranay, think about what it means to her.” “No.” “It just seems like a HAIR-brained request... see what I did there?” “Shut up.” I was being an ass. The next day, just before Sarah’s eyes fluttered closed on the surgical table, she charged me with guarding her hair. She needn’t have worried. The surgeon parted her hair with precision using a comb and widened the parting by just a few millimeters. As the biopsy proceeded, I mulled over Sarah’s preoccupation with her hair. It struck me that disease attacks our identities in addition to our bodies. Appearances are the first to go. Influenza was the only debilitating force that could keep my dad, an army Colonel who usually sustained a spotless face, from shaving daily. Hobbies begin feeling like chores. Cricket was my religion as a boy—my fervor for the sport was only dulled once during


a spell of jaundice. In illness, our professional and personal titles— ‘lawyer’, ‘dad’, ‘artist’— are replaced by a nondescript one: ‘patient.’ Hospitals exacerbate matters by giving patients nondescript gowns that capriciously cover their bottoms and referring to them as “brainstem lesion lady “ or “twenty-threeyear-old female.” We rob fascinating people of their personhood. I felt proud of Sarah for defying this routine dehumanization. My reverie broke when I was handed the biopsy of Sarah’s brainstem to rush to the lab where the pathologist made a grim pronouncement: glioma. My heart suddenly became a thousand pounds heavier—Sarah had a life expectancy of 10 months. The biopsy left herwith a full head of hair, but a slurred voice and a limp right hand. Nevertheless, she was smiling—albeit crookedly. I felt crestfallen. Was this diagnosis, one that we were powerless against, worth it? She still forbade any prognostication so I hid my foreboding with criminally terrible jokes. “How do you make holy water? Take tap water and boil the hell out of it.” Sarah’s sisters shared their own jokes and her phlegmatic father contributed occasional grunts, but I know they could see my heartache as I could see theirs. She was discharged the next day. Later, she wrote me an email: “Thank you for the smiles. I have many things to do in this life and many years to do them. Don’t equate me with those kids on St. Jude’s late at night!” I promised I wouldn’t. Five months later, she returned for palliative radiation. The ugly sweater party was on again in her room. But this time, Sarah looked shrunken, her facial droop was worse, and she now wore a purple patch on her left eye to ward off double vision. She couldn’t speak anymore, but communicated tenaciously by pointing to letters on a chart. As I surveyed the ravages of her cancer, I noted with quiet satisfaction that it had not touched her prized curls. Somehow, her hair magnified her presence as if camouflaging the gauntness of

6 her face. I still couldn’t decide if her tresses reminded me more of Titian’s Venus or Botticelli’s.

Like many young people, the prospect of dying without a legacy scared me. There has to be a point to even the shortest lives, right?

Sarah dragged her skeletal left hand over her laminated letter chart: “I know you believe in me. Will I make it?” The Walshes, who were standing by, looked grave. The laughter drifted off and the underlying tension was unveiled. She had asked this question over and over to her family and her doctors as the tumor’s toll became apparent. The only answer she allowed was “Yes.”

“You don’t have to wait to change the world. You’ve already changed me. From you, I have learned the importance of doing my job with love, humor, and a healthy respect of hairstyles. I will always remember you.” We hugged and my right shoulder felt damp. She managed to grin for a photo with me afterwards.

I felt the never-comfortable sensation of a dozen eyes fixed on me, urging me to say “the right thing.” But this wasn’t a time for platitudes. “I don’t know if you’ll make it to college, to motherhood, or even to tomorrow.” She was still listening.

“This wasn’t a time for platitudes.” “And you simply can’t sacrifice the time you do have with your amazing family at the altar of a flickering future!”

We hugged. After we pulled away, I could feel that my right shoulder was damp. One month later, Sarah’s sister emailed me: “Early this morning, just after midnight, as the snow began to fall outside, Sarah stormed heaven with a skip to her step.” Every so often, I see girls with curls that remind me of her. I always smile with the satisfaction of a fulfilled promise: I’m no longer an ass.

“You don’t have to wait to change the world. You’ve already changed me.”

Dr. Pranay Sinha is a second year resident physician at Yale-New Haven Hospital. As a physician, he is interested in three things. First, he wants to pursue clinical excellence in general medicine and infectious diseases with a special focus on the physical exam and clinical reasoning. He finds great fulfillment in sharing the joy of clinical medicine with medical students. Second, he intends to advocate for medically underserved populations, with a particular emphasis on the unfortunate patients suffering from drug resistant tuberculosis. Third, he hopes to bridge the ever-widening chasm of jargon that separates physicians from lay-persons and use his pen (or rather his keyboard) to educate, advocate, and amuse.



ACLs and Depressive Spells

ACLs and Depressive Spells by Eric Mauti

I am not sure if I was the only one who felt this, but I always felt as if I was simply just a robotic cyborg as a kid. No matter how much I learned about bones and growing, I always thought that there was a possibility that I was made of metal rods and tubes. After seeing my brother break his arm and my relatives undergo surgeries while I remained unscathed as a young boy, I used to believe that I was invincible.

started. However, everything came to a halt the following football weekend. During a game in Ottawa, I collided with a fellow teammate mid-air as we both went for an interception. Luckily for him, he avoided injury by running directly into my knee. Before I hit the ground I could feel a sharp stinging pain that felt like either pincers, or a vice grip, compressing the sides of my knee. I knew it was something worse than a fracture, but I still hobbled off the field with my own strength to try and convince myself that it would be okay.

as a replacement ACL. It seemed like an interesting procedure, but I wasn’t too excited about where the surgery would be taking place..

Now, anyone who’s familiar with Toronto has probably heard of the new Humber River Regional Hospital that just opened. State of the art, computerized– everything that the system’s old hospitals lacked. I pitied anyone who had to drive by them, let alone enter any of them, and However, as time passed, I grew I wasn’t too excited that my older and became less delusional. surgery was going to take place at Especially after playing contact their old Church street site. Fears sports, I was a little less of infection and amputation set confident that I was never going A week and some softball-sized in, and I was a bit of a nervous to be injured. In the midst of the swelling later, I had an MRI and wreck going in. I got into the football season in twelfth grade, was told that I would have to skimpy hospital gown, and was I met with the school priest to undergo surgery to replace my stabbed twice by a nurse who talk about the upcoming rugby torn ACL - a small piece from could not locate my veins. Then season. He warned me not to my patellar tendon would be the surgeon visited, and signed get injured before the season screwed into my femur and tibia my knee as if he was creating a THE MUSE • SPRING 2016


“I always felt as if I was simply just a robotic cyborg as a kid.”

masterpiece in reverse. From there, I walked into the OR, made myself comfy, and was immediately put to sleep after administration of the anesthetic.

to feel normal again. But that’s when things started to buckle. Overconfidence set in, and heading into first year of university didn’t help my situation either. Plagued with the first year anxiety of wanting to join clubs, I joined the dragon boating team. Weekly workouts saw me pushing my knee hard, and wanting to impress, I pushed the advice that my surgeon and therapists had given me to the back of my mind. Everything was going well, until one day in late November, I felt a sharp pain in my knee as I was walking upstairs, nearly akin to the original injury. Real fear set in. I had put in work for over a year, and now with one step, I was one step closer to becoming a failed ACL patient.

When I awoke, I found my knee all bandaged up. I stretched my head to look at my O2 saturation: 86. It seemed alright, until a nurse came over and got mad at me for not breathing enough. After experiencing some postoperative nausea from the anesthetic, I was released, unable to feel anything in my leg due to a femoral nerve block. The first night was uneventful, and the next day I went straight to physiotherapy. As the anesthetic began to wear off, the pain began to intensify. To counter it, I was prescribed some percocets, and let me tell you, oxycodone is a wonderful drug. Self-described as a guy with stable and non-polarizing Frequent physiotherapy visits emotions, I could not fathom coupled with daily exercise the mental pit of confusion that followed for a couple of was my mind: a constant rhythm months, and my knee started of actions like a programmed

algorithm, checking and searching Pubmed for answers to my pain. Looking at the same statistics over and over again for ACL revision surgeries, trying to interpret them differently each time, vying to find a glimmer of hope in my predicament. It went on for weeks, until I finally met with my surgeon, who found nothing wrong. A subsequent MRI and second opinion yielded the same results. Yet to this day, I still feel that something is not right, and having every resource dismissing my symptoms has broken my confidence. Since then, I have felt less of everything. Less emotion and less care, a mindless being not too different from a machine. Perhaps that is what I have become– a representation of my childhood fears. Now with two screws in my knee, I am not that far off.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR - Eric is currently in his second year of the Bachelor of Health Sciences program. Despite not being able to participate currently, he remains an avid fan of sport, from baseball to Formula One. In his spare time, Eric enjoys kayaking, and is contemplating a trip across Lake Ontario this summer. He hopes to one day know the true meaning of inquiry, and works towards his goal by questioning a lot of things, including his sanity. THE MUSE • SPRING 2016




Philip B. Berger, MD Interviewed by Irina Sverdlichenko


hat does a typical day consist of in your medical practice? My medical practice consists largely of people with HIV/ AIDS, patients being treated with methadone for addiction, many with chronic illnesses, and a disproportionate number of people of low socioeconomic status, including refugees and immigrants. What is the role of the healthcare provider with patients that are socially troubled? There’s a role to intervene on the patient’s behalf and secure what the patient needs. This can take the form of a CT scan, a specialist appointment or a properly completed welfare form so as to maximize their income. Doctors also provide resources, especially to poor people, so that they can learn about getting increased tax benefits. That encompasses much of what the provider does to try to help a socially troubled patient. However, a far more critical role for the healthcare provider is to intervene actively in the political terrain, in order to change conditions

which affect the lives of many people. This includes fighting for refugee health care rights for example. But it’s especially important to intervene in situations where the individual cannot speak out on their own behalf. You witnessed the evolution of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Toronto in the 1970s. What was that experience like ? Well, this experience extended to not only me but


Philip B. Berger, MD is Medical Director at Inner City Health Program at St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto and staff physician in the Department of Family and Community Medicine. a small group of doctors in downtown Toronto. We harkened back to the most traditional and noble features of medicine, which is to be unconditionally available and be kind. That’s all one could do in the early days of the epidemic. How did you mitigate that sort of emotional impact? I really did not want to think

about it or consider it. The issue was not really my emotional response, but the waves of dying people. And to start wallowing in anguish would have been paralytic. So I would immediately check any tendency to do that. I’m not saying I was unaffected by it. Going to declare a twenty-five year old woman dead, knowing she had been suf-

photo from


Q&A with Philip B. Berger, MD. fering for months was hard. But part of being a professional is that you contend with whatever sort of emotional response erupts. And I mostly dealt with it by not considering it. Do you have a particular patient experience that influenced you greatly? I’ve had a fair number actually. One was a refugee claimant, many years back. He had signs of previous tuberculosis, which I fully investigated by having him sent to a lung specialist who cleared him. I submitted his immigration medical exam to become a permanent resident, but immigration officials refused to grant permanent residency status, saying he needed an investigation of his tuberculosis, which he of course already had. I was completely exasperated, so I sent a letter to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, pointing out that the only diseases they screened for were those affecting developing or “nonwhite” countries, and asked why they weren’t screening for diseases affecting white immigrants. I flat out said that I considered their process utterly racist. I got back this angry, nasty, ferocious response from a doctor working at the agency who was outraged at the allegation. I wrote back: Dear anonymous doctor, if you’re not prepared to take this further, I will write the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration in order to secure permanent residency status for my patient.

They granted the papers days later. This patient experience influenced me to confront the government head-on over what I considered a prejudicial screening process that was interfering with a person’s life. The second experience that deeply influenced me was regarding a patient of mine, several years back. She was a heroin addict, paralyzed from the waist-down, and dying of AIDS. The main care I provided her was pain control. It worked effectively actually. Twenty-four hours before she died I got a phone call from her boyfriend who was caring for her. He was also a heroin addict. He informed me that her pain had suddenly gone outof-control. In fact, I could hear her screeching in the background with pain. I phoned the head of palliative care and they went to her place to put her in a Phenobarbital-induced coma. I later found out that a temporary nurse who had been assigned to her case had mistakenly calibrated the machine to administer only 1% of the necessary pain dose.

homecare in Toronto. In a hyperbolic fashion, I ended the letter with: She went to her death screaming with a pain that burned her to her soul.

eral Government announced that Syrian PSRs will receive full IFH coverage. Effective April 1, 2016 all refugees and refugee claimants will receive full IFH coverage).

They changed the homecare policy after this case.

Secondly, the government has to commit to communicating the restored coverage in simple, brief, and unambiguous terms in order to simplify the whole process. Right now, many walk-inclinics and other doctor’s offices are not taking refugees, even those who have coverage, because they don’t understand the complicated system.

You co-founded Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care. How do you think the healthcare system will need to adapt in order to accommodate the incoming refugees? Firstly, there are different types of refugees, but as far as the Syrian refugees go, these are Government-Assisted Refugees who are not being affected by the cuts made to the Interim Federal Health program by the Conservatives in 2012. They still maintain coverage for hospital services, medication, dental, vision care, prostheses, counselling, and physiotherapy. However, the privately-sponsored refugees (PSRs) did lose that coverage and still remain largely without coverage.

Eventually, they recalibrated the medication properly and her pain was controlled. I went to declare her dead later that day , and she was lying on her side with her long hair to the side. I’m not normally a mushy guy, but there was this look of relief and peace on her face.

They maintain coverage for doctors and hospital services, but if they’re 19 or older and not pregnant, they don’t have coverage in any of the areas I just described. So one aspect of what the current government has to do is immediately restore full coverage to all refugees and refugee-claimants, including PSRs. Otherwise, all the medical costs for PSRs will fall on sponsoring groups.

I was outraged though and I wrote a letter to the head of

(Note: Since this interview was conducted the new Lib-

Thirdly, there are enough physicians of goodwill across the country who can cope with an influx of refugees when they do start arriving. The capacity certainly exists. So you’re exposed to a really diverse group of people in your practice. How has your exposure to this unique population influenced your views on the current healthcare system? It’s profoundly influenced my views. If one gazes beyond the individual patient in a doctor’s office, it becomes evident what conditions are affecting their health, whether those are economic, political, legal, human rights, or social perceptions as with HIV/AIDS. So it’s through the patients that I’ve been taught about much broader issues that affect them and many other people like them.



Objecting the Objective

Objecting the Objective by Kayla Simms


n a program overloaded with information and essential skills, objectives assist medical students in the self-directed triage of imperative take-home points and applicable clinical knowledge. From weekly small group sessions during pre-clerkship years to daily clinical encounters in clerkship, objectives present a framework for continuous self-assessment as well as the formal examination of medical trainees. In Canada, the most widely-accepted framework of objectives for medical education and competency is presented by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (RCPSC) and known simply as CanMEDS1.

Developed in response to a widely-cited need to provide medical trainees with a relevant framework with which to address evolving health concerns2, CanMEDS is said to represent the “big picture” of medical education, assessment, and certification. In 1998, Educating Physicians for a Future Ontar-


io (EPFO) conducted a five-year collaborative project in hopes of standardizing resident evaluation3. Eight physician competencies were identified and subsequently incorporated into five participating Ontario MD programs. Enduring four phases of development and refinement, the nearly 20-year old RCPSC CanMEDS framework presents Canadian medical institutions today with an objective standard for student assessment and physician competency4. Today’s framework is comprised of seven standards of practice: Medical Expert, Communicator, Collaborator, Leader, Health Advocate, Scholar, and Professional1. Despite the explicit removal of one of the eight original roles from today’s framework, a few Ontario MD Programs have continued to house the abandoned eighth role: Person. In a one-size-fits-all curriculum comprised of standardized subsets of professional competencies, the Person role belongs not within this

artist Sama Anvari

framework for self-directed personal growth, but as part of a larger model of idealized perfection. The issue is not the role itself, but its incompatibility with an objectified curriculum which lacks the socially negotiated and contextual nature of the role’s definition. Objectives certainly help to formulate a simplistic means by which students may tangibly assess gaps in their knowledge. However, their biggest flaw with respect to meaningful education is due to their association with a Pass/Fail grading system (or as medical students like to say, “P=MD”). A grade devoid of increasing value above a specific threshold empowers students to place collegiality above competition. This also means that within a Pass/Fail system, objectives ultimately define the perimeter of failure and non-excellence. The detriment to medical students develops within the context of the curriculum’s perceived dichotomy of the Person role, where there is now an

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Mr. Martin Graves, B.A. (English), University of Ottawa

12 opportunity to not only “Pass” as a Person, but also to “Fail”. Where objectives define minimally acceptable levels of competence, they can provide pertinent guidance to ensure that the integrity and provisions of the medical professional are maintained. Ultimately, it is the fine line between a “P” and an “F” that forms the premise of students’ engagement with curriculum objectives; whereby the fear of failure supersedes the drive to excel. The idea of the Person role, as both a concept and a competency, is not inherently debilitating in the process of fostering a capable physician. When isolated from the medical school curriculum and the supposed measurable standards of competence, the Person role encourages the exam-driven medical student to take time for personal development and to focus on those individualized activities that make for a well-balanced student. Within the confines of formal education, however, the Person role presents a counterintuitive outcome for the medical trainee. When combined with competency-based education and objective standards of supposed failure, the Person role – and the opportunity to explore individual growth – becomes halted in the face of benchmark assessments. The competent medical trainee becomes defined by statutes of enablement, giving rise to students who forgo the

Person they once were (or could have been) in order to meet the measurable standard and receive a passing grade. To fully succumb to the normalization of educational objectives is to rob future patients of the intangible character traits that could enable medical students to develop into outstanding physicians. Our best weapon against the well-documented loss of self and cynicism which medical trainees experience as they progress through the curriculum is to create a culturally safe environment in which students can explore personal growth without the fear of constant assessment and failure. Encouraging medical students to nurture their individual identities through self-reflective practice is important, but requires a system that is void of concrete expectations or gold standards. Reducing the role of the Person to accompany the components of training which are comprised of reproducible measurements and checklists does not aid in the development of individuality, but of empty competency dichotomized between a “P” and an “F”. If to “Pass” as a Person requires meeting prescribed conventions marked by a constant pressure to perform, then perhaps failing this competency highlights the true objective of personal success.

References 1. Frank, JR. The CanMEDS 2005 physician competency framework. Better standards [Inter-net]. Ottawa(ON): The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada; 2005 Mar [cit-ed 2015 Feb 26]. Available from: 2. Neufeld VR, Maudsley RF, Pickering RJ, et

al. Educating future physicians for Ontario. Acad Med. 1998;73(11): 1133-48.

3. Maudsley RF, Wilson DR, Neufeld VR, et

al. Educating future physicians for Ontario: phase II. Acad Med. 2000;75(2): 113-26.

4. Wear D, Zarconi J, Garden R. Disorderly conduct: Calling out the hidden curriculum(s) of professionalism. In: Hafferty FW, O’Donnell JF, eds. The Hidden Curriculum in Health Pro-fessional Education. Lebanon, NH: Dartmouth College Press; 2015. 63-72

ABOUT THE AUTHOR - Kayla Simms is an MD candidate in her third year of studies at the University of Ottawa, with interdisciplinary roots in the University of Guelph’s Arts and Sciences program. She strongly values the healing power of creative exploration, and is the founder of the student-led initiative Humanities Education, Artistic Living (H.E.A.L.); helping to create space in medical education for the health humanities, as a means of self expression and reflection amongst medical trainees. Kayla is excited to share her passion for Art Therapy with the medical community at McMaster’s “A Palpable Thrill”, and hopes to empower future clinicians to explore their own vulnerabilities through the process of making art.


Emergency First Response Team Interview Series:

Aleksander Andrijevic Interviewed by Samuel Wu and Joon Mun


EFRT Interview Series: Aleksander Andrijevic

Aleksander Andrijevic My name is Aleksander Andrijevic. I am a graduate of the Kinesiology program here at McMaster and am currently finishing my Paramedic Program at Conestoga College. I’ve been a responder for the EFRT for four years. I was also involved with McMaster Sport Medicine as a Student Therapist for the Men’s Varsity Rugby Team, and with McMaster Intramurals, both as a referee and a game day supervisor.

Sam and Joon: Can you tell us a little bit about how the Emergency First Response Team (EFRT) works in your own words? Aleksander: EFRT is basically the medical response team on campus. We respond to all medical emergencies on campus 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, minus all the breaks in the summer. But basically we’re just a bunch of students that like helping other people. We understand that not every person needs an ambulance - we’re kind of in that middle ground there, where we can help improve emergency medical service response times in the city by going to these calls and determining what kinds of treatments need to be performed and whether or not an ambulance needs to be called. The easiest way to describe it is a little family of people. We all share the same common interests, and a lot of us are driven by a strong passion for healthcare. S&J: You mentioned that many of you are driven by a love of healthcare – what’s one other thing that people don’t really know about EFRT that would be interesting for our readers to know? A: Well, to answer a question that we get a lot, we don’t

go hiking. We do carry these massive backpacks that have a bunch of equipment- you basically have to be prepared for any situation that can be thrown at you. But otherwise, the thing that I want future patients to know is that we’re students too. In most cases, we understand what’s going on and they should feel comfortable giving us information. They should never feel afraid to disclose information or be scared that we’re going to get them into trouble regarding ensitive topics like drugs and alcohol. I’m sure everyone knows that there’s a lot of alcohol consumption on campus. We’re just concerned about their well-being and are simply there to make sure that they’re going to be okay. S&J: What is the most satisfying aspect of your work with EFRT? A: The most satisfying thing? That’s a hard question! S&J: Yes, but you can only pick one! A: Let me think… As cliché as it is, it’s just helping people. To outsiders, it might not seem like a major issue when someone’s done some “minor” harm to themselve.But



EFRT Interview Series: Aleksander Andrijevic to them, it could be the worst pain that they’ve ever experienced; they could be legitimately freaking out, and and it’s rewarding tp be able to just be there for that person in this time of crisis, when they need someone. Maybe even just to talk to, like “things are going to be fine,” talking them through it, making sure they feel comfortable. I like that I am in the role of coming in with a clear head, knowing how I can help this person when they are worried and panicking. S&J: So how many years have you been doing EFRT? A: This is my fourth year and it’s great. I don’t even go to McMaster anymore! It comes down to the family environment – it’s just a wonderful experience and it’s probably the best thing I’ve ever done in university. Even though I’m at Conestoga currently, I always like to come back and help out. Actually, I ran into a guy today at the student centre while getting some food. He just stopped by and said, “Thanks for what you do,” because he said no one ever expresses gratitude. And I was like, “Oh, thank you,” and I told him that it’s not hard and it’s not work if you love to do it. S&J: That’s great. It leads into our next question: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned from being a part of EFRT, especially after four years? A: Oh man! I’ve become more chill, I guess… Not all calls are chaotic but my experiences have definitely taught me how to approach any situation with a clear head and a nice, calm attitude. Being able to think very clearly with all these environmental stressors affecting you… I think that’s crucial. If I think back to myself in first year, compared to now, I’ve grown and become much more relaxed and adaptable. S&J: So I guess that skill has definitely helped you be a better person? A: Yes. Whenever I encounter a stressful situation, I keep a clear, non-biased head and think about it in as a logical and systematic manner as I can. S&J: Much like how you would approach a patient? A: Yes. S&J: You mentioned that you don’t attend McMaster anymore. Where are you now and what are you studying?


A: I finished kinesiolog at McMaster, and I’m currently a second year paramedic student at Conestoga College. S&J: And how’s that so far? A: It’s good! I’ve gone out for some ride-alongs on an ambulance and when I started it I knew that was what I wanted to do, on my first ride out. S&J: Would you say that it’s similar to what you’re doing with EFRT? A: It’s similar and different. It’s similar in the sense that I understand more of the skills and backgrounds involved. However, the population served is vastly different. In the real world, most patients are elderly. So there are conditions you don’t necessarily see in younger patients that prevail in older patients. It’s not that there isn’t necessarily an older population at McMaster: we also have a cardiac rehabilitation centre on campus so there’s definitely still a potential for a wide variety of age ranges. However, most of the patients that I’ve helped at McMaster are university studeents under the age of 25. I’m fairly confident that I can handle most student cases, at this point! The Conestoga program is teaching me how to approach older patient cases. S&J: So would you say that EFRT has prepared you for your current studies? A: It definitely has. First of all, it provides very thorough training and you are required to obtain various certifications, such as mental health first aid. There’s also a lot of opportunities within the team to expand your horizons. And the team is the reason why I went down this career path. I was in second year kinesiology wondering what career path I wanted to pursue, confused amongst the many kinesiology students that are set on pursung physiotherapy. I volunteer at the physiotherapy clinic and I have to say that it’s something that I wouldn’t be able to do. Physiotherapists are fantastici and intelligent, but I knew I couldn’t do a nine-to-five job that entails a lot of regularity in terms of the cases you deal with day-to-day. In EFRT, you can come in one shift and not have a call and it could be a bar night, for example, where you’re actually expecting a lot of calls. And then on a Sunday night, or Monday daytime you just get slammed with seven calls. So it’s very hit-or-miss. And the cases are generally different every single time. It keeps you engaged, sort of like a puzzle you have to solve. And that’s what I like about


EFRT Interview Series: Aleksander Andrijevic this type of profession– the lack of predictability. S&J: A new challenge every time? A: Yes! I need to be challenged. I couldn’t do the same thing over and over again. S&J: Are you driven by that? A: Definitely. When I don’t know something, I’ll go back and it forces me to look it up, and then broaden my scope of knowledge. S&J: So what’s the best advice you have received? It could be from the team, or a mentor. A: This is a very difficult question! I guess it would have to be “Do something you really, really like”. Again, it’s very cliché, but like I said to the one guy today, if you like your work it’s not going to be hard to get out of bed every single day and do this. Same with EFRT shifts. I still live in Hamilton but even though I go to a different school, if an opportunity were to pop up for me to take a shift, I would take it. It’s not something that I consider draining or a bothersome task. I’m surrounded by people that share the same interests, we’re all very friendly, and there is always a very positive atmosphere. So it doesn’t even feel like you’re doing anything… it just feels like you’re being a good person and helping others out to the extent that you can.

you may run into. I know there are a lot of people that look up to me, and I like that as well. It’s definitely an honour to have been here for so long and have seen a bunch of different calls and have so many experiences under my belt. And again, I love helping others and I love teaching. I teach some first aid here, and some training at EFRT as well. Just sharing knowledge and experiences, I’d say. And since I feel like I’ve re-started my first year now that I’m doing ride-alongs as a paramedeic trainee, when you come here it’s like you’re at the top in terms of knowledge and experience. S&J: So now you’re a smaller fish in a bigger pond! A: That’s exactly how I’d put it. S&J: But you’re still a big fish on campus! A: Yes!

“’s generally different every single time. It keeps you engaged, sort of like a puzzle you have to solve.”

S&J: It seems like a lot of your desire to help others has translated into your work with EFRT. A: Joining EFRT was undoubtedly one of the best decisions I’ve made during my time at McMaster. 
 S&J: Last question: what everyday thing are you better at than everyone else? A: Everyday thing? That’s another tough one. I want to say Euchre! We do a lot of that in my break. I guess now that I’m here, I’m a little bit older than the rest of the team, so I feel a little more mature. I feel like I’m good at passing on my experiences and knowledge and wisdom down to the other members and anyone

S&J: Those are all the questions we have. It has been very nice getting to know you. Do you have anything else you’d like to say or let us know?

A: There are a lot of myths about the team in general and our interactions with the special constables. What happens is that the special constables at McMaster go to every one of our calls, whether it be a cut, or someone that’s intoxicated, someone has rolled their ankle, or what not… They basically go there to ensure our safety, because I’m sure you’ve seen intoxicated people. They’re not always the nicest people, let’s just say. The special constables want to make sure that everyone is safe, both the EFRT responders and the patients. They’re not there to get anyone in trouble. If your roommate gets a ticket for being intoxicated, they’re not going to call EFRT when they’re intoxicated again and that may turn out very poorly. So that’s a common myth. Patients shouldn’t be scared to give us information because ultimately everyone wants to make sure that the person that needs our help ends up getting the help that they need and that they’re safe. That is definitely what I would like for everyone to know.


17 The

conversation surrounding death and dying has become more pertinent with the increase in aging population. And yet, in our society, the topic of death and preparing for death is still uncomfortable and difficult to start. We hear stories of medicine saving lives and increasing the average life expectancy, but rarely do we hear stories of the actual dying- despite it being a natural and inevitable process. Karen Ngo, a first year medical student at McMaster University, offers a unique cultural perspective on the topic that illustrates how different the conversation of death can be in another country.

Over Dragon Fruit by Karen Ngo


had not seen nor spoken to my grandfather in twenty years. I had occasionally written letters corresponding with him during my childhood, but we gradually lost touch during my teenage years. While the rest of my extended family in Vietnam had prescribed to the Western advances in communications technology, connecting via various smartphone apps and instant messaging, my grandfather still stuck to his trusty house phone, calling cards, and snail mail. He lived alone with his dog, walked to the market every day, maintaining his balance with a long bamboo cane, and asked the family to call at the house for dinner instead of having shouting matches through the phone. The only change in the last twenty years was that the river and the canoe we had taken to reach my grandfather’s house was now replaced by a paved road and a four-wheeler – the canoe had sunk in one of the back rivers ten years ago.

After the usual pleasantries and small talk in the front hall of his house that twenty years of absence warrants, my grandfather and I sat down next to each other at the dinner table. My attention was fixated on the insistent buzzing of the flies around the buckets of cooked chicken on the table. My grandfather abruptly broke the silence. “So, grandchild, tell me, do people in Canada buy their burial plots in advance? Are they expensive?” I was taken aback. Had I heard him correctly? Surely he meant buying a plot of land for building a house. I had not heard these words being used since my grandmother’s death – nobody I knew spoke about burial plots, tombstones, or coffins in casual conversation. I looked around the table at my uncles, aunts, and cousins for clarification.


My cousin cleared her throat and repeated, “He was asking you if people in Canada buy their burial plots in advance.” I told her I understood his question but was making sure I had not misheard him. “Grandfather, I don’t know. I imagine that they aren’t too expensive though,” I answered. He gave me a pensive look and pressed further, “Yes, but I thought that only people who can afford to be buried will buy land to be buried in, while those who can’t afford it probably get cremated, right?” I mumbled a half response and he nodded in agreement, picking up a piece of dragon fruit. In Vietnam, tombs and graves are situated near the home where those who had died are buried, often in the front garden or in the rice paddies. Altars in the house are filled with black and white portraits of deceased loved ones, their half smiles almost coming alive in the flickering light of burning incense, hiding behind porcelain bowls of fresh fruit and rice placed in front of them every memorial day. Chairs at the table are left empty for them to fill at their leisure, if they choose to join the feast during holidays such as the Lunar New Year. After dinner, my grandfather directed the entire family outside to take a family photo among the dragon fruit trees. He showed us the work that was being done on the front of the house. Then he proudly pointed towards a large bandstand-like structure in front of the house. Again, as if we were two friends meeting over coffee to discuss politics and the weather, he turned to me and explained that it is the tomb that he and our grandmother are going to be buried in when they die.

18 Experiences with Peer Support: SHEC

Experiences with Peer Support Artist: Cathy Lu

Student Health Education Centre (SHEC) spective of the peer supporter. The issues students face are complex and multifaceted with impacts across various domains of life. I engage so deeply and fully in peer support that the stories I hear follow me home. I reflect on my words and my actions, as well as the reactions of my peer. I wonder and question if what I said was correct. I think about my peer supports often and would love to check in, follow up, and help, even after the peer support has finished. The inability to do so is one of the most challenging aspects of being a peer supporter. Moreover, debriefs are challenging because of the very strict confidentiality protocols at SHEC. Nonetheless, being able to listen to and support other students in their challenges is the way that I hope I have made an impact in my school community. This experience has certainly affected me as I know that the skills that I have gained at SHEC have helped me become a better student, colleague, leader, and friend.

Michal Coret

Alexandra Kilian I joined SHEC because I wanted to learn and I wanted to help. I love to talk and I love to listen. Having impacted my academic, social, and personal experience at university, joining SHEC was likely one of the most formative experiences I have engaged in during the last three years. My training in peer support has given me the opportunity to compassionately listen to and support my colleagues. I value peer support as a medium as I often seek support from my friends and peer supporters of SHEC, and know how therapeutic it can be to talk through what is bothering me. The simple act of expressing it aloud often clarifies the problem for me, gives me new perspectives, and even ideas for solutions. Peer support is a space and medium for me to seek relief and resolution that is often very effective. I seek peer support because I find it empowering. Though an incredibly rewarding experience, peer support at SHEC can also be challenging from the per-

I had just opened up the SHEC office when a flustered girl walked in, asking for help. She was looking for someone to talk to. We were mutually nervous; neither of us had experienced a peer support session before. I ran though the protocol in my head; invited her to the back and closed the door. I cleared all other thoughts from my head and we sat down in the back room across from each other – two strangers. Despite our lack of familiarity with each other – or perhaps, because of it – she started sharing her personal and painful story with me. Even though I had no credentials, no diploma, and no experience, she placed her trust in me, allowing me the privilege of listening to her story. After she left, still a stranger, I realized that my lack of credentials and diploma might very well be a reason why students come in to seek peer support. They feel like they can connect with me as a peer, as a fellow student traversing through life. My job is to be empathic and listen to what they have to say. If necessary, I can refer them to all of the professional resources on campus and in the city. Peer support is the process of listening to another person’s narrative. It demands that I remain non-judgemental, open-minded, and caring. Peer support is not about giving advice – I am not a counsellor, a psychologist, a doctor, or a therapist – I am merely a peer willing to listen to your story. And sometimes that’s what you might just need.


Labouring 19

Labouring by Kevin Dueck


was impressed when I started my rotation on Labour and Delivery. Each of the large private rooms was located on the periphery of the floor with wall-to-wall windows to allow natural light. They also had a jet tub large enough for an expectant mother and a partner among other labour aids. It was a welcoming facility and in the case of an operative delivery, operating rooms were located on the same floor. It was a specialized floor and was spoken highly of to patients by staff during pre-natal visits. As part of my Obstetrical training, I spent sixteen hours at time on the Labour and Delivery floor night float. These long shifts were felt to give clerks a better impression of residency in the specialty; we would do a week during the block. We would aid in triage assessment and admission of patients, monitoring of labour, and assisting in natural and operative births during the rotation. Due to my gender, I was unfortunately kicked out of a number of rooms. Some I wasn’t even allowed to enter– ‘NO MEN’ clearly written on the dry erase board. As my rotation came to an end, I realized that in those hundred hours, I had never seen a single person use the jet tub or the exercise ball or any other labour aids, despite active involvement in many births from ad-

mission to delivery. Most admitted were at a stage that they could no longer use such aids, in many cases requiring continuous monitoring or having an epidural placed shortly after their time in triage. I felt discouraged reflecting on this. For all the potential comforts afforded during labour and delivery, they sat unused. The impressive facilities on this specialized floor proved to be a disappointment. Later in clerkship, I ran into a resident during my night float shifts. Over the course of our conversation, I brought up my concerns about the floor and the unused aids. I was surprised that instead of jumping to the defense of his program, he acknowledged the shortcomings. There was a lack of staffing and as a high acuity center with high volumes, often pregnant women were told to walk and wait in triage until they were ready to deliver, forfeiting the use of the aids. It unnerved him as well. They were unable to move people beyond triage due to systemic issues. With the messages being delivered to expectant mothers in clinic, this seemed a false bill of sale, since they were unlikely to see the delivery room until it was too late to use any of its comforts. Instead, they would walk the sterile halls of the hospitals or labour in the cramped triage room, leaving the tubs and other items unused.

This experience and my disappointment reinforced my thoughts on how critical coordination of care is for patients. From ensuring that there is sufficient staffing to allow the use of a hospital’s facilities, to having processes in place that optimize turnover of rooms and understanding factors contributing to positive patient experiences. This was not the first time I experienced frustration with the systems in place to care for patients. During my time in the Paediatrics Emergency Department, we were bed blocked for 12 hours, not because of a lack of beds, but due to a delay in cleaning them and allowing admissions. I worry in the case of the Labour and Delivery floor that such deviations from the expected care have the potential to sour relationships and erode trust in the healthcare system. Frustration and disappointment during such a key life event isn’t easily forgotten or forgiven. In order to address such issues, we must first acknowledge them and work toward coming up with a solution. Involvement of engaged patients is a key in identifying influencing factors that might not be apparent to healthcare providers, and working toward an effective solution for superior care coordination.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR - Kevin Dueck is a 4th year medical student at Western soon to start his Family Medicine residency at McMaster’s Brampton site. His interest in the medical humanities includes research in the history of medicine, articles addressing medical culture, and writing narratives of illness and patient care. Kevin is the author of the blog Aboot Medicine ( and co-founder of the student wellness project Western Vitals (



Smiling Over Sickness

Interviewed by Anna Goshua and Darwin Chan

From left to right: Megan Pocalyuko - Y Fit 4 U Volunteer Coordinator, Amber Murphy - Ronald McDonald House Volunteer Coordinator, June Chen - McMaster Children’s Hospital Volunteer Coordinator Y Fit 4 U Volunteer Coordinator Megan Pocalyuko What motivated you to get involved with SOS? I loved the variety of options available with respect to working with kids, and so I applied to every possible subcommittee. Not to mention the fact that many of my friends were applying too. I spent my first year as part of Smiles Squad, which is a junior executive position that gave me the opportunity to assist and gain valuable experience in event planning. Currently, this is my third year of involvement. I am Communications Coordinator, in addition to being the coordinator of the Y Fit 4 U subcommittee. What is the role of the Y Fit 4 U subcommittee? Y Fit 4 U was only established this year. We send volunteers to the YMCA in order to assist clients of

the McMaster Children’s Developmental Rehabilitation Program under the supervision of physiotherapists. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, our volunteers work with volunteers from the YMCA to help these kids carry out their exercises properly, ensure that they execute the recommended number of repetitions, and the like. What qualities did you look for in your volunteers? Definitely individuals who are team players and have asserted an earnest interest in working with children. Prior experience in this regard was an asset, but not mandatory. Mainly, we were aiming to select individuals that came across as mature and willing to learn, as well as excited to collaborate with their peers and work with the clients. There were many great candidates and since we were only looking to accept about 10 volunteers,

the decisions were difficult. What has the community response to this initiative been like? The kids love it. A lot of clients end up coming back once they finish the program, which is everything that we were hoping for. Having the youth excited to exercise and push the boundaries of their physical capabilities is incredibly rewarding. What has been your most memorable experience with SOS? The Pumpkin Hike in October when I was a part of Smiles Squad. It’s fun because everyone gets dressed up in Halloween costumes and there are a variety of activities. The kids come out and play games. There is a hike through a pumpkin patch— even though it’s really cold, there’s plenty of free candy and the kids are just hilarious.


Ronald McDonald House Volunteer Coordinator - Amber Murphy What motivated you to get involved with SOS? I’ve been involved since my first year. I’m from Newfoundland, so I didn’t know anyone when I came here. I wanted to be involved in a club where I would have the opportunity to do meaningful work and meet new people. Working with kids is also something I enjoy. How does volunteering with Ronald McDonald house fit in with the SOS mission statement? Our mission statement is to help sick children smile. Firstly, Ronald McDonald house volunteers go to the house and clean toys, as well as help organize canned goods and clean family rooms. That component is focused on enhancing family comfort. We also host special events and activities in the family room at the hospital, wherein we interact directly with the children. We do board games, spa days (even the boys come!), and special events like science fairs, which the children really enjoy. Do the kids have any preferences out of the activities that your volunteers organize? The kids really love spa days. There are enormous line-ups. Halloween pumpkin painting is also extremely popular. We usually get about 10 to 20 children that come out to participate. We ended up using all of the 25 pumpkins that we brought this year! Any personal interaction that stands out and defines your experience with this subcommittee? When I was a volunteer, I had an experience with a special needs child that really struck me. We were doing crafts with her and she was


Smiling Over Sickness 21 extremely happy about it. She was nonverbal, so that wasn’t something that she could tell us. However, her mom was really happy, and told us repeatedly that her daughter was smiling so much and wanted to give all of us hugs. Being able to make this kind of difference in the life of a child and their family is why I’ve stuck with SOS all these years. Is there a particular quality that defines the SOS volunteer? Without a doubt, dedication. McMaster Children’s Hospital Volunteer Coordinator - June Chen What motivated you to get involved with SOS? I love working with children— this is one of the reasons that SOS stood out to me when I was looking for clubs to join in first year. The opportunity to work with vulnerable populations also intrigued me, especially given my aspirations to pursue a career in healthcare . I also enjoy arts and crafts, so I thought it was an excellent way to merge all of my interests. What is the role of the McMaster Children’s Hospital volunteering subcommittee? Every Sunday and every other Thursday, we go to the family lounge on the third floor of McMaster Children’s Hospital. Our volunteers prepare craft supplies and craft ideas to make with the children. For 2 hours, we provide a space for the children and their parents to relax and take time away from their treatment schedule. Our volunteers do an amazing job in this program — the parents consistently provide positive feedback and ask us when we’re coming back. It’s extremely rewarding to see the children smiling and having fun despite their illness. How has the volunteering pro-

gram improved over the years that you’ve been part of it? In my first year, the program only allowed us to volunteer for one semester. It became a full year program in my second year. This made a significant difference in letting volunteers have more opportunities to get to know the patient population and to feel as though we were making more of an impact. Then, last year, we incorporated a biweekly subcommittee meeting schedule to prepare for shifts together. This has helped us to integrate the hospital volunteering subcommittee and make our volunteers feel as though they’re part of SOS family, rather than a distinct entity. We’ve also improved crafts that we offer by incorporating feedback from children and the Child Life Specialists with whom we work at the hospital. This year, our target is to engage the teen population in the hospital. As most crafts have traditionally been made for children between ages 6 -12, we’ve been working hard to create teen-friendly craft ideas. What skills do subcommittee members gain from this experience? Communication skills. This is due to the fact that volunteers have to deal with a number of potentially challenging situations, such as a child that doesn’t want to participate in the activities or is unable to. Additionally, we work with children that may have attention or mobility issues. In these cases, it is important to be able to think of creative ways to communicate craft instructions and to engage them. What is a unique quality of SOS? We’re not just a club, we’re a big family. We have a strong commitment to a cause and spend hours in meetings in pursuit of it. We believe in teamwork and working collaboratively to accomplish our goals.

Opportunities with HASSA By: Audrey Tan, featuring HASSA Executives

[From left to right: Jessica Jennison, Andrea Wurster, Audrey Tan, and Jenna Gaskin]


n the last issue of The Muse, I had the opportunity to reflect on my involvement with the Health, Aging, and Society Student Association (HASSA) and its influence on my time at McMaster. Last year, we heard from students who were looking for more opportunities to become involved in the community, so HASSA’s Vice-President, Andrea Wurster, and I creat-

ed the Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator (VOC) position. We have received great feedback from students as well as the community about our decision to implement this position. Jenna Gaskin, the current VOC, has built on the relationships that HASSA had already developed with organizations in the community and has taken on the responsibilities of connect-

ing students with volunteer and job opportunities in Hamilton. These extra-curricular activities have allowed students in the Department of Health, Aging and Society to apply theories and concepts learned in courses to practical, real-world experiences.


Volunteer and Job Opportunities, featuring HASSA 23

The profiles outlined below offer a snapshot of the volunteer work that HASSA Executives and members are involved in.

Andrea Wurster

Health Studies and Gerontology | Level IV


oming to McMaster, I was quite reluctant to get too involved. I wanted to focus on my studies and relax, as my schedule in high school was always packed. However, I eventually became more and more involved in academics and extra-curriculars, and by fourth year, I was happily the Vice-President of HASSA. Being part of HASSA has provided me with much more than just volunteer opportunities. It has sparked my passion. I have also been given the opportunity to work as a Therapeutic Recreationist in a long-term care home for the past three summers. Getting real-work experience has allowed my graduate school applications to really stand out. It is so important to gain experience. I always encourage my peers to get involved and find passion. Passion fuels education, and knowledge is power!


Jenna Gaskin

Health Studies and Gerontology | Level III


s the Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator of HASSA, I am responsible for providing volunteer opportunities for students. The main organization my committee has been connected with is the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON). The VON has a variety of volunteer programs, but most students have chosen to participate in the volunteer visiting program. I recently began volunteering at the VON Adult Day Centre, where older adults with dementia go to receive care and participate in physical and cognitive activities. I have really enjoyed my time here. I have helped lead group activities and I have also gotten the chance to work one-on-one with clients. This has been an amazing and rewarding experience for me because it has given me the chance to volunteer and develop important skills in my field of interest.

Jessica Jennison

Health Studies and Gerontology | Level IV


y name is Jessica Jennison and I am the Academic Coordinator of HASSA this year. During my third year in the Health Studies & Gerontology program, I had the opportunity to volunteer at Mission Services, which is a homeless shelter in Hamilton. I really enjoyed being able to speak to and get to know the men and some of their struggles. I learned a lot about the health status of these individuals, especially as many struggle with mental health issues. Furthermore, this volunteer experience really helped to me to address the stigma I held towards the issue of homelessness. I would strongly recommend others to volunteer here as well!



Editor-in-chief Anna Goshua

Managing Editor Irina Sverdlichenko

Creative Director Michael Sun

Financial Coordinator Lucy Luo

Editorial Team

Darwin Chan Michal Coret Alex Florescu Ryann Kwan Joon Mun Isabella Fany Bhagyashree Sharma Carolyn Tan Marina Wang Ishan Aditya

Graphics and Layout Team

Amy Ajay Sama Anvari Adhora Mir Jessica Blackwood Kelly Dong Lauren Liu Alice Lu Cathy Lu Nikesh Pandey Shira Weiss Samuel Wu THE MUSE • SPRING 2016

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