This one time, at badEMfest18…

Remember that time I went to a little town (village??) called Greyton, with some friends, and had a blast?

It happened again.

This time, not as a student, but as a doctor. Then, Greyton enriched me. This time, it may well have changed my life. Or at least, my career. (Are they really two different things?)

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I went to a conference called BAD EM Fest – Brave African Discussions in Emergency Medicine. “But you don’t even like Emergency Medicine,” my best friend said. Lies, damned lies! I don’t NOT like EM. I just find it terrifying. (For the record, there were HCPs from various specialties, not limited to EM.)

And I would have left it there, except that one of the organisers kept encouraging me to sign up (thanks, Kat), and it looked so fun. Where have you ever heard of a medical conference where attendees glamp (Google it), walk around barefoot, and go for twice-daily hikes in the mountains? Oh, and have live music shows in the evenings at dinner.

So with a little bit of encouragement from my friends, I shut my eyes tightly, told the little voice in my head that said, “BUT YOU HATE CROWDS” to shut up, and clicked “pay”.

I could tell you a lot of important stuff about the conference, but most of it has been said quite eloquently, by Penny Wilson, Andrew Tagg, Dan Roberts, Kaleb Lachenicht, and Simon Carley.

While I learned a whole lot, the reason badEMfest felt almost like a religious experience (minus the mandatory guilt and hell-fire), was a lot more personal.

After the first session, which included talks ranging from diversity to advocacy, I turned to my friend, May, and whispered, “No matter what happens now, this is already worth it.”

Here’s the thing about May, though: we have been friends on Twitter for years, but we only met in person that day. You wouldn’t have guessed it (and many people were surprised) because we knew each other’s lives so well. Gone are the days where “internet friends are not real friends”.

May is not the first Twitter-friend I have met in person, and she certainly was not the last: in those four days I met local and international healthcare professionals that I have followed (and admired) for years. It was not uncommon to ask a new face, “Who are you on Twitter?”

So it was at the end of the first day that I had a moment of clarity: These are my people.

And you will know how huge that is, if you’ve ever felt alone in medicine. If you’ve ever thought that you were alone in being affected by the non-clinical aspects of your patients’ lives. If you have ever felt impotent to effect real change. If you have ever felt victimised. If you have ever shouted unto the void, and received only an echo in exchange.

My depression means I often feel isolated – even when that is not the case. Because I have been afraid, and because depression told me that I was not worthy, I have not reached out to role models; I have not asked for advice when I could (should) have; I have often re-invented the wheel, and done so poorly.

To be fair, I did have a few nasty supervisors in my training. But at badEMfest, I saw how kindness permeates medicine. I met super-bosses. I met absolutely innovative people. I met some of the kindest, most compassionate clinicians.

Part of me was bitter – how had I been allowed to go so long without knowing that I was not alone? But in the face of overwhelming support, bitterness is so hard to hold on to. Instead, I’ve got an overwhelming urge to make sure that junior doctors and medical students get to know that they are not alone. To make sure that kindness outnumbers the nasties. Because it is easy to think that the slave-driving registrar is representative of the rest of medicine. But maybe they’re having a horrible time too. Everybody needs some kindness.

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And I’ve got this bubble of excitement as I consider my next steps… because suddenly, anything is possible.

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Book Review: NEED by Joelle Charbonneau

20550148As someone who was a teenager in high school when Facebook and Twitter (and even MySpace) started out, I feel like a bit of a pioneer in terms of social media. My generation was the one that had to figure out how drastically the battlefields of high school are altered when social media enters the picture.

NEED appealed to me because of that, and because it had all the ingredients for a good YA thriller: cyber anonymity, an unknown antagonist, and of course: a small-town high school.

And I was not disappointed.

I DEVOURED this book – something that doesn’t often happen because work and yada-yada-yada, but I could NOT put it down. I fell asleep with it last night and then finished the last 10% during my lunch break today. That’s how into it I was. Continue reading “Book Review: NEED by Joelle Charbonneau”

I’m Writing Lists This November

I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year.

I participated for the past two years and performed – well, kind of dismally. I could go on to diss the event for being unrealistic, but I know a lot of people write well during NaNo. Well, it isn’t for me. I do so want to finish one of my works in progress, but it’s not going to happen in a month, and most certainly not a November month.

27936460160164924zmRVgud0c Continue reading “I’m Writing Lists This November”

Dear Graduates: You Should Be Supporting #FeesMustFall

Dear Graduates of South Africa

Perhaps, like me, you shook your head when you first saw the hashtag #FeesMustFall. You empathised with the expense of tertiary education, but you had lives to save or exams to mark or bridges to build and you thought, “Why do young people in this country want to make everything FALL?”

Continue reading “Dear Graduates: You Should Be Supporting #FeesMustFall”

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts #8

Link up with Christine here.

1. I’m listening to the audio of The Martian by Andy Weir and I actually really like it. I got it for my dad as a gift and he LOVED it. I can understand the problems that some people have with it but for me, it works great. Also, the narrator is so good. My favourite line so far: “Hell yeah I’m a botanist!”duct-tape-quote-from-the-martian-by-andy-weir2. Signups for Ninja Bookswap are now open! I participated in the Spring swap at the beginning of the year and the mini swap recently; and both were absolutely wonderful! This time around there is a regular swap but also a penpal swap. Check it out here. Continue reading “Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts #8”

What I See In Your Photos With “Poor African Children”

1. I see someone who was lucky enough to travel to a magnificent continent

And we welcome you. We welcome you to feel in your bones the wealth of our loam soil. Listen to the stories whispered by our winds. Immerse yourself in our skies. We welcome you to open your heart – and your eyes – to see that our narrative is more than one of suffering.

not tourist attraction
Base image by Stephen and Melanie Murdoch, click for their Flickr Photostream.

Continue reading “What I See In Your Photos With “Poor African Children””

Does New Data on Patient Confidentiality Change Anything?

The recent NPR-Truven Health Analytics Poll data illuminated some interesting data. In this poll, 3,000 Americans were interviewed about their concerns (or lack thereof) regarding their health records.

worries-about-health-records-by-location_custom-3bbb3a48b149d38b528a203d5bbf4d564c9a8fad-s400-c85Surprisingly, by the responses it seems at first glance that American patients are not all that concerned about the confidentiality of their health records. As per the executive summary, “16 percent of respondents have privacy concerns regarding health records held by their health insurer. 14 percent have concerns about records held by their hospital, 11 percent with records held by their physician, and 10 percent with records held by their employer.” Continue reading “Does New Data on Patient Confidentiality Change Anything?”

The Medical App You Should Get NOW (and an exam PSA)

Figure 1 might not be new to my international readers, but I am SO EXCITED to share that today the app launches in South Africa! I’ve been using the app a bit longer because I have access to an American iTunes account, but now it’s officially here and we can share some of our awesome medical images too! It is available on App Store and Google Play and you can download it here.

South-Africa-Launch21 Continue reading “The Medical App You Should Get NOW (and an exam PSA)”

Medical Photography: Do or Don’t (+POLL)

I’m interested to know what you think about medical photography – specifically, taking pictures of interesting anomalies or cool surgeries.

I know that a lot of doctors have personal collections of photos that they keep to… reflect on, I suppose? Use for presentations? Smart phones have made it easier and opened a new can of worms simultaneously. Decades ago, if a doctor took a picture of your tumour, you did not really worry that it would end up on Facebook, because there was no Facebook!

Continue reading “Medical Photography: Do or Don’t (+POLL)”

Raining on your Parade: Little Pinkfoot

I must come across as a real annoying know-it-all. I’m not, sorta.

But I do get annoyed with online hoaxes. I don’t really care how cute they are.

I don’t have a problem with Photoshop, but trying to sell a Photoshopped image as real constitutes lying in my book. So there.

The picture alongside has had all the mommies and wannabe mommies going gaga on Pinterest. It’s cute though right? It even makes my uterus feel tingly.

But it’s not real. And here’s why:

Continue reading “Raining on your Parade: Little Pinkfoot”